Chuck Frank


 Once upon a time, some years ago I lived in Paradise, CA. which was a beautiful town.  I remember that many times I walked the flume along the Feather River which had been built slightly above the river by the electric company.  And since the Camp Fire just went through the town I wonder if that portion of the forest had also vanished. The fire is one of the saddest burns ever, displacing so many people. The property, much of what is private, was covered with thousands upon thousands of evergreen trees.  Because of the devastation of the burn, there now needs to be a total reassessment of how forested public lands are managed and now we must forge ahead with a new vision of how lands and people must be protected from fire.  The previous forestry blueprint laid the groundwork for seasonal fires to move dramatically and rapidly to where they would not only burn uncontrollably, they would also burn for months until the rains came.  The infernos, then and now were still part of a policy that did not lend itself to proper preventative fire management which would include protective firebreaks and the thinning of trees, whether it be on public or private property.

   Around the year 2010 I interviewed the Tahoe National Forest supervisor who has since retired and he then shared how the management of the federal forests was actually an “experiment.”  So, there is no real science going on here, and with 300 million people in America at risk, previous policies which allowed fires to burn naturally from lightning strikes does not consider the risks involved and the safety of the people.

     The Trump administration is already addressing past problems by accelerating the thinning of our forests where selective logging practices of second growth trees and dead and dying trees is making a comeback.  Included in the mix is the underbrush and limbs that fuel the wildfires and they are being removed.  I saw this first hand only a week ago when I was in Tahoe National Forest.

What is historically reminiscent of  the mission here is a meeting that took place in Yosemite back in 1903.  President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir met in Yosemite for a 3 day camping trip.  And after seeing the glorious wonder of those trees and waterfalls that spanned the park, at the urging of John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt was moved to do something and especially so after John Muir declared that it would be an incalculable loss if these “temples of nature” were not to be saved.

With that said, and a three day stint in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Teddy Roosevelt already a serious conservationist, returned to Washington fired up to argue that America’s wild assets must belong to the public and must be staunchly preserved by the laws of the land.  And by 1906 the American Antiquities Act was set in stone and became the foundation for the National Forests and National Parks system which was meant to set aside these lands for the future enjoyment of the people.

     Since then, what is presently taking place with regard to the public’s forests, Secretary, Ryan Zinke of the Department of the Interior, in September 2017 shared with the press that “Directors and Managers in his  February 12, 2017 directive, that federal departments were ordered to use “more aggressive practices” to “prevent and combat the spread of catastrophic wildfires through a robust fuels reduction plan using pre-suppression techniques…as part of an effort to help protect firefighters, and the public and local communities.”

In closing, the public lands, national and state parks were originally set aside for future generations and for the pleasure and recreation of the people.  Presently, there are roughly 767 million acres of forested lands in America.  During 2017, in the Western sector, 5.9 million acres of federal lands burned.  It is our duty as a people to make sure that our pristine forests continue to be a blessing and a safe and thriving testimony for our children, their children and beyond.