Tom McClintock on Forest Fires and H.R. 2899

Floor speech by U.S. Representative Tom McClintock, 08/31/2009 [here]

I want to thank my colleague from Utah, Mr. Bishop, for organizing this special order for the House tonight, and for the attention he has devoted to the suffering in my district caused by the lunatic fringe of the environmental movement that seems to be so firmly in control of our national policy on public lands.

A generation ago, we recognized the importance of proper wild lands management. We recognized that nothing is more devastating to the ecology of a forest than a forest fire. And we recognized that public lands should be managed for the benefit of the public. We recognized that in any living community — including forests — dense over-population is unhealthy.

And so we carefully groomed our public lands, removed excessive vegetation, and gave timber the room it needed to grow. Surplus timber and undergrowth were sold for the benefit of our communities. Our forests prospered and our economy prospered. And forest fires were far less numerous and far less intense than we see today.

But that was before a radical ideology was introduced into public policy — that we should abandon our public lands to overpopulation, overgrowth, and in essence, benign neglect.

We are now living with the result of that ideology. Forest fires, fueled by decades of pent up overgrowth are now increasing in their frequency and intensity and destruction.

One victim of this wrong-headed policy is the environment itself. Recent forest fires in my region make a mockery of all of our clean-air regulations. Anyone who has seen a forest after one of these fires knows that the environmental devastation could not possibly be more complete.

These policies also carry a serious economic price. Timber is a renewable resource — if properly managed it is literally an inexhaustible source of prosperity. And yet, a region blessed with the most bountiful resource in the state has been rendered economically prostrate. A region that once prospered from its surplus timber now is ravaged by fires that are fueled by that surplus timber.

Which brings me to the story of the townspeople of Quincy and Camino, both little towns in the northeast corner of California.

Two months ago, 150 families in each of those little towns received notice that the saw mills that employ them must close. The company made it very clear in its announcement that although the economic downturn was the catalyst, the underlying cause was the fact that 2/3 of the timber they depended upon was held up by environmental litigation.

Despite the recession, they still had enough business to keep the mills open — and to keep these families employed-if the environmental left had not cut off the timber those mills depended upon.

Now bear in mind that the population of the town of Quincy is about 400 families — the greater Quincy area about 1,250 families.  And it’s not just the 150 families who have lost their incomes. Many more lost jobs indirectly — the folks who drive the trucks and sell the supplies-all lost their jobs as well.

This occurred despite the ground-breaking work of a local coalition called the Quincy Library Group that forged a model compromise between environmental, business, and forest management advocates a decade ago. Their work culminated in legislation titled, the Herger Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act. It was adopted 11 years ago in this very room by a vote of 429 to 1.

This consensus agreement provided for sound and sustainable forest management practices that in turn would support both local jobs and healthier forests.

As Sen. Feinstein pointed out at the time, every single environmental law, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act, will be followed as this proposal is implemented.”

Yet despite a model compromise that produced a model law, the will of the Congress, the livelihoods of hundreds of innocent families, and the fire safety of scores of mountain communities is being challenged and undermined by a constant stream of litigation from groups purporting to support the environment.

I say “purporting,” because, as the website of one of these groups declares, their number one policy goal is to — quote — “eliminate commercial logging on all public lands in California.” Their policy is not to protect the environment, but to destroy commercial enterprise.

We held an informal hearing in Quincy after the mill closures. And the stories we heard at that hearing were heart-breaking.

It is a story of how, despite the law, this constant litigation — which is ultimately rejected by the courts — has nevertheless delayed implementation of the Forest Recovery Act until the mills collapse. And that’s what we’re dealing with today.

We then held a formal hearing here in Washington. And from that hearing, Congressman Herger has introduced a bill, HR 2899 [full text here], to prevent frivolous litigation from continuing to destroy these jobs and continuing to impede the fire-safety measures so vital to the preservation of these forests. And I am in the final stages of preparing legislation to at least grant litigation relief for the land within the Quincy Library Group territory.

And this legislation is already being attacked by the same radical groups responsible for the litigation and regulation that is destroying our forests.

These extremists even oppose the salvaging of timber that’s already been destroyed by forest fires or disease. Think about this-trees that are already dead-cannot be salvaged because of lawsuits filed by these extremist groups. They know that if they can delay salvage for two years, the trees decay to the point that they can’t be recovered.

And they would rather let those trees rot on the ground than to be removed and salvaged to provide jobs for families and lumber for homes across America.

The economic suffering this is now causing is immediate and acute. But an even more ominous effect is placing at risk our mountain communities and our national forests to intense wildfires made possible because overgrowth is no longer being removed. And as one forester told me, the overgrowth will come out of the forest one way or the other-it will either be carried out or burned out.

When it was carried out, we had a thriving lumber industry that put food on the tables and clothes on the children of thousands of working families throughout Northern California. More importantly, we also had much healthier forests and far fewer and milder forest fires than we suffer today.

This is not environmentalism. True environmentalists recognize the damage done by overgrowth and overpopulation and recognize the role of sound forest management practices in maintaining healthy forests.

We are watching them systematically shut down our public land for public use and public benefit.

And every time a little town like Quincy or Camino is strangled to death by these policies, it has a ripple effect throughout the nation. Our nation loses tax revenues, commerce withers, the price of raw materials rise, and public resources are diverted to provide economic relief. And our forests suffer as well.

But there’s an infinitely higher cost as well, and that brings me to the tragic news I must impart to the House tonight. There is a raging fire in the Shasta/Trinity National Forest as we speak right now. It is called the “Backbone Fire.” About an hour ago, we received word that a young man, Thomas Marovich, Jr. -– 20 years old — from the little town of Adin in my district, was killed this afternoon fighting that fire.

And every time a little town like Adin mourns the loss of a promising young man like Thomas Marovich, Jr., it is not only a tragedy — if preventable it is an outrage.

Mr. Speaker, the time has come for the great silent majority of Americans to rise up against the most radical elements of the environmental movement that now seem to control so much of our public policy, and to demand that we restore our public land for public use and public benefit, and that we restore the sound forest management practices that once minimized the forest fires that are now again destroying communities and taking lives.

14 Nov 2009, 7:26am
by bear bait

Unfortunately, in the election a year ago the very environmental jihadists the good Representative refers to were supporters of and financially committed to the Obama candidacy, and he is their guy and they are his, and we are in for, at the least, four years of mass incineration and conflagration of our forests.

Now that the Courts have interpreted our national environmental laws and exposed the flaws therein, those laws are not what they appear and are not administered as was thought the outcomes should be forty or more years ago when that legislation was passed. Bad law, however, and that’s what we have, needs to be administered and enforced rigorously and zealously. For only when bad law is enforced to its full extent will consideration of change ever be addressed. The law as it exists now is not the law intended by the drafters. The courts have morphed forest law — changed it by interpretation, by judicial intent, by activist judging. We are there.

If the existing laws aren’t changed, then we should get behind and support the burning of our forests in a grand and great way. If the people who oppose this folly, this great and grand waste of a national treasure, get behind its destruction, the other side will howl for a change.

If I were in Congress, I wouldn’t vote a dime for Federal fire suppression efforts. I would be part and party to cutting that budget to the quick and then some more. The fire/industrial complex runs on money, and the more you give them, the more they will burn baby burn under the guise of tending the wild in a natural way.

Excuse me, Sherlocks. The Native Americans that tended the wild, that determined landscapes by anthropogenic fire, didn’t have drip torches, cats, helicopters, radios, and satellite mapping. Instead, they virtues lacking today, such as common sense, community support, and experience over time of when and how to burn on any given landscape. That experience led to vast open forests where lightning fire was not a life threatening event but an inconvenience that did little harm.

Today harm is described as natural and collateral damage from good and responsible management. So be it. And so it will be until the damage is so great, so noticeable, and so inconvenient as to lead to changes in the law of the land.

Let ‘er burn!!!! I no longer give a damn. Burn it all. And the sooner the better.

14 Nov 2009, 8:25am
by Mike

For thousands of years primitive humanoids, unable to read, write, or watch TV, somehow managed to manage the landscape successfully, if you call millennia of sustainable survival successful.

Whereas today the three-piece-suit crowd in the most sophisticated city on Earth cannot find their noses in the dark, are prone to marathon dithering and blathering, and cannot see our forests burning for the smoke.

The species is devolving. We are less fit for the struggle, less capable of survival, and are Darwinizing ourselves into oblivion. Foppery and powdered wigs do not feed the children nor sustain the species.

I see no virtue in destroying our landscapes with catastrophic fire. Megafires have failed as object lessons. They have not cured epidemic socio-cultural fatheadedness to date.

McClintock aside (just being polite here) the Squawking Classes are the new knuckledraggers, short-timer evolutionary misfits like the dodo for instance, and are doomed to the Bonepile of History for basic biological incompetence.

14 Nov 2009, 10:08am
by Larry H.

A step in the right direction would be for states to take back the firefighting responsibilities, as the Feds just aren’t up to the task of protecting Americans and their collective properties, safety and health. Frankly, I just do NOT trust them to “save” the forests in the ways I know are best through decades of experience and “reading the ground”.

The eco’s keep drilling it into people that the forests are dying from “climate change”. We need to keep pushing for true restoration, showing the public that forests CAN be saved through active forest management. The radical overstocking of forests, as well as a change in species composition is driving the massive mortality we are seeing in our forests. The main “Inconvenient Truth” is that our forests are incredibly far from being “natural”.



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