Threat of environmental lawsuits contribute to spread of wildfires

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The threat of lawsuits by environmentalists has resulted in “analysis paralysis,” causing delay after delay, and study after study, in the government’s efforts to thin forests which are directly contributing to the spread of fires, a Colorado senator said.

“I am unwilling to allow our forest’s health and environmental quality to continue deteriorating simply because a minority of environmental organizations have thrown science and good sense out of the window in the name of their own political agenda,” said U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado).

“Enough is enough,” he added. “Something has to change.”

About 100 trees per acre are what nature intended, the senator said. In some cases, there are as many as 500 trees per acre in the nation’s national forests.

“The science is certain: Thinning forests to natural levels significantly reduces the threat of wildfires,” Nighthorse Campbell said. “Yet, the constant threat of environmentalists’ lawsuits has resulted in what has been described as “analysis paralysis.” The Forest Service is now forced to study and assess proposed actions not for the right reasons – whether the actions would benefit the environment – but in anticipation of a flurry of lawsuits and appeals by extreme environmentalists.”

However, even as Nighthorse Campbell was talking about trees and lawsuits, some environmentalists in Washington State have done the unthinkable – they want to get in the logging business.

“We see this as a possible niche business,” says Charlie Raines, a longtime forest activist for the Sierra Club. His newest project aims to buy up land in the Cascade foothills and then pay for it by selling off some of the timber. “We want to form forestry companies that would go more lightly on the land,” says Maryanne Tagney Jones, a veteran environmental campaigner who is working with Raines.

“Even environmentalists have come to believe that it’s better to have active forestry than shopping malls everywhere,” says Nancy Keith, executive director of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, which has championed this idea for a decade.