Editor's Note: A Call To Action

Editor's Note: A Call To Action

Elsewhere on our website, you will find a five-part interview from 2018 with our friend and colleague Michael Rains. Mr. Rains retired from the U.S. Forest Service in 2016 following a distinguished 44-year career that began on wildland fire lines in the 1960s. Among his subsequent assignments, a term as Deputy Chief of the Forest Service for State and Private Forestry.

In retirement, Rains continues to advocate for active management of western national forests that are being destroyed by insect and disease infestations and inevitable wildfire. He shares our long-held belief that the best way to combat the West’s wildfire pandemic is to put these fires out as quickly as possible.

Four years ago, while we were in the midst of writing First, Put Out the Fire!, he was busy putting together his first Call to Action, an essay in which he explained why the West’s national forests were in the midst of ecological collapse and what could be done to rescue them from fiery deaths.

Our paths soon crossed, he read our draft manuscript and offered to write a foreword for the book. We continue to work closely in our efforts to encourage [1] a faster response to wildfires and [2] a significant increase in the pace and scale of forest restoration projects designed to reduce wildfire risks.

Although the tsunami of federal money headed west to counties, states and Native American tribes is a hopeful sign, the Biden Administration’s Council of Environmental Quality has hamstrung pace and scale with new regulations that provide yet another publicly-funded feeding ground for environmental litigants that inexplicably oppose restoration work designed to increase natural resiliency by first increasing structural and species diversity in at-risk forests.

Michael's 59-page update (REV. 12.1), the twelfth major essay in his Call to Action series, is well worth reading if you have the time. If you don’t, a four-page Summary is available as well. Both feature a Call to Action petition you can sign if you feel so moved. Thus far, his efforts have generated 5,142 signatures.

REV. 12.1 assesses the chances for success under the aegis of the Agriculture Department’s recently released plan for tackling the West’s wildfire pandemic. We touch on this plan in a PowerPoint presentation we made February 12 before the members of the Public Lands Committee of the National Association of Counties [NACO] at their annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C.

Michael is rightly skeptical about the plan’s chances for success, but we take Forest Service Chief Randy Moore at his word when he says he is serious about addressing wildfires. Moreover, we know from our NACO colleagues that county commissioners in the 11 western states – Republicans and Democrats alike – are fed up with congressional and administrative obfuscation.

Today is February 15 and the wildfire season is already underway in the driest parts of the West. Blaming climate change for the eight million acres lost in the 2021 wildfire season is a distraction. It doesn’t protect one square foot of forest from incineration.

Our focus should be on caring for the four assets the public wants from its forests: clean air, clean water, abundant fish and wildlife habitat and a wealth of year-round outdoor recreation opportunities. These assets – byproducts of forest stewardship - aren’t found amid black sticks.

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