Arizona wildfire prompts Congressional hearing on logging.The right focus?
The Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona is 45 percent contained. Next week, Congress will hold hearings on how to reduce wildfires through better forest management. Some see political opportunism for logging.
Congress is going to take a hard look at wildfires next week.Skip to next paragraph
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Two days after the planned memorial service for the 19 firefighters killed while battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona, on July 11 the US House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation has scheduled a hearing on how to reduce the risk of wildfires with better forest management.
“This week, Arizona experienced the most tragic wildfire in state history when we lost 19 brave firefighters to the Yarnell Fire,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, (R) of Arizona, according to the Arizona Republic. "We owe these men our everlasting thanks and we owe their families a commitment to pursue pro-active forest management policies, which will minimize catastrophic wildfires in the future, while protecting our communities and restoring the environment. This hearing helps the committee’s efforts to achieve these goals.”
While these are worthy goals, some see this as political opportunism aimed at helping the American logging industry. In an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Karin Klein criticizes the motives of the hearings:
"As yet, there is no evidence that the ferocity of the blaze that killed 19 highly trained and dedicated firefighters in Arizona was the result of a failure to thin forests by cutting down trees to create more space between those that remain, and yet already Republican congressmen are calling for hearings on “unhealthy forests" and what they see as the value of thinning...
Generally speaking, the best way to reduce damage is by thinning not in the heart of forests but along the edges closest to urban and suburban areas -- the urban interface, as it’s called -- creating what’s known as “defensible space” where firefighters can more safely and effectively carry out their heroic acts."
It is also noted that Congress has jurisdiction only over forest management on federal lands, whereas the deadly Arizona wildfire was on state and private land.