Arizona Fire Ignites Policy Blaze

This spring’s Wallow fire had burned 520,000 acres in Arizona as of June 18, causing the evacuation of eight communities, and has now moved into New Mexico; among other consequences, the National Weather Service warns that the extensive burns on the White Mountains “will make numerous locations vulnerable to flash floods and debris flows” even in moderate-intensity rains and urged those in the watershed to take precautions, at least during the coming summer. On June 18, the fire was rated as 51% contained.

While Arizona Senator John McCain suggested illegal aliens might be the source of the fire, state Senator Sylvia Allen (R), the state Senate’s President Pro Tempore, who represents part of the area burned over, is looking elsewhere: for her, “misinformation, faulty science, lawsuits, and downright lies” on the part of “environmental groups” are the root cause. “I once again must express my anger at the lack of forest management that, for the last 20 years, has turned our forests into a tinderbox of undergrowth, small trees, and downed trees.”

Her widely circulated June 3 letter further inflames the topic by asserting, “The federal government held 12 western states hostage and only agreed to grant us statehood if we gave up control of 60% of our land, assuring the states that they (the states) would have use of the land and be able to use the resources within the boundaries of our respective states. The federal government has broken its word.”

The June 9 Arizona Daily Sun, covering northern Arizona, editorializes vigorously against the policy of neglect to which the eco-lobby’s application of the precautionary principle has condemned these lands. Claiming that broad consensus now exists in the region for active management in harmony with natural fire cycles, the Sun calls for an end to the legal challenges that have obstructed the so-called Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI) and full support for the efforts of entrepreneurs like Pascal Berlioux—who addressed FRA’s Board in the fall of 2008 in Santa Fe, New Mexico—“who has told the public agencies in 4FRI he has investors lined up for a strandboard plant in Winslow if they can guarantee him access to 30,000 acres of wood fiber for 20 years.”