The purpose of this letter is to add some truth and facts to the efforts by Friends of the Bitterroot (FOB) to stop the valiant efforts by the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) to reduce un-natural fuel loading in our National Forest.
The “Friends” had a half-page ad in the Oct. 30 Bitterroot Star that was full of inaccurate inflammatory information intended to get people upset about a valid, past it’s time project. They used outrageous statements like “destroy mountain views," “hurt hunting and fishing," “clear cuts," “harm wildlife,” “cost taxpayers millions," “lower property values” and a real dandy, “will not help with weather driven fires.”
I actually thought they had learned a lesson about making statements like this and that’s why I had déjà vu all over again. The BNF has introduced a concept that covers about 150,000 acres with proposed action on about 50,000 acres with no actual details on what needs to be done. How could FOB come up with all the BS in their ad? Its easy, they make it up to scare people.
There is not enough room here to address all their claims so I will just do a few. “Create clear cuts” — its possible there could be a stand of trees that is in such poor condition there is nothing suitable to leave, but no definitive proposal has been made.
“Destroy mountain views” — if you were living here in 2000 and have continued to live here, how do you like your views with all the fire scars?
“Cost taxpayers millions” — speaking of the 2000 fires, the BNF spent about 60 million of your taxpayer dollars “fighting” those fires, and I estimate at least half of that was spent protecting structures and about 70 were lost.
Now that costs the taxpayers millions with little return to the Valley other than wages for locals and weeks of unhealthy air. We have had many west side fires since then with dollars spent and unhealthy air and little to no return. Burning all those trees with high intensity crown fires adds thousands of tons of carbon into our atmosphere, and FOB claims to be concerned about climate change.
One FOB member actually said he would rather see the BNF burn down to the private land boundary rather than have commercial logging. Now for their dandy, the project “will not help with weather driven fires.” This statement demonstrates how little they know about the relationship of fuels and fire. We live in a fire ecosystem and we will always have fires.
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These BNF proposals are not intended to stop fires, but they will be very effective in reducing the extreme intensity of the fires we have witnessed first hand in the last 20 years. The objective is to move the fires from the crown to the ground, plain and simple, and it works!
I have 50 years of fire experience and I have worked with many people that have way more experience than I have, and we are all in agreement on this fact. Ground fires are far easier, less costly and much safer to manage. Actually, they can be managed where a wind-driven crown fire is extremely dangerous and getting out of the way is the safest thing to do.
There are a few landowners in the Roaring Lion drainage that have been managing their fuels, one on a large tract of land, and their property received very little damage from the Roaring Lion fire due to their efforts. Reducing fuels works even with “weather driven fires.”
Take a drive up the Bass Creek road to the Charlie Waters Campground and turn right on the Larry Creek Road and look at the trees on your left (west). That area received a fuel treatment a few years ago with a similar type of treatment that will be completed in the recent proposal. It was used for a backfire to defend the recent Lolo Peak fire that was moving toward the private land in the area and it was successful.
I think I have gone on long enough, but I would like to issue a challenge to you FOB folks. Lets have an open public forum where you get together three to five of your fire experts and I will do the same with some of my friends, and maybe a Roaring Lion landowner. We will give each panel member a set time to present their answer to the question — How effective is fuel reduction on a landscape scale in reducing the level of fire intensity and resistance to control? We would need a large venue as I imagine there is a lot of interest in this topic.
Are you game? I certainly am! Give me a call — 375-0871.
Sonny LaSalle, Hamilton