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E-M:/ More on Forest Fires

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

 There was a fair amount of interest in the forest fire issues I raised 
 previously, so I want to refer those who are interested to the NYTimes 
 opinion page today which discusses where the Clinton administration is 
 heading with regard to fire policies.  This has relevance here as well as 
 elsewhere in the country.  
 This topic is fostering lots of debate in the editorial pages and stump 
 speeches throughout the country, which is why I find the NY Times piece 
 particularly interesting.  One of the challenges in the midst of political 
 crises is to find the BEST solution, not just the tried and true rhetoric 
 of the past.  The simple message seems to be that well intentioned efforts 
 to address fire through fire suppression are actually culpable for making 
 what is a natural process of change through fire disturbances turn into a 
 much worse problem than in the past.  
 While we have been fortunate to have a relatively cool, wet year here, 
 parts of Michigan are fraught with the same dilemmas as are faced in the 
 areas with intense fire. For social reasons, ranging from protecting 
 property to not losing timber, our state sets a goal of keeping all 
 wildfires under 10 acres.  Prescribed burn is used in some areas, but has 
 been attacked in the past when it got out of control, and we even saw 
 ridiculous legislative proposals that would have made prescribed burn 
 virtually impossible.  
 As Michigan's population increasingly spreads out into forested areas, 
 particularly in the fire prone jack pine areas, it is critical to have an 
 intelligent, science based debate about the risks we face from this 
 unplanned, exceedingly dangerous situation.  Should the government be 
 responsible for people who build houses, golf courses, malls, etc. in 
 places where fires can be expected to burn them down within the next 
 twenty to thirty years?  Who should pay for fire protection for those who 
 have taken on that risk for personal reasons (right now state taxpayers 
 do)? We no longer allow people to build in floodplains for many of the 
 same reasons that exist in fire prone areas, but our zoning and building 
 codes do nothing like what is required in flood plain areas to raise the 
 standards for protection of property and life.  
 Anne Woiwode

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