ALEC on Talkback Radio: Americans Ask Who is in Control of our U.S. Forest Service, Arsonists?
One of the things that made me write the op-ed is the online website Wildfire Today. I was reading comments from New Mexicans saying, “Who on earth does this in order to achieve management objectives?” One of them even says something like, “Who's in control over the U.S. Forest Service? Arsonists?” The other way to control fire, in addition to the prescribed burns, is harvesting, which, again, we stopped doing for decades and that led to the overgrowth.
Karla Jones, ALEC’s Senior Task Force Director for Federalism and International Relations, was a featured guest on Talkback Radio Show with host Chuck Wilder this week talking about her recent guest column in the Albuquerque Journal. Jones explains why states would do a better job at managing our public lands than the federal government. Below are highlight from their conversation.
Chuck Wilder: In your report, you talked about the Hermits Peak and the Calf Canyon fires. They erupted in northeastern New Mexico, merging to create the United States’ largest active wildfire and resulting in a presidential disaster declaration. When 20 percent of the blaze was contained, the fire already burned 175,000 acres, right?
Karla Jones: Yes.
Chuck Wilder: Few living in American western states were surprised to learn that the blame was the federal government. Is this mainly because they don’t want to rake up the dead leaves and things like that? Don’t want to have controlled fire blazes that are supposed to take care of some of this?
Karla Jones: Not exactly. The way they started the fire was by igniting a prescribed burn. For hundreds of years that the federal government was controlling much of the land in the west, they didn’t want to have prescribed burns. They believed that a healthy forest was an overgrown forest. Within the past decade or two, they recognized that they were absolutely wrong on that. Even tribal people ignited prescribed burns in order to make sure that the fuel load didn’t become unsustainable, and that helps prevent catastrophic wildfires. What the federal government did in northeastern New Mexico was ignite a prescribed burn during the dry, windy season. Anyone can tell you that that’s the wrong time, and that’s what leads to these catastrophic, explosive wildfires. One of the things that made me write the op-ed is the online website Wildfire Today. I was reading comments from New Mexicans saying, “Who on earth does this in order to achieve management objectives?” One of them even says something like, “Who’s in control over the U.S. Forest Service? Arsonists?” The other way to control fire, in addition to the prescribed burns, is harvesting, which, again, we stopped doing for decades and that led to the overgrowth.
Chuck Wilder: Let’s talk a little bit about how much land is controlled by the government. You say 47 percent of the territory and 11 continuous Western States and Alaska are managed by the federal government. Now, this is strange because when you drive through Nevada you don’t see too much forest, right? But here, the land owned by the government is 80 percent federal ownership.
Karla Jones: Yes, that is not a misprint. You can go to government reports; Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service has put out reports on public lands. A little more than 80 percent of Nevada is federally controlled. The federal government owns about 640 million acres across the United States, but the vast majority of the federal listing is located from Colorado westward.
Chuck Wilder: I’m sure most of you know, Nevada’s 80 percent has to do with testing – missile testing, shooting off atomic bombs, and things like that. But, sometimes, it just seems like the government says, “Well, we’re the government, we know what’s best, and we don’t want to listen to anybody.”
Karla Jones: A patronizing attitude is especially present with respect to the western states. Nobody questions that Massachusetts controls more than 95 percent of its own territory, but for some reason, we think that Nevada should only control 20 percent of its territory and that Utah should only control 40 percent of its territory. That’s where the patronizing attitude comes in. The fact that the west is federally controlled to a much greater extent than the east is just a function of history. The western states entered the United States as states during the time when Teddy Roosevelt decided that conservation needed to take place. So, you’ve got Enabling Acts to create the states from North Dakota and Utah that are identical. The federal government said they reserve the right to hold on to land within the state that wasn’t already privately controlled, but then they transferred control of that land to the state. So, North Dakota, even though its Enabling Act is the same as Utah, controls 96 percent of the land within its territory. Whereas in Utah, they only control 40 percent of the land within their territory.
Click below to listen to full interview: