News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel What happens if we resist change?

Some things seem to never change. There are some who want change, and others who want everything left just as it is, and a third group wanting things the way they used to be in the "good old days."

When we try to pin one of these labels on a person, we're probably wrong. But, people do tend to bunch into such groups, especially when a hot issue comes along.

Our national forests have immense "bunching power" over people. Even though most of us don't live in or near a forest, we tend to think of the nearest national forest as "my forest," and often hold strong views about how to run it.

Some people look at a tree and view it as just another renewable resource. It can be made into a table and another tree will take its place. These people tend to see value in "using" the natural gifts of the forest.

Others look at the same tree and want it left alone for a variety of reasons: some fear any change; some don't want others to profit from public resources; some think "Mother Nature" knows best, and still others are paid to argue for "preserving" the status quo.

A third bunch wants the forests to be the way they were 200 years ago.

Diverse groups have been fighting a long time for control of our forests, and appear to have fought to a standstill. We are at a point where almost nothing can be done about the fire hazard on our forests, even when everyone agrees something should be done.

Some view the stalemate as a sign that those who favor doing nothing have won. They are wrong. While they were busy fighting, the forests changed anyway.

Millions of people moved into or near the forests. Hundreds of millions of trees became water-starved, over-crowded, sickly and insect-ridden. A 30-year wet cycle ended. The forests now have more fuel than at any time in recorded history and are ready for a holocaust like we have never seen. (Holocaust, by the way, means a sacrifice consumed by fire.)

We are about to see "change" on a landscape scale. Tens of millions of acres are being converted to scorched, black earth, covered with a fire glaze that sheds water like plastic, creating flooding, land slides, destruction and death. If this is not a "scorched earth" policy, I don't know what is.

Regardless of what these groups claim, the fact is they are sacrificing the forests, for the sake of winning. People who really care don't do that, just as a parent worthy of custody does not fight to the point of destruction over possession of a child.

Our forests are going up in smoke, along with a few people. Can we stop this? Maybe not. Are we going to try? You better believe it!

The only way to guarantee failure is to not try.

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