July 13, 2005

FIRE PREVENTION SEASON

Guest Opinion Submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

FIRE PREVENTION SEASONGuest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike CrapoYou might be surprised to learn that 348 wildland fires have already been contained nationwide in the 2005 fire season. Over half a million acres are burning. For the Northwest, additional vegetation from our wet spring is becoming potential fire fuel through persistent drought conditions. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise predicts a higher than normal fire risk into late July and August. This is the perfect opportunity to discuss wildland fire policy and prevention. 2004 was the fifth-highest year in total acres burned by wildland fires since 1960. In recent years contributing factors include past fire suppression policies, drought conditions, changing weather patterns and increased wildland/urban interface. Preventing wildland fires is a national priority for safety, economics and health--a responsibility that must be shared by the federal, state and local governments, businesses and individuals. Two years ago, we took a significant step toward reversing a century of troubling forest management policy. The Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA) encourages fuel reduction efforts, protects old-growth forests, enhances water quality, promotes community-based land management and public involvement in forest management and addresses insect and disease problems. In 2004, over four million acres nationwide experienced hazardous fuel reduction and landscape restoration activities. Almost 40 percent of the biomass removed has been transformed into products such as engineered lumber, paper and pulp, ethanol, plastics and biodiesel. Thus far in 2005 in Idaho, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service have completed fuel treatments on over 75,000 acres. HFRA promotes stewardship contracting projects which incorporate public-private partnerships into the larger mosaic of responsible, localized forest management. Ongoing fuel reduction, wildland/urban interface and invasive species treatment projects are being conducted across Idaho. These include: â?¢ Priest-Pend Oreille Land Stewardship, Idaho Panhandle National Forest;â?¢ Red River Watershed, Nez Perce National Forest;â?¢ North Fork Big Game Habitat Restoration, Clearwater National Forest;â?¢ Warm Ridge/Glide, Wapiti Blue and the North Kennedy/Cottonwood Stewardship Project, Boise National Forest;â?¢ Pole Canyon Fuels Reduction, Caribou-Targhee National Forest;â?¢ Harden Loop Salvage, Salmon-Challis National Forest;â?¢ BLM collaborative projects in the Lemhi Forest and Owyhee Shrubland. From developing community wildfire protection and education plans to involving students in the education and prevention process, HFRA has strengthened forest management and made our communities, families and property safer and more productive. Still, all the collaborative partnerships in the world aren't a substitute for responsible outdoor recreation. Activities through HFRA reduce potential fire destruction, but controlling fires' causes is up to individuals. Nine out of ten wildland fires are man-made-in other words, fires that ravaged 90 percent, or 6.1 million acres last year were technically preventable. When you are enjoying Idaho's great outdoors, remember some simple rules to reduce the possibility of wildfire: â?¢ Don't park vehicles or ATV's on dry grass,â?¢ Know the trash burning regulations,â?¢ Store containers of flammable liquid in a safe place,â?¢ Make sure campfires are completely out before leaving the area,â?¢ Never use stove, lanterns or heaters inside a tent, â?¢ If you encounter a wildfire, leave the area by an established trail or road and contact the nearest ranger, and if your escape route is blocked, go to the nearest lake or stream.These are just a few safety recommendations for responsible recreating. For more information about HFRA in Idaho or tips about fire and outdoor recreation safety, go to my website at http://crapo.senate.gov. We can work together now for healthy public lands that can be enjoyed for generations. WORD COUNT: 591