Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There is no doubt you and your family have felt the effects of the horrible wildfires burning across the western states. Decades of mismanagement of our forest resources, due to environmental policies, has prevented logging and livestock grazing, and allowed massive buildup of dead and dying timber. This now serves as a massive fuel source for these wildfires.
I know one of the main questions I've received from you is where all the smoke is coming from. There are several major fires burning in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state. We are likely seeing the smoke crossing the border from Idaho. Also, the Diamond Creek Fire, near the Canadian border in the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest is likely contributing to our poor air quality as well. In all honesty, with the millions of acres burning across the west, the smoke is a combination of all the fires.
Here is a breakdown of the major fires affecting our state:
- Diamond Creek Fire is burning near the Canadian border in the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest. It is burning approximately 100,000 acres to date.
- The Norse Peak Fire is burning in Mount Rainier near the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. It is nearly 45,000 acres and growing.
- The Jolly Mountain Fire is burning near Cle Elum, Roslyn and Ronald. It is nearly 24,000 acres.
- In Oregon, the Eagle Creek Fire, on the border of Washington and Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge, is approximately 31,000 acres. It has merged with the nearby Indian Creek Fire.
For more information on all the wildfires, air quality, and other fire-related information, here are some good resources for you.
For fire information:
- Inciweb – https://inciweb.nwcg.gov
- National Interagency Fire Center – https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/nfn.htm
- Idaho fire info – http://www.idahofireinfo.com/p/maps.html
- Washington state fire info – http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Wildfires
- Oregon fire info – http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/pages/FireStats.aspx
- Canada fire info – http://cwfis.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/report
For air quality and health information:
- Department of Ecology Air quality map – https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/Default.htm
- Department of Ecology – Air quality resources – http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/air_monitoring_data/WAQA_Intro_Page.html
- AirNow – Northwest Clean Air Agency – https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_state&stateid=49
- Washington smoke information – http://wasmoke.blogspot.com/p/state.html
The environmental impacts creating these wildfires
Many people are questioning how we can possibly be experiencing such a harsh fire season when we had such an extremely wet winter. The wet winter allowed for the vegetation in our forests to flourish from the extra water. Under previous, multiple use management, grazing livestock helped keep the undergrowth in check and made the forest fire-resistant. Now, through environmental protections, this grass grows freely and unchecked, creating the tinder vulnerable to lightning strikes. Restrictions on logging added to the fuel load and suffocated the aging large trees. The dry and dying wood from the unhealthy forest serves as ladder fuel. Fires that occur in forests managed as if they are in a natural ecosystem burn hotter and leave the land barren in their path.
Preventing wildfires starts with proper management of our lands and natural resources. Active forest management has been the hallmark of our forestry system for over 100 years. Changing cultures within the U.S. Forest Service and our state land management agencies have adopted practices of preservation and protectionism endorsed by environmentalists.
For over 50 years, environmental forest practices have made our forests unhealthy. What environmentalists fail to see is that active management of our forests for public benefits, like timber production that sustains rural economies, livestock production, and recreation work to sustain the health and vitality of our forests. Using human benefits works to keep the health of the natural ecosystems by controlling undergrowth, dead plants, trees and brush, and by eliminating potential disease.
The environmental movement in this country has driven the mismanagement of our natural resources and crippled our rural forest dependent economies. They have created a humanitarian crisis.
When environmentalists went from terrorist activities like tree spiking and monkey wrenching logging equipment, to perfecting the use of court injunctions, they prevented most harvests on our Pacific Northwest forests and slowed lumber production to a trickle.
Lumber prices have driven the costs of new homes for the last 25 years. Artificial shortages in the lumber sector can be considered a significant reason why average Americans struggled to make home mortgage payments during the economic downturn of 2008. Home value corrections not related to the cost of construction left many first time homeowners upside down in the mortgages, which to led to the economic collapse.
Beyond meeting the housing needs of our growing population, forests cool the atmosphere and buffer the weather because the acreages are big enough to have an effect. The forest is nature's way of buffering the effects of human activity by sequestering carbon in the wood of the trees. The trees respire if they are healthy and regenerate the atmosphere with oxygen. Trees also consume carbon dioxide (CO2) in their respiration process.
We are teaching our children to fear the global warming boogeyman, while millions of acres of forests are burning, releasing millions of tons of carbon and destroying the living ecosystem designed to buffer the effects of human activity. The fires have been catastrophic in their release of carbon.
The amount of carbon emitted from our manufacturing and transportation industries has been steadily decreasing as we have deployed technologies that mitigate the effects our society has on the environment. The carbon released in the last few years of mega-fires resulted from misguided practices demanded by an environmental movement that cares little for their impact on humanity.
Our children will not ever truly experience the mature and beautiful forests we once enjoyed prior to these horrible fires until we change our approach to forest management and start using the bounty healthy forests provide, and more actively regenerate the forest ecosystem.
We will continue our efforts and fight to bring back the human considerations in natural resource management.
Thank you to all the firefighters, first responders, military, and men and women hard at work fighting these fires and keeping our communities safe. Please keep them in your prayers!
It's my honor to serve as your state representative.