With keen interest, I read today that Tom Vilsack, our secretary of agriculture, is worried about forest fires and what it does to the Forest Service’s budget [“The cost of fighting wildfires is sapping Forest Service budget,” Opinion, Aug. 5]. So am I. However, he presents no clear solution when one is desperately needed.
More than 20 years ago when the Northwest Forest Plan became the law of the land around here, the Forest Service changed its business plan to nearly exclude the harvest of timber. The small thinnings they do produce hardly pay the costs of getting them to market.
This administrative decision should be changed to:
- Define a realistic and sustainable timber harvest to provide a cash flow to the U.S. Treasury.
- Use some of this money to train and support firefighters who would be on the fire scene quickly in each ranger district, who are otherwise already working there in many capacities to maintain roads, trails and buildings.
- Put young people to work.
- Support struggling rural communities with their tax burden using 25 percent of the timber receipts they had previously received for decades.
This is a plan. It would work just as well as it did for many years.
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Glenn Wiggins, Port Angeles, a consulting forester