Out-of-Control Alaska Forest Fire Fueled By Forest Service Neglect


DATE: July 2, 2001

BACKGROUND: A controlled burn set by the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska's Kenai peninsula is now burning out of control. Acres of dead trees that were killed over the last ten years by the spruce beetle and never cut down or cleared are making it especially difficult to control the fire.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: Had the Forest Service cleared away the dead trees long ago, citizens of the area would not be at risk of losing their homes or lives to a fast moving fire.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: This is just another example of poor forest management in the name of environmentalism. There is no good reason to save large areas of dead trees. They only provide enormous amounts of dry fuel when a fire gets started. It's time we have more responsible management of our public lands. It is time to review the previous administration's anti-logging policy.

DISCUSSION: Jack E. Phelps, executive director of the Alaska Forest Association, in prepared statements for a 1999 Congressional hearing, noted that the spruce bark beetle infestation in the Kenai Peninsula had killed trees on more than 3 million acres. He also noted in his testimony that private landowners, as well as the state, had harvested the infected trees on their land and replanted seedlings. Federal land salvage sales were contested in court and eventually the Forest Service abandoned the sales. Phelps stated that one third of the infected area is under federal land management, including the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) reported June 29, 1999 that "reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires does not appear to be a high priority for the Forest Service." Source: GAO Report T-RCED-99-241.

by Gretchen Randall, Director of Energy & Regulatory Affairs, The National Center for Public Policy Research

Contact the author at: 773-857-5086 or GRandall@nationalcenter.org
The National Center for Public Policy Research, Chicago office
3712 North Broadway - PMB 279
Chicago, IL 60613