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Logging not the answer to wildfires residents say

By Sharon Collins
CNN Headline News

(CNN) -- Returning home after the wildfires, a frustrated homeowner in Arizona pointed to her burned land and lashed out at environmentalists.

"We kept saying, if you don't do something, if you don't listen to us and fix this and address this you're not gonna have habitat for your frickin' spotted owl. I just wish that these environmentalists would just come to the ranch now and let me rub their noses in this ashtray they've left us," said Deborah Brimhall.

But environmental groups are angry that they're being blamed for a problem they say was created by poor forest management. Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said, "Scientists have determined these fire problems stem from three problems: nearly a century of fire suppression that removed the natural role fire plays in healthy forests, an extreme multi-year drought and decades of commercial logging that removed large, fire-resistant trees."

He said, "For years the Sierra Club has been urging the Forest Service to do more prescribed burning, to reduce flammable brush near threatened communities, and we've been asking Congress to devote more money to do the job right."

But Fire Information Officer Jim Paxon says there's plenty of blame to go around. He points out that many homeowners oppose preventive burning in their communities.

"I think everybody that has anything to do with the management of these lands has part of the blame. Now you can go to the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and the other land management agencies that were active in suppression [of naturally occurring forest fires] in a good spirited but misguided ecological standpoint. ...we're playing catch-up."

But he adds, "We can put some of the blame on homeowners that don't wanna see smoke because they come up here to get away from the heat and the smog. You can put some on the environmentalists who want to stop us for doing our management activities because they disagree with us."

All parties agree that seven years of drought in the West have resulted in the worst wildfire season in U.S. history.

At issue is what can be done to develop more effective policies.

President Bush wants to change forest management laws and allow timber companies to remove more trees from federal lands.

But environmental groups say the president is just trying to help friends in the timber business.

They say logging doesn't stop wildfires.




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