Monday, August 26, 2002

"In the name of fire prevention, Bush wants to allow the timber industry to log off more than 2.5 million acres of federal forest over the next ten years. He wants it done quickly and without any interference from pesky statutes such as the Endangered Species Act. Bush called his plan 'the Healthy Forests Initiative.' But it's nothing more than a giveaway to big timber, that comes at a high price to the taxpayer and forest ecosystems.

"Bush's stump speech was a craven bit of political opportunism, rivaled, perhaps, only by Bush's call to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling as a way to help heal the nation after the attacks of September 11. That plan sputtered around for awhile, but didn't go anywhere. But count on it: this one will.

"Bush is exploiting a primal fear of fire that almost overwhelms the crippling anxiety about terrorists. In a one of the great masterstrokes of PR, Americans have been conditioned for the past 60 years that forest fires are bad...bad for forests. It's no accident that Smokey the Bear is the most popular icon in the history of advertising, far outdistancing Tony the Tiger or Capt. Crunch.

"But the forests of North America were born out of fires, not destroyed by them. After Native Americans settled across the continent following the Wisconsin glaciation, fires became an even more regular event, reshaping the ecology of the Ponderosa pine and spruce forests of the Interior West and the mighty Douglas-fir forests of the Pacific Coast.

"Forest fires became stigmatized only when forests began to be viewed as a commercial resource rather than an obstacle to settlement. Fire suppression became an obsession only after the big timber giants laid claim to the vast forests of the Pacific Northwest. Companies like Weyerhaeuser and Georgia-Pacific were loath to see their holdings go up in flames, so they arm-twisted Congress into pour millions of dollars into Forest Service fire-fighting programs. "

Jeffrey St. Clair, in Counterpunch.

"He woke to rain coming down in sheets, the smell of redwood trees in the rain through the open bus windows, tunnels of unbelievably tall straight red trees whose tops could not be seen pressing in to either side. Prairie had been watching them all the time and in a very quiet voice talking to them as they passed one by one. It seemed now and then as if she were responding to something she was hearing, and in rather a matter-of-fact tone of voice for a baby, too, as if this were a return for her to a world behind the world she had known all along."
Vineland p. 315