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Forest-fire theory flawed

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Craig Axford's recent "My View," "Logging makes forest-fire problem worse — not better," was based on the false premise that federally managed forests are currently healthy. The truth is that federal forests are in a dire state and must be restored to health. To do so, some mechanical removal — logging, thinning, brush-clearing and partial harvesting — is necessary.

In February of this year, a U.S. Forest Service report cited that accumulated fuels (dead, dying and diseased trees) have made 118 million acres of Forest Service land very unhealthy or in seriously deteriorating health. The forests' poor condition is a direct result of the federal government's last century of fire suppression, which allowed fuels to accumulate.

Where once there were 20-55 large, healthy trees per acre, now there are 300-900 trees per acre. These crowded trees are smaller and more vulnerable to disease, drought and fire. They become fuel for a hotter fire and serve as a ladder carrying the fire up to the larger trees.

Allowing natural fires to burn, as Axford advocates, will be inadequate to get federal forests out of this mess. It may be a bitter pill for many environmentalists to swallow, but some mechanical removal of underbrush is necessary along with prescribed burning. The health of federal forests depends on it.

Ali Freeman

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Washington, D.C.