By Seth Richardson
The Forest Service has another in a long list of bureaucratic conundrums, and it’s quite typically constrained its thinking to the narrow box of federal top-down management.
It seems that in Colorado, the government has some 170,000 piles of trees and slashed branches that nobody is willing to buy from them. As a part of their stewardship of the forests, the Forest Service lets government-paid contracts to loggers to cut and stack hundreds of thousands of beetle-killed pine trees. Some $40 million in emergency funds has been allocated to the project by Congress.
The Forest Service didn’t do its homework and assumed wrongly that loggers would be able to sell the trees to lumber mills and a Kremmling pellet factory, but burdensome environmental regulations have decimated the timber industry nationwide and have driven most of the lumber mills in Colorado out of business and competition from Canada has kept lumber prices low, so there are few takers for the wood.
Meanwhile, logging is proceeding apace on the government’s (meaning your) dime and the logs are piling up. So many in fact that they are just burning hundreds of the piles in place because they can’t find buyers.
Problem is that state health regulations require a permit for such large-scale slash burns in order to preserve air quality. Of course this is a bit silly since the alternative is to leave the trees standing and dead, in which case eventually they will all light off at once in one enormous wildfire that will dump exactly as much carbon into the atmosphere as burning the slash piles, but in a much less controlled fashion and with much more devastation of the environment.
Since the desire is for “controlled burns,” and the carbon is going to be released one way or another, either through burning or as ozone-harming methane, a product of decomposition that’s sixteen times more harmful to the ozone layer than carbon monoxide that is produced by burning, let’s think out of the box. Let’s control and disperse the inevitable carbon release even more by requiring the contractors to whack the logs into 15-inch sections and pile them up. Then, put up a website that shows the location of these piles of wood and encourage people to go to any of them and fill their pickup trucks and trailers with…wait for it…free firewood.
Yes, you heard it here. Free federal firewood for the People! Massive amounts of it. As much as you care to load up and take home, absolutely free of charge and without any cost to the government for disposal.
Commercial firewood sellers, you can increase your profits and reduce your costs by getting your stock in one place, ready to be split and sold, at absolutely no (further) charge by the government! Now there’s a small-business stimulus plan that actually works!
Come one, come all and enjoy the bounty of your forest lands without all the red tape and cost of getting a firewood cutting permit from the Forest Service. No driving around or hiking up the hill to find a tree to cut. Less wait for the wood to cure so it can be burned.
Congress has already taxed you to cut and stack the wood, so no need for further government intervention! Come and get it!
While there’s probably far more wood than everyone in Colorado needs for their fireplaces, any amount that is taken for home or commercial firewood use reduced the overload. Everybody wins, nobody loses except the bureaucrats who can’t stand the idea of the People actually using and enjoying the bounty of their national forest lands without their supervision, for free.
Do you suppose anyone at the Department of Agriculture has enough common sense to make it happen?
Call or write to the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region office at 740 Simms Street, Golden, CO, 80401, 303-275-5350. Ask for Cal Wettstein, Commander of the Forest Service’s Bark Beetle Incident Management Organization and demand that the Forest Service put this plan into action immediately.
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