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Burn, baby, burn!

By Henry Lamb
web posted June 24, 2002

Flames burn through the trees on the Missionary Ridge wildfire east of Durango, Colo., on June 20
Flames burn through the trees on the Missionary Ridge wildfire east of Durango, Colo., on June 20

Yellowstone got our attention when it went up in smoke more than a decade ago. Each year, the fires seem to get worse. If it's not California burning, it's New Mexico, or Idaho, or Arizona, or Colorado. Beautiful forests reduced to ashes. Homes destroyed. Animals roasted. Firefighters - often young volunteers - sacrificed needlessly on the altar of "wilderness." On June 19, 2002, more than a half-million acres were burning in seven states. And the fire season is just beginning.

How did the eco-zealots convince a generation of people - and lawmakers - that it is a good thing to deny people access to their forests, their lumber and minerals, and instead, allow the fuel to accumulate so it can explode into devastating waste?

It is not a good thing. Once, foresters were taught to build firebreaks - roads - through the forests, to stop, or slow a fire's progress, and to provide access for firefighters.

But no. Eco-zealots claimed that roads in forests are not "natural." School children are told that cutting down a tree is the same as murder. They are told that mining is the same as raping the earth. They are brainwashed with this propaganda every day. What nonsense!

The eco-zealots have been very successful. Senator Barbara Boxer continues her annual push for more "wilderness," where trees can be worshiped - for awhile - rather than used, and then turned into charcoal. Bill Clinton's 58-million-acre "roadless" initiative continues to remove access roads to "wilderness," so it too, can grow rich with fuel for future fires.

What Congress passes for environmental protection policy, often turns out to be environmental destruction. What eco-zealots call "conservation biology," is little more than Gaia worship, seasoned with a splash of science. What many level-headed people are coming to believe, is that this eco-zealot hogwash is at best, wrong-headed, and at worst, just plain stupid.

It's time to recognize this eco-foolishness for what it is, and move on to a common-sense, free enterprise basis for land management and environmental policy.

Property rights and resource-use organizations have been popping up all across the country in recent years, to try to counter the influence of the eco-zealot organizations. Leaders of many of these groups met in Alamogordo, New Mexico last month, to begin developing a national, coordinated strategy. These groups will meet again in Nashville in July, to hammer out a plan of action to better coordinate the energy and efforts of hundreds of thousands of people who want relief from the policies imposed to appease the eco-fanatics.

Green groups are 20 years ahead of the property rights resource-use groups. Coordinated funding through the Environmental Grantmakers Association provides these groups with millions of dollars each year. Moreover, these groups have learned the art of corporate welfare.

The Nature Conservancy alone, received more than $80 million in government grants during the last Clinton term. This organization was one of five green groups, named as "executing agency or collaborating organization" in more than $800 million in grants from the U.N.'s Global Environment Facility in a single year.

The groups meeting in Nashville next month have no such "sugar daddies." What they have, is determination, conviction, principle - and common sense. They have no zillion-dollar headquarters in DC; they don't fly around the world to perform street-theater to protest progress; they don't blow up ski lodges and research facilities; they don't hire public relations firms to conduct expensive ad campaigns, and they don't take Congressmen on junkets, or to fancy dinners.

What they do, is learn the facts, talk to their neighbors, hold neighborhood meetings, meet with their local elected officials, write letters to the editor, monitor their legislators - and vote. And they vote with a passion. They care how candidates have voted in the past, and they care enough to find out how new candidates feel about the issues that concern them.

Green groups have scoffed at their rag-tag counterparts in the past. Green groups spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to discredit their counterparts, calling them "industry-front" groups, while knowing full well that it is a lie.

Eco-zealots may be nearing the end of their era of uncontested influence. People are wising up. Why should we pay millions of dollars per wolf to reintroduce this species, when the human species still needs food and shelter? Why should we spend millions of dollars for the government to buy up more land, when it can't manage the land it already owns?

Why should we continue to put more and more land into wilderness - simply to let it burn?

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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