Forest Service needs reform

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By Sherry Robinson

Driving to Ruidoso after the Little Bear Fire last year, we passed a meadow brimming with hay bales about to become mulch on burn-scarred land.
Up north, Santa Clara Pueblo officials figure it will take $100 million and 100 years to restore Santa Clara Canyon after fire devastated half the watershed.
The average westerner is relinquishing the notion of our forests as a pristine resource and getting used to the reality of an overgrown, parched and buggy tinder box, dangerous as a warehouse full of old dynamite.
We don’t lack for solutions. In fact, there are so many loud voices, that’s part of the problem.
Another is that policy makers don’t recognize that the real cost of these fires goes beyond firefighting.
Those are two points made by the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute for the Elimination of Catastrophic Wildfire.
Its organizers and supporters are retired forestry professionals and firefighters.
In a nutshell, the institute sees a federal Forest Service that’s paralyzed by a dense patchwork of conflicting laws, decisions made by political appointees with no experience on the ground, poor morale, under-staffing and budget cuts. The fires grow bigger, and the funding grows smaller.

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