Fighting fire: Congress makes a tough job even tougher

Here's a draft of our Tuesday editorial:

The federal debt crisis is bad — and getting worse. The same goes for the state of America’s overgrown and fire-prone forests.

This year, the problems are directly related, and the parallels are clear.

Because Congress has failed to come up with a meaningful budget solution — kicking the can of the fiscal crisis down the road — the U.S. Forest Service is paying the price. Congress raided $200 million from a Forest Service’s firefighting fund in 2011, and grabbed up another $240 million this year.

That leaves the Forest Service looking for ways to reduce firefighting costs — before they eat into the rest of the agency’s budget. So the Forest Service decided, with little fanfare, to aggressively fight fires from the outset this year. The belief, or the hope, is that the Forest Service can save some money by knocking down fires early.

James Hubbard, the agency’s chief for state and private forestry, conceded the plan’s weaknesses. “I acknowledge this is not a desirable approach in the long run,” Hubbard wrote in a May 25 memo.

That’s for sure.

It is the Forest Service’s equivalent of kicking the can down the road. Suppressing small fires might head off a larger fire, in the short run. But it leaves a “preserved” forest choked with undergrowth that increases the risk of catastrophic fire later.

Forest scientists know this. They know that in order to preserve the health of the forest, natural fires must be allowed to burn whenever possible, in order to prevent the buildup of flammable material.

And so, in a delicious little government irony, the Forest Service is making decisions that may compromise the health of the forest — in order to preserve its budget for initiatives such as “forest health,” the use of logging and prescribed burns to thin out fire-prone lands.

Congress makes a handy scapegoat these days; that’s what befalls an institution with an approval rating that is straining just to remain in double digits. But in this case, the blame belongs to Congress.

Fighting forest fire is a tough and dangerous job, as this year has made painfully obvious. Firefighters will likely spend the rest of the summer just trying to keep fire away from communities such as Featherville and Idaho City — while waiting for the first fall snowstorm, which might finally snuff out the fire season. The death of Anne Veseth, a Moscow student who died this month fighting a small fire in North Idaho, offers a sad reminder of firefighting’s inherent hazards.

Fire managers will never be able to operate in a purely apolitical climate — considering only the tricky balance between protecting lives and property and preserving the natural resource. Politics, and political scrutiny, will forever be part of the landscape. But the least the politicians can do is stop treating the firefighting budget like a piggybank — something they can use to cover for their own failings.

Here's the real why and how of it, Kevin:

57 Democrats in the Senate and 40 Republicans.

In the House of Representatives, there are 256 Democrats and 178 Republicans.

And, a Socialist in the Oval Office.

Nuff said.

Artanis...if you are going to state facts, make them accurate...

Senate: 51 Democrats, 2 Independents, 47 Republicans
House: 190 Democrats, 240 Republicans, 5 vacant.

Of course your use of the term socialist already confirms your ignorance of reality and political theory, so why shouldn't you double down and show a complete disregard for facts too.

"Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand-in-hand." Neil Peart


The firefighting costs needs to be paid by those using it. That is the conservative mantra.

No way could those poor peeps pay that amount.

Maybe the editorial should be how the conservative rednecks of rural Idaho really do need Federal govt.

Despite their ideas of "we're independent and smart enough to handle our own issues..." look at how many people were rushing to react to the fires.

Hey, if you live in a forest area, there is no reason you should be panicing as the fire approaches- IF you are smart and prepared. Governor Otter was filmed up at this cabin cutting trees and raking pine needles.... Ahh, it's called being FIREWISE.


It's all the same- people are not prepared for those things they should expect.

Problem is, which you seem

Problem is, which you seem to have overlooked, is the fire started by a city slicker recreating in the forest not by a forest resident. A city slicker who didn't have a shovel, ax and bucket and neither did the other UTV vehicle. Enough said. If you don't know how to behave/act in the forest, stay out.


So we can just exclude lightning from ever creating similar fires?

Idaho needs only to look at

Idaho needs only to look at its own congressional representatives as these conservatives in the U.S. government have consistently voted to gut our democracy’s government ability to service its nation’s people.

Yet these same republicans have consistently voted to create the richest unregulated capitalist state on earth

Rep. Labrador and his conservative anti-tax and perpetual tax-cut movement has destroyed our government’s ability to fund fighting fires, yet as a direct result of the movement corporations and big oil are having some of the best profits ever in there history.

So if Idaho’s republicans got there wish to control federal lands and fire sweeps thru who pays for the firefighting?
Would these hypocrites turn to the federal government for precious federal tax dollars?

How far will conservative individualism and there anti-tax governance be prepared to keep cutting and further reduce all services.

Maybe otter and the GOP mafia can create a private for profit firefighting force that charges land owners and rural cities a substantial fee to save there city and personal property.

If you can’t pay for firefighting then it burns.

If taters actual believe this American democracy was built on individualism and no taxes then your dumber that anyone can imagine…………and you deserve to have a life that is based in the dark ages....

Republicans must be proud as they watch people suffer while counting the massive profits from tax cuts ans federal subsides that Simpson and Labrador voted for.

the state of America’s overgrown and fire-prone forests?

What's the opposite of that; America's groomed and fire-resistant forests?