LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Forest-fire prevention not meeting the need

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The letter to the editor ” ‘Superfires’ direct result of overregulation” (Monday) makes a strong case for one of the underlying causes of the disastrous fires in New Mexico and Colorado: lack of proper forest management beginning in the late 1960s.

Like a bad dream that can’t be forgotten, the words of Ronald Reagan during his campaign for the presidency in 1980 should shake the Obama administration like Marley’s ghost shook Ebenezer Scrooge. Reagan said, “The recently announced Resources Planning Program recommended by the Carter administration to meet the future demand for wood and paper products is seriously deficient. It is timid, unimaginative and sticks to a totally unsatisfactory status quo.”

The federal government should be taking an active role in helping individual states in fire prevention and elimination, ensuring there is a coordinated plan using resources already at hand. This could include having idle aircraft now sitting in desert storage fitted to deliver fire retardant and held in a standby status with a plan for off-duty commercial pilots to man the planes with minimal delay when needed. Fast initial response is, of course, a necessity but the plan must also include rapid manpower and ground equipment.

Putting together such a plan is not a big research enterprise. There are numerous examples of presidents undertaking and directing agencies in this manner: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civil Conservation Corps and Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway plan. Putting together a national forest-firefighting response would be duck soup compared to the above, but President Obama might have to cancel a few cross-country fundraising trips to get the ball rolling.

THOMAS W. SCHAAF SR.

Fairfax

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