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NEWS RELEASE: June 24, 2002

A Few Facts for the Governor Hull

Mistaken and Misinformed on Arizona Fires

Governor Jane Hull's comments about environmentalists and the fires in Arizona are misguided and misinformed. She has made allegations without having the facts about the forests, about the forest management, or about the work that groups like the Sierra Club are doing. There are many factors that have contributed to the fires in Arizona this year. They include:

  • Decades of fire suppression and 100 years of logging the large trees that have left a forest of dense small trees and a huge fuel load;
  • Extreme drought and high winds that have made this situation especially dangerous (there is about one fourth the normal rainfall in these areas);
  • and Careless or deliberate actions by people -- both fires were human-caused.

Conservationists, including the Sierra Club, have urged saving the large fire resistant old growth trees and have supported thinning the forest of underbrush and smaller trees (12 inches or smaller in diameter). The Sierra Club has also supported controlled burning to remove the underbrush, under the right weather conditions with adequate moisture in the future and low winds. These types of activities would better mimic natural conditions and leave in place the most fire resistant trees -- the large old pines.

A century of managing our national forests for large-scale timber cutting has left a more fire prone forest today. We are urging the Forest Service to stop subsidizing logging, and invest in fire prevention through thinning the forests near communities, where these activities will do the most good. With scarce dollars and millions of acres of smaller dense trees, the top priority should be to focus on thinning forests closest to communities (within 12 mile of structures, according to the experts) and on homeowners clearing away brush and wood from next to their houses and freeing their roofs of twigs and needles.

There is no way to totally avoid fire in the forest; it has always been part of the forest as much as the weather, but minimizing the impacts is possible. And speaking of the weather, the intense drought conditions are clearly a major factor in the fires - there has been about one fourth the normal rain and snow in most of these areas over the last year.

The drought is a key factor and it is certainly a reach on the part of the politicians to blame conservationists for the weather. We urge the governor, Senator Kyl, and other elected officials to get their facts straight before pointing fingers. What we need now from our elected officials is leadership and an effort to bring people together to solve problems, help the people who have lost their homes, and promote better management of the forests for the long run. What we don't need is more rhetoric which serves only to fan the flames of hate and divisiveness.

Visit our Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) page to learn how urban areas can protect themselves from wildfires. Download The Wildland-Urban Interface: Protecting Communities from Forest Fires (200 KB pdf).

You have heard the rhetoric from our Governor and Senators... Get the facts from our U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO). Download these documents:
GAO-01-1022T, The National Fire Plan (614 KB pdf)
GAO-01-1114R, Appeals and Litigation of Fuels Reduction Projects (210 KB pdf)

For more information go to www.arizona.sierraclub.org or check out the Southwest Forest Alliance website at www.swfa.org.

Grand Canyon Chapter
202 E. McDowell Rd, Ste 277
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phone: (602) 253-8633 Fax: (602) 258-6533
Email: grand.canyon.chapter@sierraclub.org

Page updated: 06/22/02

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Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter, 202 E. McDowell Rd, Suite 277, Phoenix, AZ 85004, (602) 253-8633