Wildfire news, January 26, 2009

Comet did not start continent-wide fires

Recently some researchers came up with a theory that 12,900 years ago a comet exploded over North America igniting wildfires that spread across the continent at hundreds of kelometers per hour….

“…turning the sky ablaze, sending a shock wave across the landscape and scorching forests, creatures, people and anything exposed to the heavenly fire.”

Now another researcher tested that theory by examining charcoal and pollen records and said that the theory is basically, bullshit.


Montana senator proposes “unconstitutional” process to reduce fuels

On December 31 Wildfire Today told you about Montana state senator Dave Lewis who wants to authorize county and local governments to come onto federal land and conduct fuel reduction projects. As we said then:

Lewis wants to put hazardous forest fuels in the same category as junk cars or trash piles. In legal terms, as a source of community decay. He also wants to give county governments the ability to deal with the problem directly.


“It basically says that counties can go onto federal land and determine that it’s a risk to the community and go in and clean up the fire hazard,” Lewis said.

Senator Lewis has now written a guest column for Headwaters News where he elaborates on Montana Senate Bill 34, which he admits is unconstitutional. Here is an excerpt:

I proposed Senate Bill 34 to the Montana Interim Fire Committee last summer. The concept was, effectively, if a federal agency let fuel build up on its land to the point that such buildup threatened private property owners then Montana counties could step in and reduce those fuels.


The point of the legislation is that since the Forest Service is hampered by lawsuits every time a timber sale is proposed, county governments would have the ability to step in and reduce the risk, which might enable the work to get done. The committee recommended the bill and I presented in on the floor of the state Senate last week. It passed 42-7 on Saturday.

I was pleased that senators understood the risk to the people of Montana brought on by the build-up of fuel in the national forests. The bill exempted private land used for agricultural purposes, which would be any land used to grow trees or grass for grazing. I believe that it is clear that only federal land is affected. It was a good long debate with lots of good questions.

The biggest problem with the bill is that it may violate the federal Constitution. My theory is that if you allow yourself to be slowed down by something like that, then you will never get anything done.

The Supremacy Clause of the federal Constitution that says state and local governments have no say about how federal lands are managed. That provision has never been tested, to my knowledge, on the basis that the buildup of fuel on federal lands puts the property and lives of the neighboring landowners at risk. I think that it is time to test it. Sometimes you have to keep driving until you hear glass breaking!

Thanks, Dick.

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