A Unifying Message: First, Put Out the Fire!
Our national forests belong to all Americans. Our forests - the legacy to the next generation - are not political pawns to be bought and sold.
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The Trump and Biden presidential campaigns are now in full throat.
The odds favor Mr. Biden, but they also favored Hillary Clinton.
By law, 501[c] nonprofits – like Evergreen – are prohibited from lobbying.
We never have and we never will. But here and now, we want to make a plea for unifying message – especially one message we’ve preached for decades here at Evergreen.
Plainly stated, our national forests belong to all Americans. Our forests - the legacy to the next generation - are not political pawns to be bought and sold by lobbyists representing environmental or timber interests. Yet this is precisely what goes on daily in our nation’s capital. And it is the reason why our nation’s forest heritage is burning to the ground.
Fixing the environmental crisis that has unfolded in the West over the last 30 years should not be a partisan issue. Nor should our national forests be a feeding ground for taxpayer-funded serial litigators hell-bent on stopping the U.S. Forest Service’s every effort to pull federally-owned forests back from the brink of ecological collapse
Our nation’s federally-owned forests have become a lucrative feeding ground for lobbyists and lawyers because – for the last three decades - there has not been a unifying, bipartisan message concerning the necessity of hands-on care in our nation’s forests. No wonder the public and its elected representatives are so confused and so conflicted. No wonder the West is on fire again this year.
When Bernie Sanders was teeing up his presidential hopes, his campaign staff contacted us. They’d done a deep dive into our website and decided we could help them steer a course correction around the West’s wildfire pandemic. We said we’d help them. We would have said the same thing to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump but neither campaign contacted us.
Now President Trump and former Vice President Biden are squaring off in what promises to be an epic, no holds barred fight for our nation’s future. I’ll spare you the feverish messaging that we’re likely to hear. But I won’t spare you the reality of what has happened in western national forests since they became political pawns in a fight for the environmental soul of our country.
The well-documented reality is that millions of acres of our forest heritage have been reduced to ash and ruin because most in Congress care more about getting re-elected than they do about sparing our national forests from a fiery death.
Meanwhile, billions of dead and dying trees are fueling increasingly frequent and deadly wildfires that have burned tens of millions of acres over the last 30 years.
More than half the West’s national forests will likely be lost to insect and disease infestations and inevitable wildfire over the next 30 years. More than half. This is not “the new normal,” as the current sound bite suggests. It is the direct result of baseless behavior that is morally and ethically inexcusable.
Leaders in Congress – and there are a few on both sides of the aisle – need to step forward with an unmistakably unifying, hope-filled message that says, “First, we put out the fires – those burning in the West and those burning in our nation’s capital. Then we clean up the mess we’ve made in our forests.”
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: It’s time to saddle up and ride. We have a long way to go and a short time to get there.
Bi-partisan. Bi-partisan. Bi-partisan.
Jim Petersen, Founder and President, Evergreen Magazine: The Evergreen Foundation
Jim’s new book, First, Put Out the Fire! can be purchased on our website. $29.95 including S&H; 240 pages, more than 100 color photos, 60-some QR codes leading to hundreds of source documents.