Wildfire 15,000 - Coronavirus 185
When will Congress address every pandemic with the same concern?
3 MINUTE READ
Pandemic: occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.
Congress is appropriating whatever it takes to battle the coronavirus in the United States.
Phase 1 of the coronavirus response was $8.3 billion bill spurring coronavirus vaccine research. Since then Phase 2 is ready to pass, which is a $104 billion package focused on sick leave and unemployment benefits for workers and families. Phase 3 is a proposal of a potential $1 trillion injection of cash – to stimulate the economy. More than the bank bailout during the 2008 recession.
To date, 185 Americans have died from the coronavirus, and the cases of confirmed coronavirus are now at 13,019 - having more than doubled in two days. It is literally spreading like wildfire and promises - much like our wildfire pandemic - to be difficult to contain.
Phase 1 alone, is $3.2 billion more than the entire U.S. Forest Service budget.
It begs the question: What will be the impact of fire season on coronavirus deaths this year?
Congress got it right with the coronavirus.
Congress hasn’t gotten it right where the U.S. Forest Service budget is concerned - for more than 30 years. It shorts our nation’s largest forest landowners by $2 billion to $3 billion every year.
Why? Because managing the public’s forests is controversial - it involves removing diseased and dead trees, thinning to support healthy growth. It requires proactive measures to prevent disaster. The malcontents, misfits and serial litigators that live among us believe America’s national forest legacy should be left to nature’s vagaries. If it catches fire, let it burn.
Time to reduce the surplus population - without any consideration for the collateral damage.
This type of short-sighted solution is exactly why we are quarantining ourselves and practicing social distancing – so we don’t have to make such a choice with human life. Italy hasn’t been so lucky.
What will it take?
I understand the panic and fear this virus causes. But how many must die from wildfires and smoke before Congress proactively steps up - as it has to meet the coronavirus?
Incredibly, the 88 killed by the 2018 Camp Fire hasn’t really moved the needle. Nor have numerous reports that estimate wildfire smoke-related deaths in 2019 at 15,000. 15,000! Headed in the direction of 44,000 by 2100.
The Internet holds hundreds – no, thousands – of scientific reports concerning the health hazards associated with wildfire smoke. More data comes over the public’s transom daily. All of them lead to more and more data every day.
You can’t miss the connection between lousy forest management and wildfire-related deaths…. unless you are sticking your fingers and yelling “la, la, la” at the top of your lungs.
What is it going to take for Congress to appropriate the funds the Forest Service needs to protect our national forests and their stewards?
Forest Service retiree, Michael Rains has written a related article for the January 2020 Smokejumper Magazine - Page 7 - and you can read many more of his related essays on our website.
Michael also wrote the foreword for my new book, First, Put Out the Fire! where I trace the regulatory, environmental, social, cultural and historical underpinnings of the West’s wildfire pandemic – and I explain what Congress must do immediately to address our wildfire pandemic.
Stay tuned – the book will be available by the end of the month. You will be able to place your order through our website.