Letter to the Editor of the Arizona Republic in response to "To save
forests, we must let fire be fire" article appearing March 10, 2002
by John Hinz
March 14, 2002
Mr. Charles Babbitt (“To save forests, we must let fire be fire”, March 10) correctly points out that our forests are overstocked with young trees and burdened with excess fuel as a result, in part, of decades of fire suppression which interrupted the former regime of frequent low intensity fires.
He wrongly concludes that forest restoration thinning outside of populated areas is a futile attempt to “fireproof” forests. Nothing could be further from the truth. Forestry and fire professionals recognize that it is neither possible nor desirable to “fireproof” forests. What is possible and desirable is to thin forests so that fires burn at the more frequent and low intensity level for which Mr. Babbitt “pines” (pun intended).
Of course restoration should be done near settled areas to reduce wildfire threats to people and homes, but more remote forests should not be ignored. The Arizona fires Mr. Babbitt cites as examples of unwise suppression efforts (Dude, Lone, and Coon Creek fires) destroyed homes, Mexican spotted owl nest sites, and watersheds. Had the non-Wilderness portions of these forests been previously thinned, heroic fire suppression efforts would likely have been unnecessary and important values would have been preserved.
JOHN H. HINZ, CF
Southwestern Society of American Foresters