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Points of view

Ron Sandstrom, Minden

I do not know which side of the controlled burn issue is the most correct. As the Feb. 16 public comment deadline draws near, a number of your readers may be looking for another point of view, in order to help them make their own decisions, before they comment. The January-February issue of Audubon Magazine contains a column entitled “Burning Money,” authored by Ted Williams, who writes the column bimonthly, covering topics that are frequently controversial.

In his column regarding the past fire season, he states, “As early as July, the moisture content of live green trees thoughout much of the West was less than 12 percent lower than that of kiln-dried lumber.” He added, “As of mid-November, 7,250,965 acres had burned, and federal agencies, mostly the U.S. Forest Service, had spent more than $1 billion trying to extinguish the fires.” He further claims, “Fire had been excluded for so many years that unnaturally high brush buildup frequently carried flames into the crowns of large, thick-barked, otherwise fireproof trees. Burning watersheds were bombed with a thick, red slurry that degrades to cyanide.” He also stated, “Sage grass-ponderosa pine ecsystems need slow ground fire every few decades.”

Regarding the Los Alamos fire, Williams states, “Contrary to press reports, the 47,000-acre forest fire that destroyed $1 billion worth of property around Los Alamos last May – the largest fire in New Mexico’s recorded history – was not started by the National Park Service’s ‘prescribed burn’ in Bandelier National Monument. A Forest Service investigation has determined that the prescribed burn – necessary and prudent management in a forest that needs fire and where fire had been unnaturally excluded by humans – would have gone out on its own. Instead, it was the backfire, started by firefighters, that got away.”

Clearly, Williams is a controlled burn advocate. His article appears to be based on facts gleaned from research. How any of this pertains to our region, I’m not certain. The reader needs to form his/her own opinion. Sensitivity to tribal concerns must also be factored into the discussion.

Thank you.