Letters to the editor for September 3, 2011

September 3, 2011

Need policy change

For a century the Forest Service's policy has inadvertently been to encourage big fires. Small fires early in the season have traditionally been easy to put out and the Forest Service pats itself on the back when it does so, claiming to quickly extinguish something like 97 percent of all fire starts.

The problem is that the forest needs to burn to be healthy and by extinguishing smaller earlier-season fires the Forest Service has long laid the groundwork for large late-season fires.

The 3 percent of fires that the Forest Service cannot control end up being major conflagrations that kill all or nearly all the trees over very large tracts and sterilize the soil. While the Forest Service will acknowledge that fire needs to be returned to the forest, they claim that it is too dangerous to set large intentional burns early in the summer season (or just before the fall rains) while ignoring how dangerous it is not to do so.

In a more natural world, somewhere around 10 percent of the forest on the east side of the Cascades would burn every year; these fires would in general have short flame lengths and do little damage to mature trees while clearing the forest floor of a minor accumulation of branches, needles and small trees. We must return our forest to a more natural state, and the only affordable way to do this is through fires that are intentionally set and allowed to burn.

Early in the summer season there are many ways that fires can be controlled. The ridge tops still have snow and the north sides of the hills are still cool and moist. Old fire scars, such as left by the Bluegrass Ridge and Gnarl Ridge Fires, can be used to advantage as could the ski runs at Meadows and Timberline and the whole system of roads throughout the forest.

Yes, it will be risky to intentionally allow fires to burn, whether in June or late September, but the alternative is to continue to set the stage for a conflagration of many hundreds of thousands of acres as a result of an uncontrollable late-August fires. Somewhere around 200,000 acres will burn due to uncontrolled fires in Oregon this year, while both Arizona and Texas have seen the burning of more than 1 million acres each.

It should be obvious that the present Forest Service policy is not coming close to working. It is time to try something different.

Jim Denton

Mt. Hood

Issues not addressed

Rebuttals by Don Haight, Kevin Benson, Tiffany Pruit and George Fisher don't deal with the issues brought before the citizens and pointed out in the Town Hall held in Cascade Locks by the citizens, and for the citizens: lack of leadership, degradation of our public safety by destroying a well running fire department, creation of a hostile working environment, and forcing out 7-plus key employees in a small town.

There were secret meetings held which didn't include some members of the council; where's the rebuttal? There was a special auditor's report which cost in excess of $600 which was not in the approved budget, which purposely left out and understated revenues and was used to justify a morally and ethically bankrupt budget process, where's that in the rebuttals?

Benson and Fisher accused of violating city and county building codes, while being office holders; that being a violation of their fiduciary responsibility, where's the rebuttals?

And last of all, where is the rebuttal for moral, ethical, and corrupt leadership? I don't see it. Vote these four out of office, please retain Lance Masters. Let's return some sanity to city hall.

Rob Brostoff

Cascade Locks

We deserve answers

Cost/benefit analysis needed on fighting the "Hundreds-of-thousands of Dollars" Lake Fire: Am I the only one still waiting for some answers to the U.S. Forest Service's tepid response to the 9-1-1 call that reported the start of this fire on Aug. 26?

Does the USFS have a plausible explanation for "monitoring" this fire for the first several days, rather than choosing to dispatch a small crew with shovels to put it out? How much is it costing taxpayers to deal with this thousands-of-acres fire now?

If the USFS was instead the USFS Company Inc., the employee/s who made this decision would be held accountable to their shareholders. So don't we, the "shareholders" picking up the tab for this now 4,000-acre inferno, deserve some answers from "management?"

Jo Ann Harris

Hood River

Whitson makeover

On Saturday, Aug. 20, Whitson Elementary was the lucky recipient of a makeover. There were no television crews or construction companies; just a group of wonderful people who gave a day in their lives to improve the appearance of our school.

They came from our community and surrounding communities. They weeded, trimmed, raked and painted their hearts out.

I want to sincerely thank the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Whitson PTO, community volunteers and the staff that worked to make Whitson a more inviting place for our students.

We were very fortunate to be chosen as the recipient of a "Day of Service" by the LDS church. The Whitson PTO provided the necessary supplies for the volunteers. I loved being a part of this special day.

People, young and old, were bustling everywhere with smiles on their faces, feeling good about the reformation taking place right before their eyes. The atmosphere around the school was quite uplifting and I personally was very touched by the efforts of all the volunteers.

The entire staff is also thankful for the efforts of the volunteers. Quite a few classrooms were definitely brightened up. The playgrounds look wonderful, our school is beautiful and definitely more inviting.

Thanks again to the many v9olunteers who donated their precious time on a hot, sunny Saturday in August. We at Whitson are all looking forward to starting a new school year and I think we all may have a little more spring in our step, due to the fact that we're starting each day in beautiful surroundings.

Vicki Prendergast


Whitson Elementary School

White Salmon, Wash

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