Thursday, June 9, 2011

While Bureaucracies Fiddle . . .

A former Forest Service chief coined the term "analysis paralysis" to describe how too much red tape, too much analysis, too many legal fights and too much prolonged public "process" was tying his agency in knots, making it impossible to deal with public lands challenges in a coherent and timely fashion. This Arizona inferno is one result of analysis paralysis. And it might have been prevented, as this report points out, if federal public lands policymaking wasn't such a slow, complicated, belabored process.

The complexity and contentiousness involved in getting almost anything done on federal lands has gotten to the point where managing them has become virtually impossible. Federal agencies therefore have defaulted to a policy of complacency, passivity and non-management. That's made it impossible to get on top of the forest health crisis ravaging the West. And the consequences are becoming even more visible, from runaway wildfires to the bark beetle blight that is browning-up vast swaths of Colorado.

Imagine the public outrage if a rogue band of loggers clearcut 336,000 acres of national forest in an act of mass vandalism. People would be going to jail. But when 336,000 acres is destroyed, due in large part to federal incompetence, mismanagement and paralysis, all we get is a collective sigh. The destruction of America's national forests is a scandal that can and should be laid at Uncle Sam's doorstep. Yet a clueless public thinks these are all acts of nature or God.

Nature is playing a part, but don't let anyone fool you: This is a man-made disaster.

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