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Reader Comment: While politicians exploit problems, Idahoans solve them


Our national forests are at risk from beetles, wildfire … and the U.S. Congress. While forests have evolved with fire and insects, it’s not clear they’ll survive attacks from misguided politicians.

One thing about busy fire seasons is we all breathe the smoke. It’s unhealthy and miserable. But we shouldn’t let it blind us. And politicians shouldn’t use it as an excuse to sell snake oil.

We know that fire is a fact of life in Idaho. When it’s hot and dry, forests burn. It doesn’t mean we should walk away. But it also doesn’t mean we should undermine protections for clean water, wildlife and public involvement.

One measure, co-sponsored by Rep. Raul Labrador (H.R. 2936), would reduce public involvement in projects up to 30,000 acres, would eliminate any public involvement when long-term forest management plans are developed, would interfere with citizens rights to petition their government, and would eliminate protections for endangered species. The bill would also abolish protections for Idaho roadless areas, established under the leadership of Sen. Jim Risch, which enjoy the support of Gov. Butch Otter, Sen. Mike Crapo, Rep. Mike Simpson and the Idaho Legislature.

The overly simplistic and ineffective solutions being offered by Montana’s Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Labrador would force the Forest Service to wear a blindfold, and the public to wear a gag.

What they fail to recognize is that Idahoans are rolling up their sleeves and getting work done on the ground, without sacrificing bedrock values.

The ideas put forward by Daines or Labrador won’t actually solve the real problems facing our treasured national forests. Rather, they threaten to pull Idaho backwards.

Instead, elected officials should be working to find ways to support ongoing collaborative efforts that are restoring forests, reducing fire risk, improving water quality and wildlife habitat and enhancing public input, not eliminating it.

Here’s what we know:

Our forests depend upon fires to rejuvenate wildlife forage and to regenerate themselves; fire will always be part of Idaho.

Large, intense fires aren’t entirely out of the ordinary in Idaho’s forests, but are becoming more frequent;

Human ignitions and human-induced climate change is having an impact on the number of fires and the length of the fire season,

A century of fire suppression has led to an increase in forest fuels in some lower-elevation dry forests,

Science and practice tell us that we can’t prevent all forest fires, but we can and should focus efforts around homes and communities. We don’t know where fires will start, but we DO know where the homes are.

There is good news. Despite the rhetoric from D.C., Idahoans are finding common ground and increasing the pace of forest restoration. We’re doing this within the framework of existing laws, and importantly, with increased involvement of stakeholders.

The Idaho Conservation League is working with the timber industry, conservation interests, local counties, community leaders, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, motorized recreationists, and others, from Bonners Ferry to Bear Lake and from Salmon to Emmett. As a result, projects are being developed that reduce fire risk around communities, restore wildlife habitat and water quality and produce timber for local mills.

While finger-pointing and sound-bite silviculture might be attractive to some, the congressional proposals fall short. Instead, Congress should follow the lead of Idaho’s forest collaborative groups: Sit down at the table with all stakeholders, pay attention to the science and find common-ground to solve the issues facing our forests. After a smoky summer, Idahoans should agree … it’s time to clear the air.


Larson: The gun victims Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t cry for

Marrio Battles. James McChristian. Antwon Green. Felipe Batista Jr. Ashley Shanta-Nicole Harrison. Gregory McDaniels Jr. Steven Reid. Jeremy Alexander Tang. Bernard Domagala. Erik Louis Charles Jr. Melvin James. James Posey. Terrence Johnson.

These are the 13 people murdered in Chicago in just the first week of September, a month ago. But that was a light week. September ultimately saw 59 murders, oddly the very same number of victims killed by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas last weekend.

Five dozen murders in Chicago alone last month, and Jimmy Kimmel didn’t shed a damn tear for any of them.

Why? Because they’re largely black? I doubt it. Because they all didn’t die at once? Perhaps. How about it’s because these victims live in a city with gun control policy created by Democrats? I guarantee it. For all their good intentions when it comes to curbing gun violence, they sure are bad at it, and they don’t want to accept it. In many places where Democrats have control over gun policy, it’s a killing field. Chicago. Baltimore. Detroit. And many others. The NRA does not run these towns. Democrats do, and when Democrats get good at stopping gun violence, their sanctimony will carry more authority.

But when have those pesky results and measurable outcomes stopped the weepy good intentions of late-night liberals? The NRA boogie-man is just a convenient distraction from their own ineptitude on the issue.

It was literally only a few hours after Stephen Paddock created his evil carnage before the predictable tweets began. Liberal U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he was “furious” at Congress for not acting on gun control. Hillary Clinton leveraged the carnage into an anti-NRA tweet revealing her naive belief that “silencers” she says the gun rights group is defending are the same ones used by James Bond and Jason Bourne. Later in the week, Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Murphy told Congress to “get off its ass” and “do something.”

Let me understate the problem. The environment for an actual dialogue isn’t healthy. In fact, it’s fully broken when the loudest voices scream for people to get off their asses and call their opponents to repentance and don’t understand that Hollywood exists, in part, to make massive amounts of money promoting a violent gun culture — not to educate us how guns work. While I’m on the topic, perhaps Jimmy Kimmel should throw his tears toward his friends in Tinseltown who glamorize the blood and gore he’s so selectively passionate about stopping, when he wants to, sometimes, on occasion, when it makes him feel important.

It must have come with great difficulty this past week when an honest liberal statistician stood up and saw through the emotion. Leah Libresco noted in a much-shared piece in the Washington Post that “silencers” don’t make guns more dangerous, because they don’t actually silence (unless one thinks a jackhammer is silent). The devices simply suppress noise to mitigate hearing damage. She also noted that the vast majority of gun deaths are suicides, and virtually no gun restriction proposal would make it “meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them.” The statistician Libresco also debunked the idea that gun buyback programs and weapons bans in Britain and Australia had a marked impact on mass shootings. In short, Libresco wrote, “We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence.” Kudos to a courageous, intellectually honest liberal.

Perhaps the most frustrating challenge is that emotion and unwarranted sanctimony can be convincing counterfeits of moral and intellectual authority. So far, none of the solutions put forward in the intense emotional wake of Stephen Paddock’s rampage would have stopped Stephen Paddock. It’s like prescribing Ambien for cancer. It may help us sleep and forget about the tumor, but it doesn’t do a darn thing to cure the disease. Paddock would have passed a background check. He had his guns far longer than any proposed waiting period. Few, if any, of the proposed regulations would have altered the Las Vegas outcome. Evil just always finds a way in our imperfect world.

All of these non-solutions in an emotional chorus of “do something!” have the real potential to simply make it harder for each of us to defend ourselves from future Stephen Paddocks. And making it harder for innocent people to defend themselves is not good policy, no matter how well-intentioned.