Monday, March 2, 2009

Wildfire news, March 2

Forest Service to DOI. Really? Again?

Moving the U. S. Forest Service to the Department of Interior has been discussed off and on for decades, and more than once the Government Accounting Office (GAO) has studied the issue and written a report.

Welcome to Groundhog Day. The GAO has issued another report and the House Appropriations Committee's Interior Subcommittee held a hearing on the subject last week.

From McClatchy:
During the hearing, subcommittee chairman Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said that "we regularly see inconsistencies" between how the Forest Service and the Interior Department handle public lands, adding that there was "room for more collaboration" to make land management more effective and efficient.

In a later interview, however, Dicks said he found the GAO report, which he had requested, inconclusive. Though not ruling the switch out entirely, Dicks said, "I came out of the hearing thinking it would be better to leave things as they are."

The issue isn't new. It has been explored five times in the past four decades, including during the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations. In several cases, actual legislation was drafted. The proposals never got off the ground, however, blocked by interest groups or Capitol Hill politics.


Mark Rey, who oversaw the Forest Service as an undersecretary of agriculture under President George W. Bush, said the agencies already have a unified command to fight wildfires, and questions about encroaching development on forest lands is a state or local zoning issue. The Forest Service and Interior's U.S. Geological Survey are cooperating on climate-change research, he noted.

If change is needed, Rey said, a new natural resources department should be formed involving all the land agencies and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"In for a dime, in for a dollar," Rey said.
Australian fires, round two?

Authorities in Australia are again issuing very strongly-worded warnings about a serious potential for severe fire weather. A 48-hour period with winds up to 90 mph (150 kilometers per hour) and temperatures up to the mid-80s F (mid-30s C) is expected to begin Monday night (very early Monday morning, U.S. time). About 400 schools were ordered closed and millions of residents received warnings by mobile phone messages that deadly fires could be around the corner.

The Age has the details in a scary article.

Esperanza fire

On Monday morning the jury begins their second day of deliberations.

Thanks Dick and Chuck

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