But it's too late, thanks to Senator Tom Daschle, who is almost directly responsible for dozens of California dead.
Congress revised the regulations that govern the management of the millions of square miles of federal forest land in the United States, making it easier to thin brush and trees that often create wildfire conditions -- as seen recently in Southern California. Before these changes, environmental reviews and legal challenges could prevent logging and thinning for years (except in South Dakota), even though most responsible authorities recognized the need.
Congress approved legislation yesterday that lawmakers said would reduce the risk of wildfires in national forests by speeding removal of overgrown brush and diseased trees, especially near homes and towns. ...What's really interesting is that Senator Tom Daschle has opposed all such revision for years -- as a sop to environmentalists -- except for special legislation he slipped into a spending bill in 2002 that exempted his home state of South Dakota from the regulations.
The measure would limit appeals and environmental reviews so forest-thinning can be completed within months rather than years. The combination of dry underbrush and legal opposition had turned some Western forests into tinderboxes, supporters of the bill said.
"Lawsuits and red tape have led to inaction, and inaction has led to millions of acres that are destined to burn so hot and move so fast that communities have no choice but to evacuate," said Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican.
The fallout from this year's forest fires [Note: this was written in 2002, and is referring to fires in Nevada -- MW.] is accomplishing wonders -- such as the sight of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle running into the protective arms of the Republican-controlled Forest Service. Quick, someone get water to revive the Sierra Club.That was written in 2002... it's too bad Senator Daschle didn't exempt California as well, or we might not have had dozens killed and thousands of homes destroyed last month. So-called "environmentalism" kills people.
Last week, Mr. Daschle slipped language into a spending bill that would exempt his home state of South Dakota from key environmental laws. "The fire danger in the Black Hills is high," said Smoky the Bear, er, Mr. Daschle, and this legislation will "avoid costly, time-consuming lawsuits" and "get the forest thinned and property protected."
Well, knock us over with a chainsaw. We are thrilled that the nation's top Democrat now agrees that environmentalist obstruction is behind today's Western fires. And far be it from us to question his motives. But a few uncharitable folks are pointing out that South Dakota Junior Senator Tim Johnson is fighting for his political life against GOP Congressman John Thune.
This spring Mr. Thune tried to insert a similar South Dakota cleanup measure into the farm bill -- hoping to pre-empt deadly fires. But Messrs. Daschle and Johnson, at the bidding of environmentalists, let it die. Now that fires are raging back home, however, Mr. Johnson is taking a political beating and so the pair are trying to convince voters it was their idea all along.