by E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow Greg Walcher
As appearing in The Daily Sentinel
What if someone said they planned to burn down your house, but it’s for your own good? They need to study how houses burn, so they can build better computer models to predict future home fires. In the future, therefore, that might help you.
Asinine as that sounds, it is precisely what the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) proposes to do, first in southern Utah and northern New Mexico, then in Georgia and South Carolina. It is part of an incredible scheme called the Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE). The agency says it needs to study the behavior of giant, fast-moving forest fires, so it plans to set several of them, on purpose, starting this month.
The USFS plan to “study” massive fires might have a shred of credibility if the agency had no opportunity to study these disastrous wildfires before. But the agency has seen over 100 million acres of forests burn over the past 20 years, while doing virtually nothing to reduce the fuel loads or thin the forests to a more natural condition. There are volumes of studies about these catastrophic fires and the massive loss of resources, wildlife, property, and lives they have caused. Several agencies (including USFS) host websites on the subject, and have published numerous studies. Dare we wonder if there is such a thing as “settled science,” a time to stop studying and start acting?