Sunday, June 30, 2002

One Helluva Blaze, US Government Screws Up Again



So, a government official started the .5 million acre fire in Arizona. To put this into perspective, take 1,500,000 of the plots of land I live on and put them all together in a contiguous area. All destroyed, all ready for the next cycle of nature a little earlier than expected. Imagine the number of trees, birds, squirrels, deer, and other life ended or displaced. Imagine how many families will be walking back to the ashes that once held their well being.

All because of some bozo with something to prove.

There is no punishment to fit the crime. There is no justification, no excuse. "I didn't mean to" rings empty to you when the love of your family is put through the ultimate test. "I didn't know it would be this bad" doesn't adequately answer the question, "Why?!"

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that government officials have screwed up to the point where their actions could be considered criminal. Only two years ago we had forest fires on government-managed lands in Montana. This time, it was the National Forestry Service's mismanagement that ruined the livelihoods of not a few people and the lives of who knows how many animals.

Rightly so, the man who started the Arizona fires will be tried. His punishment won't--can't--fit his crime. The only punishment I can think of is tying him up in a public place with a sign above his head, "I am the man who started the half-million acre fire in Arizona," for the rest of his life. Maybe the awful looks, the shaking heads, and the constant ridicule will come close.

But, unfortunately, this man will only serve as a lightning rod, and draw attention away from the real issue: our government is a terrible environmental steward. It mismanages, it takes the most talented and bright people in the world and squashes their talent, it pollutes, it destroys. And it owns over 1/4 of the land in the US. This land is some of the most polluted, contaminated, wasted land in the world.

Let the man who started the fire get his due. But until we get the government out of the land management business, this won't be the last time we hear of a story like this.