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The July 15, 1995 Adirondack Blowdown
A Word of Caution
What's Needed: A constitutional, traditional, ecological approach

Environmentalists' "no interference" policies have contributed to devastating fires elsewhere

That tinderbox that is likely to be 100,000-acres of State-owned Adirondack forest in the late spring deserves the attention of government, unhampered by environmental politics.

The Department of Environmental Conservation's decision released today is consistent with such politics and is inconsistent with DEC's study.

DEC has prepared a scientific analysis of the fuel loadings and fire potential resulting from the July 15, 1995 blowdown.

Ignition, such as by lightening, could result in "Model 13" fueled fires, with the type of fuel now existing in large parts of the blowdown on State lands. "Clearcuts and heavy cuts in mature and over-mature stands are depicted where the load is dominated by the greater than 3-inch material. Fires occurring in this fuel are generally uncontrollable with conventional fire suppression tactics," according to DEC's draft report on the blowdown.

The computer study by DEC in November also states that, "The output data indicate a wind driven surface fire occurring under these assumed weather and slope conditions may enter into an accelerated stage and become plume dominated. This is a wild fire behavior stage where the intensity of the main fire front creates its own micro-climate weather."

The report states that the fuel loadings (with blow down residue averaging 8 to 10 feet and depths over twelve feet high in the most heavily damaged areas, which will be dry by late spring) are such that fire is feasible in these loadings that cannot be suppressed by any fire fighting methods.

Yet the Administration plans to deal with the extreme hazard to private property, lives and state-owned land only on the basis of suppression, restrictions in access and education.

The fuel loading in last summer's fires in Long Island Pine Barrens, where 9,000 acres burned, was only one-fifth that of that in the "old growth" Adirondacks, where the fuel loading is now at the extraordinary level of 150 tons per acre.

One million acres of private forest land, in relative proximity to the State forest preserve lands where the blow-down was most severe, are in jeopardy.

In addition, the developed property and towns in the region are exposed because they lie in the "city-wildlands interface" referred to by fire ecologists. Education will be no protection from lightening-induced fire of which the DEC study warns, or from arson.

The State is obligated under the Constitution to protect the life and property of its citizens by exercising fire prevention on its lands by efficient, environmentally sound, risk-justified methods including the established practice of salvage logging.

Nationally, environmental values that are hostile to wildlife, forests, forestry and human life and property are determining forest management policy.
These values include neglect of forest management, fuel buildup, halfhearted initial firefighting techniques, use of wildfires for research, possible government and environmentalist acceptance of wildfire as a legitimate or the only forest "management" technique.

There are inconsistencies in environmental values that may lead to opposing prevention of wildfire in the Adirondacks:

Environmentalists want nature "undisturbed" as they claim it was in pre-colonial days, but American Indians revered by environmentalists maintained clear "understory," oases of forest, amid savannas and agriculture by repetitive controlled burning.
Environmentalists oppose removing blowdown but a rotting blowdown will greatly and lastingly increase lake acidity.
Environmentalists claim to be concerned about future of towns in forest areas but wildfire would threaten people and their property, as well as adjacent private forests.
Environmentalists claim to be concerned about the health of the forest and wildlife but wildfire will cause untold forest damage and catastrophic loss of wildlife.

Unanswered Questions
Is DEC's most serious decision about fire protection since 1950 being dictated by environmental politics rather than science?

Is the "forever wild" clause in Article 14 of the Constitution, which allows cleanup and fire breaks for fire protection, being twisted by environmentalist politics to mean that devastation by wild fire will be the preferred "management technique" in the Adirondack forests, as apparently elsewhere in the country?


The Property Rights Foundation has available selected background information that sheds light on the science and politics of forest fire and the blow down, excerpts and sources attached.

Contact: Carol W. LaGrasse

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