Climate change has transformed the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest into 6 million acres of kindling; with fireworks season a week away, Organized Karma thought the time was ripe for a few fire prevention reminders. The political consulting firm brought together a politician, a fireman, a hike leader-day club manager and a couple community activists for a press conference Tuesday, June 24, at the Resort on Mount Charleston — an appropriate venue for pointing out the dangers of campfires, smoking and other activities in the drought-ridden environs, since the Carpenter 1 fire obliterated 28,000 acres of trees near there nearly a year ago. A few cogent excerpts from the event
“The trees have not been this dry in recorded history.” — Bureau of Land Management Fire Manager Michael Haydon
Mount Charleston is a non-fire-adapted community, Haydon said, meaning fire wasn’t part of the natural landscape as it evolved. Whereas fire-adapted forests may burn naturally every 15 years or so, ours would do so only rarely (more like every couple hundred years, he said) — until human intervention changed all that. To avoid accidentally setting fire to such a fragile, drought-ridden ecosystem, Haydon said, it’s important that people smoke in their cars, forget the campfires during restricted periods and remember that firing incendiary devices is prohibited
“Don’t throw your butts around.” — Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani
The commissioner, who has a house on Mount Charleston, described the mountain as the “jewel” of Southern Nevada — a jewel under threat. She advised citizens not only to take fire safety precautions, but also to pressure elected officials to curb greenhouse gas emissions, an exacerbating factor in climate change, through measures such as electric vehicle incentives
“We have an industry. It’s a tourism industry.” — Community activist (andDesert Companion contributor) Launce Rake, who emceed the conference
Rake and Giunchigliani noted that 2 million people per year visit Mount Charleston. Their point: Besides being an ecological resource, it’s an economic one. Levon Budding, who leads mountain hikes when he’s not working at the Marquee Day Club, took the point a step further, nothing that both the increasing heat and the decreasing air quality affect the city’s biggest business. Smoke from fires and smog from cars make lounging poolside or taking a stroll unpleasant enough, Budding said, without the increase in heat strokes he’s seen from rising temperatures.
“This is not a partisan issue. All elected officials should band together to protect our health.” — Community activist Teresa Crawford
A nurse until she retired, Crawford shared her co-speakers’ concern that climate change is a public-health issue. She cited a joint effort of 120 health organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — to educate members on the link between climate change, air quality and health. And quoting a Huffington Post article, she noted, “If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month.”
Congress is doing something to fight the problem of forest fires, added Lynn Davis, the Nevada Field Office manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, following the conference. Both the House and Senate have introduced bipartisan bills for the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which is meant to solve the problem of chronic underfunding for fire suppression. As it’s done now, Davis explains, actual costs annually surpass the amount budgeted for firefighting through the Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service.
“Because (this) funding would come from an emergency account that defrays the cost of other disasters,” Davis says, “the Congressional Budget Office found this method of funding wildfire disaster prevention would have no effect on the federal budget.”
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