Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Don't appease the fire. Take the fight to the enemy. Pre-empt.
Forest Service Photos Raise Flap[Call it an "historic" document.]
RENO, Nev. -- The U.S. Forest Service has been accused of misrepresenting forest conditions by using misleading photographs in a brochure that urges more logging to prevent wildfires in the Sierra Nevada.
The pamphlet says fire risks have risen as the Sierra's forests have grown more dense over the past century. Six photos spanning 80 years appear beside descriptions of how the "forests of the past" had fewer trees and less underbrush, making them less susceptible to fire.
"Today's forests, dense with green, may seem beautiful, but in fact are deadly," the pamphlet reads. "Our old-growth forests are choking with brush, tinder-dry debris and dead trees which make the risk of catastrophic fire high."
But the 1909 photo does not depict natural conditions -- it was taken just after the forest had been logged. And the pictured forest is nowhere near the Sierra Nevada. It is in Montana.
The Forest Service spent $23,000 to produce and print 15,000 copies of the brochures, created by a public relations firm, as part of the "Forests for a Future" campaign that brought criticism from some lawmakers because the agency hired a PR shop.
The Forest Service defended using outside help and said the photos from Montana were not intended to mislead.
"The idea here was to show increasing density over time, which visibly did occur," Mathes said. "Our goal here was to . . . increase the clarity and understandability of our message. We needed to be accurate but not necessarily precise to the 99th degree."