Thursday, June 20, 2013

9.3 million acres burned, while millions of Americans couldn't find work

(Image courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

The authors of the article report a number of interesting things:

1. "Eight of the nine worst fire seasons on record in the U.S., as measured in acres burned, have occurred since 2000, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho."

2. "Last year, 9.3 million acres burned, with 51 separate fires of more than 40,000 acres each." (9.3 million acres is about 14,500 square miles, or about the size of Vermont and Connecticut combined)

3. Federal funding for fire prevention is dropping swiftly. For example, the Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program--a fire prevention effort of the U.S. Department of the Interior--is having its budget cut from $500 million in 2012, to $419 million this year, to a proposed $292 million next year. 

4. "In a 2010 blaze in Arizona...researchers found that the fire cost about $135 million. They calculated that every dollar spent on basic prevention, such as trimming dead branches and carting out downed trees, could have saved $10 in firefighting costs." 

5. Among the many things that make wildfires worse are pine-killing beetles.

During the New Deal, the WPA & CCC employed millions of jobless Americans. Among their many projects were the creation of thousands of miles of firebreaks, protecting trees from insects, directly fighting fires, clearing out dead trees, and planting 3 billion new trees.

Compare that to today's policy focus: As 26 million Americans wish they had a full-time job, and as record-setting wildfires burn the country to the ground, Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a CCC-type program for unemployed veterans, and House Republicans are working feverishly to cut off food assistance to low-income families and children.

Of course, we are reminded daily that "we can't afford the spending!!" And meanwhile we learn that we've lost over $3 trillion to tax evasion since 2001

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