By Jennifer Nalbone, Great Lakes United
On the request of U.S. Sen. Rod Grams (R-MN), the Senate Forests and Public Land Management Subcommittee has scheduled a special field hearing on the fire danger from the BWCAW blowdown, Friday, July 7th in Grand Rapids, MN.
While this is a critical hearing for the future of the BWCAW, only a pre-selected panel will be allowed to comment. The hearing’s subject is focused on fire danger in the BWCAW, but Sen. Grams has invited representatives of the Off Highway Vehicle lobby, timber industry, and others to testify. Consequently, the hearing will likely focus on blowdown issues like fire danger and prescribed fire in wilderness, as well as off highway vehicles and roadless area issues outside the BWCAW. After last year’s massive windstorm damaged over 350,000 acres of forest, various timber interests called for salvage logging and road building within the BWCAW, despite the fact that the wilderness was designated to allow natural processes, such as wind and fire, to shape the area. Sen. Grams has criticized the Forest Service for not immediately implementing a prescribed fire planning process and the FS is being pressured to bypass the mandated Environmental Impact Statement process and begin setting prescribed fires to alleviate the threat. The FS has tried to set fires this spring, but wet weather halted this effort. The FS is working on an EIS that will study and plan out a series of prescribed burns designed to mimic natural fire and reduce fire danger, to be implemented Fall 2001.
Your input on these issues is important to protect the BWCAW ecosystem and surrounding area. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness suggest you convey support for prescribed fire in the BWCAW where it will mimic natural fire and regenerate native forest types only after an EIS is completed, and you oppose any effort to log the BWCAW. For more information about the hearing and BWCAW, go to: www.friends-bwca.org, or contact Adam Sokolski at 612-379-3587, firstname.lastname@example.org.