This is in response to a column by Sherry Robinson that ran July 3, 2013 in the LA Monitor entitled, “Cut hundreds of trees or lose them to fire.”
A third, and more effective option is never mentioned. Bury all power lines through or near the forests. This is a proven method of providing utility service, and its use in forests is long overdue. All the discussions about clearing vegetation, purchasing wider easements and interagency cooperation are fruitless.
Even with 150-foot easements, a downed power line can ignite weeds and fire can run into the forest under the right conditions. And, as has been demonstrated since the Las Conchas Fire, maintenance is very often deferred in agency operating budgets. Trees marked for clearance two years ago were still standing when the Thompson Ridge Fire started.
Between Los Alamos and Jemez Springs, miles of power lines are strung through trees with no clearance at all. This is obsolete technology that frequently fails with catastrophic results to forests, firefighters, wildlife and quality of life. Some scientists now believe our forests may never grow back under current climactic conditions. Although no firefighters were lost in the Las Conchas or Thompson Ridge fires, the tragic loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots must surely remind us of the importance of preventing human-caused fires to the greatest extent possible.
Technology and equipment such as trenchers and borers exist to bury power lines. Yes, it would be expensive to take on this project. Considering the cost of fighting these fires, including loss of life, is it not worthwhile to pay now to avoid future power-line caused fires? Would you rather risk the lives of firefighters and see money and resources going to pay lawyers for the lawsuits Robinson discusses, or invest in the future of our area by applying this obvious fix?
We believe legislation must be enacted immediately before our remaining forests are gone. Please help us by bringing this to the attention of our Senators and Representatives. Their web pages make it easy to send them an email.