What the Western wildfires should teach you.
Maybe you're a movie star, maybe one of the newly rich e-commerce cadre, or just a member of the transient elite who drifts from trend to trend.
You've moved to a pristine mountain valley in western Montana, leaving your home in Dallas for the pastoral life offered by the West's wide-open spaces - sheltered from the masses in your new earth-tone home.
As bluebirds flitter to their little houses and a grizzly prowls in the distance, you vow this splendid scene will remain yours forever. You're used to taking control. You crowd out a rancher and import a wolf, buy a mountain bike and close a road, and teach your 2.2 kids that trees have feelings, too.
Now that your life is centered around preserving the resources you think you've adopted, you ask how everyone else can be such terrible managers. Your answer is to let nature take its course - and let it go back to the way it was.
Well, pal, there isn't anything natural about what's happening in the West this summer. You've preserved and sanctified and saved and guarded to the point where you can't see the forest for the trees.
Timberlands have become crowded jungles of stunted trees and deadfall that sap every molecule of water from the sky and soil. Ungrazed forest meadows have built huge loads of tinder-dry grass, brush and weeds. Roads have been closed or abandoned, leaving no access for any purpose.
You've allowed the creation of monuments - literally and figuratively - that deprive people of the opportunity to build livelihoods from resilient and renewable resources. With your good intentions, you have added fuel to one of the nation's biggest tinderboxes and set the stage for what's happening today.
I'll just be kind and say that you're not stupid, you're just ignorant.
Now we have before us an unconscionable waste of property and resources. We know wildfires can never be prevented, but with appropriate resource management, they can be kept to a dull roar.
Yep, I'm pointing my finger at you. Didn't 1988 and Yellowstone teach you anything? Do hundreds of your neighbors' homes have to burn for you to get a clue?
And, buddy, don't even begin to blame the drought. In fact, in a semi-arid region where "wet years" are the aberration, "drought" shouldn't even be a part of your vocabulary.
Okay, so now you have to live with your mistakes and the ghostly remnants of the blazes. Question is - will you just move on and create your next little sheikdom, or will you pitch in and help clean things up?