CPA: Reducing Bureaucracy Could Reduce Fire Risk

Federal mismanagement of U.S. forests has increased the number, size, and cost of wildfires over the past decade, but the frequency and expense of wildfire damage could be substantially reduced by introducing market competition in the management of the nation's forests, according to a new report from the National Center for Policy Analysis.

"Private forest owners and managers would have the incentives to minimize wildfires and improve forest health," said H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow and an author of the report, in a Sept. 11 press release. "Without bureaucratic federal rules, they would be able to take the steps that need to be taken."

Co-authored by Lani Cohan, research assistant, the report concludes that tree density in forests is increasing, causing overcrowding that contributes to a continuing decline in forest health and an increase in wildfire risk. One reason for the overcrowding is the dramatic decrease in logging over that past two decades.

Burnett said private forest managers are better able to prevent and treat infestations that kill forests. "These private managers can promptly remove dead and dying timber and keep the number of trees at an optimal level," he said. "The U.S. government has shown it can't handle the job."

The National Center for Policy Analysis is an internationally known nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute with offices in Dallas and Washington, D.C. that advocates private solutions to public policy problems.