By John J. Duncan Jr.

It was very sad to see the news reports on the loss of lives and the homes and even entire small towns that were burned in the recent fires in California, Oregon and Washington State.

What made it even sadder is that much of this loss could have been prevented by proper forest management.

For 22 of my 30 years in Congress, I served on the Natural Resources Committee. This was not my main committee but was still very important, having jurisdiction over our national parks, public lands and forests and foreign territories.

Several times during those years, we had hearings in which experts warned that the number and extent of forest fires were going to grow because we were not cutting enough trees.

We were told that there are usually about six billion board feet of dead or dying trees in our forests at any one time. For many years, we were cutting nine to twelve billion board feet in our national forests each year.

However, for the last 20 or 30 years, caving in to the most radical environmentalists, we have been cutting only about two billion board feet a year.

Formerly prosperous logging communities have been decimated. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) said on the floor of the House in late September that the number of sawmills in California has dropped from 149 to just 27.

This has led to a tremendous buildup of fuel on the floor of the forests and has caused a big increase in the number of forest fires.

Many of these environmental extremists do not want people to live in our forests or even very rural areas. They see forest fires as nature’s way of thinning the forests.

And it is annoying to see so many young people, who know almost nothing about science or forest management, shout with great arrogance that climate change is the cause.

Environmental elitists have for many years supported the Wildlands Projects, now called by some the Wildlands Network.

They seem to want everyone jammed into a small number of urban-suburban centers with most of the country left as wilderness or supervised as federally controlled parks.

We now have created so many thousands of parks at the federal, state, and local levels that most of them get very little use and are not properly cared for. We do not need anymore parks unless we can figure a way for our entire population to stop working and go on permanent vacations.

It is astounding how much private property has been bought by government at all levels over the last 50 years or so.

With so much less thus much more expensive private property available to build houses on, this has led to big increases in the cost of new homes and forced them to be built on postage-stamp size lots.

Most environmental leftists came from upper income or wealthy families, so they are usually not hurt by expensive rules, regulations and red tape. But many lower and middle-income people are hurt.

Hopefully, people will soon wake up and realize that private property is a key to our freedom and prosperity. And, if government keeps taking more and more land off the tax rolls, taxes will go way up on land that is still privately-owned.