Iraq, forest fires face House candidates |

Iraq, forest fires face House candidates

Cliff Thompson

Vail Daily: Should the U.S. unilaterally wage war on Iraq as President Bush is proposing?

Hume: “Only if necessity requires it. Frankly everything I’ve seen so far makes me think we’ve waited too long. Saddam a is genocidal monster capable of doing anything with weapons of mass destruction. There can be no peace in the Middle East without freedom.

“It’s the last thing anybody wants to commit to. It’s a rogue nation with a homicidal, genocidal dictator that will do anything to sustain his power.

My greatest fear is an Israeli city will come under fire from weapons of mass destruction. That will destabilize the Middle East.”

Udall: “We may need to use force to enforce U.N. resolutions when it comes to Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction. It should be a last resort but done in concert with international allies. I have proposed in the last few days a two-step process that would involve the President using every means possible to engage the UN and have unfettered inspections, backed up by coercive force.

“Congress has to protect its constitutional authority. It can’t pre-write authorization for the President to use force. Saddam Hussein is a ruthless tyrant. There are times to use force. We would be smart to involve everybody in this undertaking.

“One of most important questions is what are we going to do the day after a war? We want the rest of the world to work with us to rebuild Iraq. The expense would be enormous. We have people (in the U.S.) who can’t afford prescription drugs and health care reforms.

“We need to be strong and secure at home as well as internationally. We don’t operate in a vacuum.”

Vail Daily: How do you feel about campaign finance reform?

Hume: “I support the McCain-Feingold (campaign reform) measure, although there are some elements of it that need to be refined. Campaign finance is creating default plutocracy. I’m running this campaign on a very low budget. People that spend a lot of money getting elected just keep spending money when they get to Congress. Government needs to be small and efficient. The federal government is the worst manager in the world. I’ve had experience after experience where smart, good people are incapable of functioning in the federal milieu because of the structure and influences. It has immobilized itself.”

Udall: “I was a strong supporter of the Shays-Meehan bill (bans unlimited donations). It made it to the floor of the House. I voted for it and the Senate passed it and the President signed it into law. It gives people more of a say in elections.”

Vail Daily: Colorado’s worst wildfire season is now behind us, and 500,000 acres were blackened. What specifically do you propose to ensure wildlands will be managed to avoid catastrophic fires?

Hume: “The tree population of mountain areas of Colorado has 10 to 20 times more trees than it did prior to the (introduction of) infrastructure capable of putting out fires. Fuel loading is the essence of the problem. Catastrophic fire damage is 100 times worse than fuel reduction efforts. (Fuel reduction) needs to include cutting, thinning and burning accessed by temporary roads.

“The timber industry has to be revitalized. It (managing wildlands) has to start at the state level. If there isn’t full participation by state and local governments, federal intervention will be insignificant because the feds have a hard time doing anything decisively the bureaucracy is so untenable. If it doesn’t come from and include local governments, we won’t get done what needs to be done. It’s glaringly apparent what going on in forest ecosystems..

“In prehistory, taken from tree rings 400 years ago, the normal burn area for wildfire was 17 percent. The Hayman Fire had 95 percent burn coverage. Catastrophic fires are not normal. Wildfire was normal.

“The answer to this is state and local participation and federal cooperation and doing aggressive thinning. The private sector has to be involved because there won’t be enough tax dollars. If somebody can’t make a profit selling wood products, it’s not going to happen. The red zone (where homes are built in the forest) is important, but forest health needs to be on a broader scale.”

Udall: “I developed an awareness and an interest in this in 1999. I introduced legislation which has been included in other legislative efforts.

“As I began to look more at the science, I realized our picture of what forest health is was really askew. We’ve gotten used to thick forests. As you study science and the history of the West and in particular the dry land forests of the Front Range, there’s too much biomass locked-up in trees.

“I’ve introduced legislation that has focused on red zones in particular. Water supply areas need to be protected from fires. We need more prescribed fire in areas that are a particular threat. Our watersheds and dwellings need protection. If anything, I’m a pragmatist on forest health issues.

“We have a lot of work to do. We’ve got to work from the red zones out. This is about trust-building. There is distrust between environmental and logging, casual recreationalists and the general public. We need to do that (build trust) by putting projects in place that are clearly defined and thin trees in red zones to demonstrate were not trying to do this as a trojan horse.

“This is not about logging but fuel reduction. There’s not enough money to treat every single acre. Our first priority is watersheds and human structures and human activity.

“We have to approach forest-type and areas with the best science and some flexibility that takes into account the aesthetic issues too. We can create some jobs in rural area and some utility when it comes to biomass and co-generation.

“My focus in the long-term is a public policy of energy independence with more dependence on renewable energy whether it’s wind, solar or biomass or hydrogen fuel cells.”

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