Reader View: ‘Let it burn’ approach to preventing forest fires is destructive

Cate Moses

During the Sept. 27 lunar eclipse, the Forest Service was firebombing our watershed with toxic potassium permanganate, with the runoff going straight into our reservoir. The Santa Fe City Council recently voted to fund this madness to the tune of $240,000. (Thank you, Councilor Joseph Maestas, for being the only one to say no.) As you are reading this, some 844 acres of our lower watershed will have been incinerated.

The catastrophic fire in the watershed that the Forest Service has been fear-mongering about for decades has finally come to pass. It is being ignited as I write this by the Forest Service, releasing more than 4,000 tons tons of carbon into the atmosphere and poisoning our air, water and soil. Contrary to their fear mongering, the only fires in our watershed have been those started by the Forest Service.

There is no science to support prescribed burns. The Forest Service has for decades been repeating the lie that prescribed burns somehow prevent big forest fires. Unfortunately, an oft-repeated lie is often mistaken for truth. Meanwhile, a formidable body of peer-reviewed science has emerged that demonstrates that prescribed burns make forests more, not less, likely to burn. This year’s West Coast fires demonstrated that dramatically.

The forest fires now ravaging the West Coast are the result of 40 years of the Forest Service’s “let it burn” and “prescribed burn” policies. The Forest Service stopped suppressing wildfires in 1973. Since then, it has followed a policy of allowing wildfires to burn unchecked until they threaten human structures, and it has focused on lucrative “prescribed burn” contracts. In New Mexico, the Forest Service’s own news releases describe how they exacerbate wildfires by dumping tons of diesel fuel around the perimeter, keeping fires burning for days and expanding them to destroy thousands of acres of living trees and wildlife — while the media reports that they are fighting the fire they are expanding.

If these burns, and allowing wildfires to burn unchecked, worked to prevent wildfires, why are we now seeing the worst wildfires the West Coast has ever seen? What more do we need to see to know that these policies are politics, not science. There is big money, and massive environmental destruction, in “prescribed burns.”

By the time you read this, the Forest Service will have burned around 800 acres of our watershed, and all of the trees and wildlife within. Instead of a lower watershed teeming with wildlife after a beautiful rainy summer, we now have a black burn scar, devoid of life, dry as ash, and much more likely to burn again — for decades to come.

In a Sept. 27 news release, the Forest Service admitted to “perimeter ignition” with chemicals firebombed from helicopters, in our watershed.

Why are our tax dollars being used to incinerate wildlife and trees and poison our reservoir and soil with potassium permanganate? Why does the Forest Service have absolutely no oversight or accountability to the public? What will you do to be a voice for our forests and wildlife? Please visit for brief, factual, scientific information.

Cate Moses, Ph.D., is an educator, wildlife artist and member of Once a Forest.

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