Beyond One Definition

Sometimes the simplest things tend to be the most complicated. As many of the people here in the Methow Valley agree, the world’s climate is changing and with the stressors it puts on the land everything is being redefined into many meanings. Raging forest fires are decimating thousands of acres – millions of things – but are also stimulating just as many. It’s a double-sided coin. We’ve been told that people need to recognize the value of their public land and yet at every turn the forest service’s language, describing these places, suggests that the forest is a sick place. The importance of treating the ground with thinning mandates and prescribing burns to deal with the epidemic of trees in the face of fires has become increasingly significant. As long time forest service employee, John Rohrer explains, “We have domesticated and paved so much. We need to maintain wild places.” But the nature of wild things is often understood as freed from the need to be maintained. The forest service uses strong language surrounding forest management, leaving little room to redefine changing times followed by altered landscapes that may not mirror our past understanding of things. Today forest fire fighter Dan Robbins shared his insight that, “There is no more normal” in the growing mosaic of forests spurred equally by fire and the forest service’s thinning. What disturbs it has become a choice, one of the few many here agree we have, so long as we can act fast enough.