US Forest Service employee arrested in Oregon for spread of stipulated arson | Forest fires

US Forest Service employee at Oregon He was arrested this week after a scheduled burning in a national forest that spilled over into private land. It’s an unprecedented move that signals a worrying backlash to the described burning, an important tool in bushfire management.

Rick Snodgrass, the Forest Service’s “chief of arson,” was overseeing a 300-acre burn in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest that was approved by the agency. A spot fire escaped control, according to Grant County officials, and nearly 20 acres of Holiday Farms’ private land were charred.

Soon after, Snodgrass was arrested for “reckless arson” and taken to Grant County Jail. It is not yet clear if Snodgrass will be officially uploaded but the boycott Attorney General Jim Carpenter said there was probable cause to make the arrest.

that it The latest episode underscores the rising tensions in rural eastern Oregon over the federal land administration.

Described burns are set on purpose and under carefully controlled conditions to remove bushes, pine needle beds, and other surface fuels that make forests more susceptible to wildfires. Scientists and ecologists consider this strategy necessary to prevent further catastrophic fires across the drought-stricken American West. Such burning is a cultural practice that has long been used by indigenous peoples and has been shown to maintain the health of forests and ecosystems.

But over the past century, putting out fires has led to overgrown forests, and agencies have been far behind in addressing high-risk areas. Now, as the climate gets warmer, the burn described is becoming more important and more dangerous.

Earlier this year, the Forest Service temporarily halted prescribed burning after two fires out of control It merged to become the largest fire in the world History of New Mexico.

But when implemented carefully, the file The vast majority of controlled burns are going as planned It rarely crosses their limits. According to US forest officials, The conditions were right When Snodgrass did the burn this week.

Carpenter warned that federal hiring for Snodgrass would not protect him. “The USFS’s involvement in a specific incineration may actually raise, rather than lower, the standards by which Snodgrass will be held,” the attorney general said.

A spokesman for the Forest Macmillan Service described the arrest as “extremely uncommon” but declined to comment further on the arrest due to the potential for legal action.

The arrest alarmed firefighters and described firefighting advocates who worked to change public sentiment and agencies. “This appears to be the result of strange local anti-government policies, especially given where it is,” said Linnea Quinn-Davidson, a fire consultant with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Humboldt County, California, and director of the Northern California Specific Fire Board. , in a post on Twitter. “Very annoying but I hope it’s not setting up the track,” she added.

In 2016, tension erupted in neighboring Harney County when right-wing extremists seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest the treatment of two cattle farmers jailed for setting fire to federal pasture lands. This conflict erupted when armed right-wing extremists occupied the orphanage, located 300 miles southeast of Portland, for 41 days.

Details are still scarce as to why county officials feel this arson warrants an arrest. The mayor’s office said in a news release Thursday that details could not be released but that officers and the Forest Service were “working to identify the events that led to the fire escape.”

Even if Snodgrass is not charged, his arrest could have a chilling effect on the arson described – an outcome likely to lead to more ferocious fires in the future. There are also concerns that it would set a dangerous precedent or a disincentive for others to become burning bosses.

“The repercussions are massive,” human rights advocacy group Grassroots Wildland Firefighters said on Twitter. “We will have to rethink how to conduct prescribed fires on federal lands.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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