Lost natural cycle causes forest firesIn a recent article...


September 23, 1996

Lost natural cycle causes forest fires

In a recent article on forest fires, Henson Moore, president of the American Forest and Paper Association, claimed the increase in forest fires was caused by the decrease in logging of the areas. Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas, who can be credited with first-hand experience with forest fires, claimed that the problem was caused by historical efforts to snuff out forest fires, which had disrupted natural fire cycles.

When native Americans populated Western forests, the areas resembled parks. The Indians practiced controlled burnings of underbrush. This resulted in sparsely wooded forests of shade-intolerant Ponderosas and grassy expanses that horses could gallop through. Ground fires cleaned the forests of underbrush and left the widely spaced trees intact.

During World War II fears of timber shortages, the forest service instituted a fire suppression policy. The result has been the development of densely wooded forests composed of trees susceptible to insect infestation like incense cedars and white firs. The insect infestation has created firewood. Now, controlled burning of underbrush in Western forests is difficult if not impossible. They are so full of dead firewood that small fires become conflagrations.

Paper companies say they should be allowed to log dead timber. They have been unable to prove they can be so selective. Clear-cutting has been a frequent result, accompanied by a host of assaults to a myriad of organisms crucial to forest regeneration. Frogs, fungus, rodents and others contribute to forest growth.

We can't just see forests for their trees. Science offers an understanding of complex and subtle requirements for their renewal.

Rebecca E. Leamon


The writer is a member of the Sierra Club's Maryland chapter.

Mike Lane cartoon provokes comment

Although there is music in Mike Lane's life, I question how much is in his soul.

His Sept. 11 cartoon depicting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in complete disarray without David Zinman on the podium shows how little he understands about the integrity and abilities of the professional musicians who make up our wonderful symphony.

When Toscanini died, the NBC Orchestra played a concert without a conductor. Perhaps in tribute to Maestro Zinman, the BSO ought to perform its 1998 gala concert in a similar manner and offer Lane a complimentary ticket.

Perhaps then he would better understand that a conductor who leaves a first-class orchestra does so knowing that all bodes well for the future. All first-class leaders and teachers know that there's a time to let go. David Zinman's legacy and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's reputation will not be tarnished by a political cartoon.

Fred Schock


I enjoyed the BSO cartoon.

No one is irreplaceable. God makes miracles from generation to generation.

Nellie Gaines


BCPS support service requirement

I write to correct a misunderstanding reflected in Amanda J. Doud's letter of Sept. 6. Baltimore County public schools have not reduced and have no intention of reducing the 75-hour student service-learning requirement.

Student service-learning is designed to educate students about citizenship while fostering personal, social and academic development. We wholeheartedly support this philosophy and recognize the benefits.

We agree with Ms. Doud that students are responsible for completing the 75 hours of service-learning. Further, we accept the responsibility for assisting every student in meeting this and all graduation requirements.

Elaine Gorman


The writer is director of secondary education for Baltimore County public schools.

HMOs deserving of some criticism

The Sept. 12 letter by Martha Roach of the Maryland Association of HMOS ("Despite attacks, HMOs are working") is merely advertising copy in the guise of a letter to the editor.

Ms. Roach decries the ''negative attacks'' on the HMO industry and proclaims, ''The system is working.'' Her carefully chosen bits of supporting evidence are that HMO patients are more likely to have a regular doctor and to receive preventive care. No reasonable critic could fault the industry in these areas that certainly improve care while saving money and boosting profits.

Ms. Roach does not acknowledge that it is when patients are sick and seeking treatment for sometimes expensive disorders that there are legitimate questions about how well the system is working. Additionally, she makes no mention of her industry's abysmal track record with behavioral and mental health disorders.

Ms. Roach scoffs at concerns raised about for-profit HMOs, as if critics scorn them merely for turning a profit. I encourage readers to investigate the past profits and CEO salaries of industry leaders such as U.S. Healthcare, QualMed and Biodyne-Medco. Decide for yourself whether these figures represent mere conservative business practices or profiteering akin to the worst price gouging in fee-for-service health care.

If the HMO industry believes the system is working, it should heartily support the legislative efforts of Sen. Thomas Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, to require plain-English explanations of ''capitation.'' HMOs would be required to tell you the financial incentives that could influence their physicians' decisions about your care. Do you suppose the industry will support or oppose Senator Bromwell's legislation?

Steven L. Shearer


The writer is a licensed psychologist.

Pub Date: 9/23/96

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