Have you noticed the haze in the air in Wyoming lately? Some people with breathing problems definitely have and while we have the Air Quality Act to address air problems caused by man, and it has been successful, the air quality caused by nature has deteriorated. However, this in itself is a man caused or at least a man contributed problem. The environmental community rushed to criticize comments made by Secretary of Interior Zinke and President Trump when they said these fires are part of the environmental communities’ constant efforts to not allow vegetation management on federal lands. Whether range land or forestland, efforts to harvest and reduce fuel loads by the federal agencies have been thwarted by endless lawsuits that eat up the agency's resources and delay the action until it is too late. The environmentalists claim it's not their fault, but rather it's climate change. The problem with that argument is that not all forests with trees or range lands have fire problems to the extent we see in much of the West. The Black Hills Forest in northeast Wyoming have significant private forest lands where trees have been harvested and efforts to control pine beetle epidemics have been on going. This results in less fuel loads than in those areas where lawsuits have stopped any management. The range lands are similar. In vast areas of the West, cheat grass has taken over the landscape and is reshaping that landscape into a cheat grass centric system. Private lands are affected as well, but the private lands have the flexibility to increase grazing on some of these areas in an attempt to remove the fuel loads which will help when there is a fire. And there will be fires in these areas. We've seen fires on private range lands when we have wet springs and high levels of vegetative growth followed by hot dry conditions. There have been fires in the Black Hills as well, so vegetative management will not prevent fires. It will, however, help when there are fires. A few years ago, a favorite visual tactic of the “don't cut any trees” crowd was to fly over a clear cut in winter to point out what a stark difference between the logged areas and the unlogged areas looked like. Now however, flying over those same landscapes will show green living tree islands in a sea of dead trees. Those logged areas are now the green areas while the previous living forest, which the environmental community said were so important for biodiversity are a sea of dead trees. In addition to the dead trees, users of the forests are taking their lives in their hands if they venture into those areas, especially during a wind storm. Dead trees topple indiscriminately making such a trek a potential mine field for the unwary. All this because some lawyer was able to convince a judge that management of these areas would be detrimental to biodiversity that needed live trees. Still even when salvage sales are attempted by a federal agency, the same groups which argued the need for live trees to protect biodiversity are now arguing that we need dead trees. This abrupt about face argues against their position. After 4 or 5 decades of a “lock it up” philosophy, we need to return to an active management philosophy. It's probably too late in many areas, but in those other areas intensive and emergency efforts should be made to reduce the fuel loads by active management to help mitigate future fires. We also need to stop trying to hide behind climate change and recognize that actively managed areas don't suffer the same fire related outcome as non-managed areas. By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President