An Inclusive Litany

10/21/98

Prompted by rapid urbanization of the area around Spokane, Washington, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state have issued strict regulations on growers of bluegrass who regularly burn their 40,000 acres of fields in order to invigorate seed growth. Current rules allow only a one- to two-week window each year to burn, and lawsuits from the EPA and the American Lung Association have led to pressure to ban the practice altogether, which has already led many growers to go out of business.

Ironically, the Soil and Conservation Service praised bluegrass growers when they started doing business in the area 50 years prior, since burning served to replenish the rich but thin topsoil one inch every decade, as opposed to one inch every century from other farming methods. At the same time, the Interior Department announced that they would burn a million acres of trees in the same region as part of a land management program designed to avoid serious forest fires. Wood smoke presumably does not cause lung cancer as smoke from bluegrass might.

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