Where there's smoke ...

Federal, state and local firefighting crews did a tremendous job battling this weekend's wildfires in the Moapa and Mount Charleston areas.

It's too bad authorities do such a lousy job preventing the blazes.

The Moapa blaze claimed hundreds of acres and about a dozen structures, including the Warm Springs Ranch once owned by Howard Hughes. Some people lost their homes and possessions. Bill Parson was lucky he lost only his barn.

He said the flames spread across a vast expanse of tumbleweed-covered land where cattle and goats used to graze. Mr. Parson recalled that whatever dense vegetation and non-native plants weren't consumed by the animals in those days, people removed themselves to reduce the fire hazard.

Now, Mr. Parson says, so many bureaucracies have a say in how land is "managed" that the people who live in the area can't take steps to protect their own property. That makes him furious.

"We're not doing anything that helps work with nature to control the fuel load," he said. Without them, "we will see this again in seven or eight years."

Just as we've seen it in Lake Tahoe and California and other states in recent years. How much land must burn before the government changes policies that put the well-being of dead brush over homes and human lives?

Even the desert tortoise fares better when forage plants are grazed down, prompting tender new growth at ground level.

These ecosystems developed to function best with grazing animals. Deer or antelope would help -- though that would require predator control. In the meantime, bring back the cattle ... and the cattlemen.