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EDITORIAL: Green inanity on a looming volcanic threat in the Northwest

Under the guise of heading off a speculative “calamity,” radical greens cloak themselves in the mantle of climate science to demand the dismantling of an economic system that has produced the most prosperous and advanced country in world history.

But when it comes to saving thousands of Americans from the ramifications of a looming geological disaster, leftist environmentalists shift gears: The scientists, they argue, need to sit down and shut up.

It’s been four decades since the continental United States experienced a major volcanic eruption. Fifty-seven people died when Mount St. Helens in Washington blew in 1980. Yet the region is rife with volcanic activity. “Seven of the 10 most dangerous American volcanoes are within the Cascade Range,” The New York Times reported last week, “and six of those are not adequately monitored.” That includes Mount Hood near Portland and Mount Ranier outside Seattle.

An eruption in a volcano near a population center could cause a massive loss of life. The technology exists, however, to catch early warning signs that might signal a mountain’s reawakening. The problem? In many cases, laws promoted by extreme environmental groups prohibit geologists from using it.

In 2014, the Times reports, U.S. Geological Survey scientists sought permission from the Forest Service to set up a 4-foot tall monitoring station with instruments near Mount Hood. But the agency balked, citing the 1964 Wilderness Act, which prohibits new structures within federal wilderness areas.

Not surprisingly, progressives defend this foolishness. “I see the Wilderness Act as nature’s bill of rights,” George Nickas of Wilderness Watch told the Times. “I think it is so important to have places like that where you can just step back, out of respect and humility, and appreciate nature for what it is.”

This is nuts. Mr. Nickas and others like him would put millions of lives at risk in a religious-like pursuit of an ephemeral environmental Nirvana. Such twisted priorities have long been a hallmark of misanthropic radical greens.

“I’m all for protecting wilderness,” Portland State University geologist Jonathan Fink told the Times. “But this is just a question of public safety.” Allowing a helicopter to drop in to set up monitoring equipment “seems like a pretty minor exception to the wilderness policies.”

The Times reports that the Forest Service eventually approved the Mount Hood permit, albeit with onerous conditions. Yet Wilderness Watch has threatened a lawsuit.

Such nonsense demands congressional attention. The Times reports that Congress in March passed a bill seeking “to ensure that volcanoes nationwide are adequately monitored.” But that doesn’t preclude sue-happy extremists from gumming up such efforts. Congress should do more. It’s time to amend the Wilderness Act to allow these types of vital scientific stations.

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