Sunday, November 18, 2018
How Misguided Environmentalism Is To Blame For California’s Wildfires
I grew up in California’s Ventura County and have family in both southern and northern California. Right now, the most deadly fire in California’s history is racing across northern California. The Camp Fire has already killed at least 56 people, burned down 7,700 homes, and destroyed the entire town of Paradise. A brush fire is also wreaking havoc on southern California. The Woolsey Fire has destroyed 98,362 acres, killed two people, and damaged several Hollywood landmarks such as the set of “MASH” and the Reagan Ranch.
Article after article blames two things for California’s frequent fires: global warming and human action. For example, a BuzzFeed article is titled, “How A Booming Population And Climate Change Made California’s Wildfires Worse Than Ever.” While dry conditions make fires more likely and people often start them, this misses the big picture. President Trump summed it up on Nov 10. He wrote, “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor … Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Trump is right. Mismanagement and overregulation deserve most of the blame, but he should keep in mind that the federal government owns 57 percent of California forest land. This mismanagement is also not a result of a lack of care. Believe me, Californians care.
Growing up, we spend almost as much time talking about fire safety as we do hiding under our desks practicing for earthquakes. We see just as much of Smokey the Bear as we do of Mickey Mouse. California and federal agencies have mismanaged forests, not because they don’t care, but because they chose the agenda of environmentalists over commonsense forest management. The result has been deadly.
The federal government owns 45.8 percent of California’s land, while 4 percent is owned by the state and 51 percent is privately owned. CAL FIRE manages both state and private land. Part of the reason it is so difficult to manage California forests is the bureaucratic milieu. The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of land, has 28,000 employees, and has an annual outlay of $7 billion a year, according to a 2017 Analytical Perspective from the budget of the U.S. government.
For decades, environmental protection schemes have usurped common sense. For example, most fire ecologists say that the surest way of preventing massive forest fires is to use prescribed burns. The California Environmental Protection Agency states that “prescribed burning is the intentional use of fire to reduce wildfire hazards, clear downed trees, control plant diseases, improve rangeland and wildlife habitats, and restore natural ecosystems.”
Prescribed burns keep forests healthy by burning up the underbrush that accumulates on the forest floor and by thinning trees. Yet for decades the Forest Service has suppressed most fires. According to a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection executive summary: “Land and fire management have in many cases increased fire hazard. In some shrub types, fire suppression appears to have shifted the fire regime away from more, smaller fires toward fewer, larger fire.”
Despite scientific evidence, the federal government continues spending more money on fire suppression than prescribed burns. The Forest Service has performed prescribed burns on an average of 2,187,64 2 acres a year for the past ten years, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
This means the Forest Service has only performed prescribed burns on 11.3 percent of the land they manage. When explaining to Mother Jones why the California Wine Country fires were so bad last October, fire ecologist Sasha Berleman said, “We have 100 years of fire suppression that has led to this huge accumulation of fuel loads.”
The policy of fire suppression has created what insurance companies call “mega catastrophes,” a term that describes disasters that result in insured losses of more than $1 billion. Mega catastrophes are becoming the norm in California. In 2017, there were 5,906 fires on state and private land, Kathleen Schori, an assistant chief at CAL FIRE, said in a phone interview. “Extreme fire behavior has become more commonplace,” says the Forest Service.
Read the rest here.
at 5:00 AM