The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, November 16, 2018


In the tragic aftermath of the California fires—66 dead, over 10,000 homes destroyed, and around 600 missing—it's worth examining what can be done to avoid this kind of tragedy going forward. There are no simple or easy fixes, but it's worth noting that despite his often bombastic and obnoxious style, Donald Trump identified elements of the problem in his early tweets about the fires. He wrote:
“Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

The TDS crowd wnet ballistic, claiming that Trump didn't care about Californians, had no empathy for their plight, and otherwise lied about the cause of the problem, which, according to California Governor, Jerry Brown, was "climate change."

The editors of the Wall Street Journal comment:
Mr. Trump has no empathy gene even if he is right about forestry ills. Relentless winds and low air moisture make California’s fires harder to contain while development is putting more people in danger. But also fueling the fires is an overgrown government bureaucracy that frustrates proper forest management.

About 57% of California forestland is owned by the federal government while most of the rest is private land regulated by the state. Nearly 130 million trees died in California between 2010 and 2017 due to drought and a bark beetle infestation. Dense forests put trees at greater risk for parasitic infection and enable fires to spread faster. When dead trees fall, they add more combustible fuel.

Once upon a time the U.S. Forest Service’s mission was to actively manage the federal government’s resources. Yet numerous laws over the last 50 years, including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, have hampered tree-clearing, controlled burns and timber sales on federal land.

California also restricts timber harvesting and requires myriad permits and environmental-impact statements to prune overgrown forests. As the state Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) dryly noted in April, “project proponents seeking to conduct activities to improve the health of California’s forests indicate that in some cases, state regulatory requirements can be excessively duplicative, lengthy, and costly.”

One problem for landowners is disposing of deadwood. Dozens of biomass facilities that burn tree parts that can’t be used for lumber have closed due to emissions regulations and competition from subsidized renewables and cheap natural gas.

To burn leaves and tree limbs, landowners must obtain air-quality permits from “local air districts, burn permits from local fire agencies, and potentially other permits depending on the location, size, and type of burn,” the LAO explained. “Permits restrict the size of burn piles and vegetation that can be burned, the hours available for burns, and the allowable moisture levels in the material.”
These inconvenient truths lead to a simple irony. A state that has worked tirelessly to improve air quality has established laws and regulations that are so restrictive they have contributed to the spread of massive forest fires that produce more air pollutants in a few weeks than that state has saved through forestry regulations in a few years.

Environmentalists claim that restrictive regulations and stringent controls of forestation are worth it; that it's better to restrict the lumber industry because they're the bad guys; that endangered species take precedence over thousands of homeowners who live within reach of the fires; that softening restrictions to reduce the spread and impact of wild fires is "an environmental crime."

Tell that to the residents of Paradise, CA, whose entire town was burned to the ground with a significant loss of lives.