The Little Hoover Commission’s yearlong enquiry into forest management of Sierra Nevada presented to the Californian Democrat government in 2018 gave a list of 9 recommendations.
These included recommendations for improved collaboration between, individual, local, tribal, state, and federal governments on better forestry management; as well as better cooperation between the logging and environmentalist industries.
The report also recommended that fuel load reductions be carried out on what it called ‘long-neglected forests.’ Arguing that ‘dead-wood’ materials be ‘recycled into chipboard or biofuel (biomass electricity).’
Noting that ‘California’s forests were shaped by fire’ the report advocated ‘moving from fire suppression to using fire as a tool.’
Adding that the expansion of property development ‘in or near forests, meant that prescribed fire could not be returned everywhere, but wherever possible, prescribed fire [back-burning] should be used to treat forests…[effectively] removing the buildup of forest fuels, [and therefore] further decreasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires.’
The LHC report named bad policy, drought, and the ‘pervasive Bark Beetle’ as key factors that drove California towards devastation.
Stating that the devastation was arrived at ‘through the interplay of forest management policies that created overgrown and overcrowded forests, a historic drought and bark beetles pervasive in the state’s forests.’
It then warned that if appropriate action wasn’t taken soon, ‘the problem will only worsen. [Consequently], Californians risk losing the priceless benefits provided by forests.’
The report did cite “climate change” as a factor to be considered in the overall dryness of forests, arguing that it’s 9 recommendations would help fight “climate change” by reducing the high concentration of carbon released by seasonal [sometimes] catastrophic wildfires. (Catalyst, 2020)
The 2017-2018 report noted that improvements have been made such as the establishment of the Obama era ‘Good Neighbor Authority’ (Est. 2014), which provided a ‘mechanism for states to perform work of Federal land.’ However, it concluded that more needed to be done.
Northern California’s ‘The Mercury News’ reported in August this year that the 2020 wildfires, which began in late August, are met by the Trump administration’s ‘Great American Outdoors Act’ where extra funding could be used to help pay for the ‘thinning costs associated with improved forest management.’
Trump also approved funds for disaster relief – but did so with the strong assertion that general, non-disaster relief, federal funding will be stopped if the Californian Democrat Government’s (read environmental red tape isn’t cut ) and forest management policies aren’t significantly reformed. (USA Today & The Mercury, 2020)
60% of California’s forest land is owned by State and Federal governments, with the majority owned by the Federal tier. 40% is owned by landholders (including Native Americans).
While the 2017-2018 LHC report’s recommendations give solid reasoning for Trump’s assertions, the responsibility for forest management is often put back on Washington bureaucrats.
Under an expansion of collaboration, the Obama era Good Neighbor Bill, and Trump’s Great American Outdoors act, blame for mismanagement will be harder to shift.
Looking beyond the political tit-for-tat, the LHC concluded that the sheer size of the task was the biggest issue standing against any application of its recommendations.
But as Jon Miltimore, quipped in the Catalyst, perhaps the biggest problem with equipping landowners with responsible legislation that will allow them to use fire as a tool for better forestry management, and wildfire prevention, is getting bureaucrats ‘to relinquish control. Something politicians have a hard time doing, especially in the Golden State.’
This is backed up by former California legislator, Chuck DeVore’s in Forbes who stated that,
‘some 61% of California lawmakers were government staffers, community or labor union organizers…about 10% of California’s working age population works for federal, state or local government but 56% of majority Democrats are professional politicians, former political staffers, or bureaucrats. Only 10% of Democrats representing the people of California in the legislature were business owners, doctors, or farmers before being elected. With their life experience tilted towards big government, it’s no wonder California lawmakers’ default to making sweeping claims about problems, proposing larger government as the solution, while ignoring proven common-sense measures that truly address real problems such as wildfires.’ (2018)
On a quick comparison between Republican run Texas, and Democrat run California there’s a few noteworthy distinctions.
First, Texas is not a bureaucratic behemoth. Second, according to DeVore, where ‘61% of California’s lawmakers are career politicians, 75% of Texas lawmakers come from business, medicine or farming.’ Third, ‘95% of Texas’ land mass is privately owned with a high value placed on land stewardship.’ (NRI) Fourth, Texas has 62.4 million acres of forest, California, 33 million. Fifth, Texas gets hit by wildfires. Nothing to the extremes seen in California.
Miltimore seems to be in agreement with DeVore, who concluded that
‘As California burns, California’s lawmakers are proposing laws to criminalize the distribution of plastic straws, raise taxes, re-regulate the internet, and generally make it difficult to run a business while their legislative counterparts in Texas simply labor to make the state a better place to live. California’s legislative approach fosters fires while Texas’ fosters freedom.’
The LHC’s 2018 report compiling 9 recommendations asserts that decades of forest mismanagement in California is the leading contributor to catastrophic wildfires. This report, its prescriptions and its warnings were handed down to the Democrat run Government in 2018. Using the 2020 wildfires as a political tool to push for bigger government and fear of “apocalyptic climate change” is disingenuous.
To restate Miltimore, ‘the wildfires are a reminder of an unpleasant reality: governments are poor stewards of the environment.’
It’s ironic, and a little bit too convenient, that any government screaming at us to “believe the science” re: “apocalyptic climate change”, would largely ignore warnings from a scientific enquiry. Then do its best to shift blame onto someone else or “apocalyptic climate change”, when a preventable catastrophe occurs.
The lesson? The state who provides more individual freedom and responsibility to its citizens, manages its resources better than the state whose management of its resources pushes out the citizen in favor of increasing red tape, and bigger government run programs.
Sometimes the Government just needs to get out of the way of the governed.
First published on Caldron Pool 8th October 2020.
Photo by Michael Held on Unsplash
©Rod Lampard, 2020.