This happens every year.
Federal authorities failed to follow through on plans earlier this year to burn away highly flammable brush in a forest on the edge of Los Angeles to avoid the very kind of wildfire now raging there…
Months before the huge blaze erupted, the U.S. Forest Service obtained permits to burn away the undergrowth and brush on more than 1,700 acres of the Angeles National Forest. But just 193 acres had been cleared by the time the fire broke out, Forest Service resource officer Steve Bear said….”We weren’t able to complete what we wanted to do.”
Some critics suggested that protests from environmentalists over prescribed burns contributed to the disaster, which came after the brush was allowed to build up for as much as 40 years.
“This brush was ready to explode,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, whose district overlaps the forest. “The environmentalists have gone to the extreme to prevent controlled burns, and as a result we have this catastrophe today.”
……Government firefighters set thousands of blazes each year to reduce the wildfire risk in overgrown forests and grasslands around the nation. Prescribed burns can also be used to improve overall forest health and increase forage for wildlife.
Obtaining the necessary permits is a complicated process, and such efforts often draw protests from environmentalists.
Biologist Ileene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental organization, said burn permits should be difficult to get because of the potential damage to air quality. Clearing chaparral by hand or machine must be closely scrutinized because it can hurt native species.
“Our air quality, for a variety of factors, doesn’t need to be further reduced by these controlled burns,” she said.
Apparently, the wackjobs at the “Center for Biological Diversity” would rather have air quality damaged by out-of-control wildfires.
……Steve Brink, a vice president with the California Forestry Association, an industry group, said as many as 8 million acres of national forest in California are overgrown and at risk of wildfire. He said that too few days provide the conditions necessary for larger, prescribed burns and that the Forest Service needs to speed up programs to thin forests, largely by machine.
“Special interest groups that don’t want them to do it have appeals and litigation through the courts to stall or stop any project they wish. Consequently, the Forest Service is not able to put a dent in the problem,” Brink said.
In 2003, Dr. Thomas M. Bonnicksen, a forest ecologist and professor in the Department of Forest Science at Texas A&M University, gave the following remarks in a testimony before Congress.
……If we looked back two hundred years, 91 percent of our forests were more open because Indian and lightning fires burned regularly. These were mostly gentle fires that stayed on the ground as they wandered around under the trees. You could walk over the flames without burning your legs even though they occasionally flared up and killed small groups of trees. Such hot spots kept forests diverse by creating openings where young trees and shrubs could grow.
Fires burned often enough in historic forests to clear dead wood and small trees from under the big trees, and they thinned some of the weak and diseased big trees as well. These were sunny forests that explorers described as open enough to gallop a horse through without hitting a tree. Open and patchy forests like this also were immune from monster fires like those that recently scorched Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, and California.
Our forests look different today. They are crowded with trees of all sizes and filled with logs and dead trees. You can barely walk through them, let alone ride a horse.
Now monster fires and hordes of insects are devouring trees with unprecedented ferocity because our forests are so dense. The role of drought in causing the problem is overstated. Drought contributes to the crisis, but it is not the underlying cause. There are simply too many trees.
In the case of Southern California, the drought added more stress to an already unhealthy and dangerous forest, so bark beetles took control. They made the wildfire danger even more critical by killing trees, turning them into instant fuel. The smallest spark could cause a human catastrophe.
Trees are so crowded they have to divide what little moisture is available in the soil. During normal rainfall years, the trees have barely enough moisture to produce the sap needed to keep out the beetles. They cannot resist attack during dry years. A healthy forest can survive a beetle attack during a drought with only moderate mortality. A thick and stressed forest cannot. Therefore, the drought triggered the insect epidemic, but it didn’t cause it.
We know how we got into this fix: forest management stalled because environmental activists, government officials, and politicians engaged in endless debates on how to look after our forests. Central to the debate is that environmentalists want thick forests. They lobbied for years to convert forests to old growth, which they define as dense, multi-layered, and filled with dead trees and logs. Meanwhile, trees grew and forests became thicker because they care nothing about politics. Now insects riddle our trees with holes and wildfires turn them into charcoal.
The debates continue, and bark beetles have taken control of the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains, as well as other western forests. It is time for people to shape the destiny of their forests instead of leaving the decision to mindless insects and the harsh indifference of wildfires.
Read the whole thing. He dissected the eco-wingnuts rhetoric and proposed real options for restoring healthy forests.
As Southern California homeowners watch their lives go up in flames, they may want to pause a moment and credit the assclowns in the Sierra Club and the “Center for Biological Diversity”, for creating obstacles to wildfire prevention.