California's Devastating Fires Are Man-Caused -- But Not In The Way They Tell Us

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  vic-eldred  •  2 months ago  •  17 comments

By:   Chuck DeVore (Forbes)

California's Devastating Fires Are Man-Caused -- But Not In The Way They Tell Us
California is once again on fire. Northern California's Carr Fire has killed six people, two of them firefighters, and continues to burn out of control, claiming more than 700 homes and about 100,000 acres. (To) reduce the state's growing forest fire threat... start managing our forests again.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



California is once again on fire. Northern California's Carr Fire has killed six people, two of them firefighters, and continues to burn out of control, claiming more than 700 homes and about 100,000 acres.

As a citizen-soldier in the California Army National Guard for two decades, I often heard the gallows humor quip that California's four seasons were: flood, fire, earthquake and riot.

But, what was once an expected part of living in the Golden State is now blamed on larger forces. A crisis, we are told, should never go to waste.

In that vein, the Sacramento Bee editorial board blamed the Carr Fire foursquare on a man-caused buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In an editorial headlined, "The Carr Fire is a terrifying glimpse into California's future," they write, "This is climate change, for real and in real time. We were warned that the atmospheric buildup of man-made greenhouse gas would eventually be an existential threat."

The Bee editorial board goes on to attack President Trump for proposing to end California's exceptional waiver from federal law regarding auto emissions—in this case, California's push to curtail tailpipe carbon dioxide, something never envisioned when the Clean Air Act was debated in 1970. At the time, the concern was pollution that directly harmed health rather than carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring gas exhaled by every living animal.

The problem with the Bee's editorial is that making a passionate argument is no substitute for the truth.

In 2005 while a freshman California Assemblyman, I had the chance to visit Northern California and meet with the forest product industry professionals who grew, managed, and harvested trees on private and public lands. They told me of a worrisome trend started years earlier where both federal and state regulators were making it more and more difficult for them to do their jobs. As a result, timber industry employment gradually collapsed, falling in 2017 to half of what it was 20 years earlier, with imports from Canada, China, and other nations filling domestic need.

As timber harvesting permit fees went up and environmental challenges multiplied, the people who earned a living felling and planting trees looked for other lines of work. The combustible fuel load in the forest predictably soared. No longer were forest management professionals clearing brush and thinning trees.

But, fire suppression efforts continued. The result was accurately forecast by my forest management industry hosts in Siskiyou County in 2005: larger, more devastating fires—fires so hot that they sterilized the soil, making regrowth difficult and altering the landscape. More importantly, fires that increasingly threatened lives and homes as they became hotter and more difficult to bring under control.

In 2001, George E. Gruell, a wildlife biologist with five decades of experience in California and other Western states, authored the book, "Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: A Photographic Interpretation of Ecological Change Since 1849." Gruell's remarkable effort compared hundreds of landscape photographs from the dawn of photography with photos taken from the same location 100 years later or more. The difference was striking. In the 1850s and 1860s, the typical Sierra landscape was of open fields of grass punctuated by isolated pine stands and a few scattered oak trees. The first branches on the pine trees started about 20 feet up—lower branches having been burned off by low-intensity grassfires. California's Native American population had for years shaped this landscape with fire to encourage the grasslands and boost the game animal population.

As the Gold Rush remade modern California, timber was harvested and replanted. Fires were suppressed because they threatened homes as well as burned up a valuable resource. The landscape filled in with trees, but the trees were harvested every 30 to 50 years. In the 1990s, however, that cycle began to be disrupted with increasingly burdensome regulations. The timber harvest cycle slowed, and, in some areas, stopped completely, especially on the almost 60% of California forest land owned by the federal government. Federal lands have not been managed for decades, threatening adjacent private forests, while federal funds designated for forest maintenance have been "borrowed" for fire suppression expenses. The policies frequently reduce the economic value of the forest to zero. And, with no intrinsic worth remaining, interest in maintaining the forest declined, and with it, resources to reduce the fuel load.

Some two decades ago, California produced so much wood waste from its timber operations, including brush and small trees from thinning efforts, that the resulting renewable biomass powered electric generating plants across the length of the state. But cheap, subsidized solar power, combined with air quality concerns (wood doesn't burn as cleanly as natural gas) and a lack of fuel due to cutbacks in logging, led to the closure of many biomass generators. What used to be burned safely in power generators is now burned in catastrophic fires. Including the growing capture and use of landfill methane as a fuel, California's biomass energy generation last year was 22% lower than it was 25 years before.

The issue was summarized by the Western Governors' Association in their 2006 Biomass Task Force Report which noted:


…over time the fire-prone forests that were not thinned, burn in uncharacteristically destructive wildfires, and the resulting loss of forest carbon is much greater than would occur if the forest had been thinned before fire moved through. …failing to thin leads to a greater greenhouse gas burden than the thinning created in the first place, and that doesn't even account for the avoided fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions due to the production of energy from the forest thinnings. In the long term, leaving forests overgrown and prone to unnaturally destructive wildfires means there will be significantly less biomass on the ground, and more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Sacramento Bee editorial concludes with a stark warning: "California must plan now for these and other aspects of global warming, as more of the state becomes too hot, too dry, or too fire- or flood-prone to safely live in, and as more of the world braces for the era of climate refugees."

Whether global climate change is a problem that can be solved by California is a dubious proposition—one year's worth of emission growth in China is greater than California's total emissions. But the action needed to reduce the state's growing forest fire threat would be the same regardless of one's belief in any problems posed by climate change: start managing our forests again.

Chuck DeVore


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Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Vic Eldred    2 months ago

"As timber harvesting permit fees went up and environmental challenges multiplied, the people who earned a living felling and planting trees looked for other lines of work. The combustible fuel load in the forest predictably soared. No longer were forest management professionals clearing brush and thinning trees."

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2  Kavika     2 months ago

58% of forest land in CA is federal government land 3% is controlled by the state. 

For generations, the federal government policy was to stop all forest fires to ''save'' the forest and controlled burns were forbidden by the feds including on Tribal Land. 

Now both the state and feds are working with the tribes to once again learn how to manage forests. Indigenous knowledge is far superior to government mandates by those that ''think'' they know what they are doing. 

There are numerous articles on the change and working with the tribes. 

This is just one of them. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1  seeder  Vic Eldred  replied to  Kavika @2    2 months ago

Do you think the state of CA will listen?

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Kavika   replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1    2 months ago

The state of CA was been working with the tribes for a couple of years now. It's the fed that own by far the most forest land in CA and they are starting to work with the tribes.

It is not only CA that is having these horrific wild fires, add in most every state in the west as far east as the Dakota's and MN.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.2  seeder  Vic Eldred  replied to  Kavika @2.1.1    2 months ago

Clearing brush and thinning trees would seem to be essential.

 
 
 
bccrane
Freshman Silent
2.1.3  bccrane  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.2    2 months ago

That's what they do in Michigan just north of us, they let people in to cut firewood and clear brush and the DNR does controlled burns, unfortunately, because it does involve the government in the controlled burns common sense flies out the window, they will schedule a burn date and it could be the driest/windiest day and they'll do it anyways and the fire gets away from them, but because of previous burns they don't get to far out of the "controlled" area.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1.4  Kavika   replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.2    2 months ago

Yes, it is essential that’s where controlled burns help a lot. Controlled burns require a great deal of knowledge and experience. If one goes wrong you’ll have another NM.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
3  Drinker of the Wry    2 months ago
Indigenous knowledge is far superior to government mandates by those that ''think'' they know what they are doing.

Thanks for the link.  It's good to read about people protecting themselves from government 'experts' and technocrats.  I know nothing about indigenous tribal life and after starting to read some of the other articles, I think I'll be reading more in ICT.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3.1  Kavika   replied to  Drinker of the Wry @3    2 months ago

In addition to ICT there are numerous other media. Native News on line is excellent.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
3.1.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Kavika @3.1    2 months ago

Thank you.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3.1.2  Kavika   replied to  Drinker of the Wry @3.1.1    2 months ago

With all the attention on the west and wildfires, it's interesting to know that the two deadliest wildfires in US history took place in the upper midwest. The Cloquet Fire in northern MN and the Peshtigo Fire in WI.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
3.1.3  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Kavika @3.1.2    2 months ago

I had never heard of neither, the number of killed and wounded is amazing, considering that I know a little about the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in NYC and of course the great Chicago fire.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3.1.4  Kavika   replied to  Drinker of the Wry @3.1.3    2 months ago

Native Americans know fire, we have 7 hot shot teams across the country plus numerous other NA wildfire fighters. The best of the best.

The Apache 8 is an all female wild fire fighting team and they are one of the best. They are sent into the heart of the beast. I believe that a documentary was made about them.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
3.1.5  seeder  Vic Eldred  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @3.1.3    2 months ago
the great Chicago fire.

Which also was preventable.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3.1.6  Kavika   replied to  Vic Eldred @3.1.5    2 months ago
Which also was preventable.

85% of wildfires are caused by humans and the vast majority could be prevented. 15% are caused by lightning strikes. Mother Nature practices good forest management. 

As we speak the McKinney Fire in an area that I'm very familiar with, Siskiyou County, CA. has reached 55,000 acres with no control as of this AM. numerous small towns in the area have been evacuated and the fire has reached the outskirts of the county seat of, Yreka. 2 people died in their car trying to escape the flames. 

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
3.1.7  evilgenius  replied to  Kavika @3.1.2    2 months ago
The Cloquet Fire in northern MN

My stepfather had a large chunk of pennies that were melted together from that fire. I don't remember what happened to them... 

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3.1.8  Kavika   replied to  evilgenius @3.1.7    2 months ago

Too bad you don't have them, EG.

 
 

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