Should California have a better forest management plan?

Residents of Paradise, California had fled their homes and were counting their dead as the president tweeted about the wildfires, and who was to blame, and how much it would cost the government, and how he would cut off funding if something didn’t change.

Here’s the tweet:

Keep in mind: The fires raging in California are not even in forests. But, does the President’s tweet regarding forest management have any merit? Did this massive, deadly and costly fire result from poor forest management?

Let’s take a look.

Poor forest management is responsible for the devastating wildfires in California.

what is forest management

In order to have a healthy forest, management techniques can be used, including harvesting, prescribed burning and reforestation.

We can’t manage most natural disasters. But we can manage fires.

managing fuel

When firefighters battle blazes in the wild, they build fire lines by removing a strip of vegetation, which helps to contain the fire–(unless wind scatters burning embers over and past the fuel-less lines).

Controlled burns and selective thinning are two ways to remove fuel but they are costly to governments. Rules regarding how close to houses and buildings burns can occur–because some burns have gotten out of control– also limit their scope.

Logging is a way to remove fuel from forests: loggers selectively take tress, and they do it without cost to the government.

building roads

Logging companies create roads in order to access trees for harvesting. Allowing more roads in forests also creates access for firefighters and egress for people. And, roads are firebreaks, or fuel-less strips that stop the advance of a wildfire–again, if the burning embers aren’t blown over and past the roads.

Forest management is only a part of the problem.

who will pay

California is one-third forest, but the state owns only 2 percent of that land. The federal government owns sixty percent. There are also private property owners, and county and tribal lands.

Who will pay for and how do we coordinate forest management of all these different areas?

problem with thinning by logging companies

Check out photos from Paradise, the town that was flattened by the Camp Fire. Buildings are burnt to the ground while huge trees still stand.

The big trees don’t burn as easily and logging companies generally only want these older, bigger trees, leaving smaller trees that become “ladder fuels” that carry fire to the top of the canopy.

state plan recently updated

In May, Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order that will increase spending for forest management and therefore increase the speed of both selectively cutting trees and setting controlled fires in areas where it’s appropriate.

With this, he plans to double the managed forest areas to 500,000 acres within five years.

His plan also incentivizes the building industry to use more innovative wood products.

plenty of water

President Trump also suggested that a lack of access to water is hindering the effort by firefighters against these recent fires. Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection assured the President that there is no shortage of  rivers, lakes and ponds that they can use.

Apparently the lack of water (for farmers, for example) is another environmental issue in California that President Trump opposes.

wind is contributor

The driving force for these extreme fires has been extreme wind—gusts of up to 60 miles per hour, perhaps even 70 in the hills of Southern California. Wind dries the already dry vegetation and speeds the spread of the fires.

drought is contributor

California has had a five-year drought, making forest litter readily combustible.

climate change

The President pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord and has denied the United Nations report on human-induced climate change, while some scientists are reporting the wildfires to have worsened as a result of climate change.

Note: WordStirs is not prepared to validate or invalidate this claim, other than to say that climate change is being widely discussed as a factor in wildfires.

politicking

If President Trump made the case that California was not managing its forests, he could also make the case that funds to the state should be cut, which would also suggest that logging companies are the best option for thinning public lands–and logging companies are part of his base group of support.

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