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Summer 2008

Regulations a Factor in California Fires?

As forest fires ravage our state and people in Tahoe rebuild after the devastation of the Angora fire, it almost seems surreal.  Soon those who lost their homes and businesses in the recent California wildfires will rebuild, but is it too soon.

What was learned from Angora that would have prevented the recent fire from ravaging our state?  Our nation was plagued with these fires prior to using fire suppression methods. But in recent years these fire suppression methods and forest management practices have come under attack by environmental groups and government agencies and even private landowners fear litigation.

Fighting California's wildfires.California has 102 million acres, over 43 million acres are public land owned by the government and 14 million acres are designated wilderness.  The mere fact that our government owns half of the land within our state is a startling fact. 

Additional land acquisition has been and will remain a focus of government and many environmental groups. There is a fear that the only way to control growth is to control land use.  Even the Wall Street Journal did a recent article and our legislature’s ridiculous plan to create a “blueprint for growth” for the Capital city.  It calls for high density urban housing complexes to reduce greenhouse gas emission.  Just as $2 a gallon gas created suburbs, $5 a gallon gas may force people to move back to the cities closer to work.

The management and acquisition of public lands has affected rural communities for decades.  In many of the north states forestry towns there is very little public land, allowing for very little economic development, and when sawmills and lumber yards started to go out of business these small rural communities were devastated.

Forestry regulation goes hand in hand with the environmental regulation that farmers have been dealing with for decades.  It is easy to see the enormous costs associated with required environmental mitigation and the increased costs associated with farming.  Many regulations may just make criminals out of hard working individuals who cannot afford to comply with stringent environmental regulations.

We are at our economic breaking point and it is time for something to change.  I agree that we need to protect the environment, but at what cost.  Public safety needs to be the most important goal.  Whether it’s flooding or wildfires our states history books will be full of Mother Nature’s disasters if we don’t act now. 

Family Water Alliance has always advocated for a balance.  Farmers, ranchers and those in the forestry industry are good stewards of the land and government interference is not making us any safer.  Ronald Reagan said it best “government exists to protect us from each other, where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves”. ■

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