President Donald Trump sparked outrage on the left when he suggested that California’s poor forest management practices played a significant role in fueling the deadly and devastating wildfires that are scorching portions of the state, and placed responsibility for the tragic failure on the state’s political leaders.
Though leftists didn’t want to hear Trump’s in-artfully delivered point — and subsequently attacked the messenger to avoid the message — there is a solid element of truth in what Trump said, as environmentalist-backed state policies have prevented the proper management of the state’s massive forests, such as removing dead trees, clearing out dry underbrush and thinning parts of the thickest wooded areas, all of which remove some of the kindling and tinder that fuel wildfires.
Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown was one of those who loudly criticized Trump for his remarks about poor forestry management practices, but a move he quietly made just a few months ago in August signaled that he knows Trump’s point was correct, that he had already begun taking steps to rectify his prior failures.
And those failures were in the books even before this year’s disastrous Woolsey and Camp fires. According to the Sacramento Bee, in 2017, 41 civilians and two firefighters lost their lives in California wildfires. More than 10,000 structures were damaged or destroyed. It was a prelude to the catastrophe to come in 2018.
The Daily Wire reported that Brown had joined with state lawmakers in August to call for a loosening of the restrictive regulations against logging that were promulgated and supported by environmentalists and had been in place with little change for nearly half a century.
The governor’s proposal would allow private landowners to cut down larger trees than had previously been allowed without a permit, and would also allow for the temporary construction of logging roads on private land to do so without a permit, provided those temporary roadways were repaired and replanted at a later date.
Previously, landowners were only allowed to clear out dead trees and dry underbrush or cut down trees with a diameter of less than 26 inches. Landowners were also prohibited from cutting down healthy trees or from making any sort of profit by selling the cleared wood as lumber, which provided no incentive to also clear out the useless dead wood and undergrowth.
It is worth noting that even as environmentalists have expressed concerns that some landowners will go too far in thinning out wooded areas, many have nevertheless reluctantly admitted that something needs to be done to help mitigate the worsening wildfire risk.
Unfortunately, Brown and his fellow climate-change-obsessed environmentalists are about two years too late in coming to that realization, as Brown had an opportunity in 2016 to significantly reduce the wildfire risk and chose not to do so — a move that set the stage for the devastating forest fires over the past two years that have caused billions of dollars in destruction and claimed countless lives, fires that could have been prevented or at least been more easily contained.
The Daily Caller reported last week that Brown had vetoed a bipartisan piece of legislation in 2016 that was directly aimed at mitigating the risks of wildfires, bowing to the whims of the radical environmentalists who opposed the common sense solution.
That 2016 bill — known as SB 1463 and sponsored by Republican State Sen. John Moorlach — called for local governments to be granted more of a say and more control in joining with the California Public Utilities Commission and state firefighting agency CalFire to devise fire risk maps and plans to reduce wildfire risks.
The bill would have allowed for the clearing of trees and underbrush around power lines and other utilities equipment, as well as for the burying of transmission lines where possible, to help prevent sparks from triggering raging wildfires.
But Brown vetoed that bill in Sept. 2016, suggesting that local government officials had no need to get involved in the planning of fire risk maps or mitigation efforts because state officials already tasked to do so were adequately handling that job.
Except, they weren’t adequately handling the job, and though it has yet to be officially confirmed, it is widely suspected that the Camp Fire in northern California — the deadliest wildfire in state history — was caused by sparking equipment owned by the PG&E utility company. It is worth noting that faulty PG&E equipment was also blamed for the deadly wildfires that swept through northern California in 2017.
Similarly, the deadly Woolsey fire in southern California that is threatening the city of Malibu was said to have been sparked by a relay switch that went out on a substation operated by the SoCal Edison utility company. Again, that has yet to be officially confirmed.
To be sure, it is impossible to say that the two major wildfires currently engulfing parts of California could have been entirely prevented or contained if things had turned out differently in 2016, as there are many factors at play with regard to the size, strength and speed of a wildfire once that fire is sparked.
However, it is not out of the realm of possibility to suggest that, had Brown signed the 2016 bill instead of vetoing it, the utility companies could have cleared the areas around their equipment and the sparks that flew when that equipment eventually failed might have fallen harmlessly to the ground.
And even if a fire had resulted, there could have been a lot less wood laying around that would one day serve as its deadly fuel.
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