Adopting more active forest management policies such as increased thinning of trees and conducting controlled burns will help mitigate damage from future wildfires, the Los Angeles Times editorial board writes.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke began advocating similar policy prescriptions earlier in the year after President Donald Trump blamed California’s “bad environmental laws” for creating a wildfire-prone environment.
California forests have grown dryer and less healthy from overcrowded trees, infestations of bark beetles and the effects of climate change, the Los Angeles Times writes.
California’s restrictions on active forest management have contributed to the poor and worsening conditions of the forests, allowing them to grow uninhibited while suppressing fires that would normally naturally control the forests’ growth.
“Fire is not necessarily bad for forests. California used to burn with regularity, and low-intensity fires are vital in some ecosystems to clear excess brush and small trees from the landscape,” the editorial board writes.
“But there’s been a change in fire behavior over the last century, as the state and federal government began dousing the blazes. Decades of fire suppression have allowed forests to grow dense with trees.”
“Combined with drought, insect infestations and the stress of a warming climate, those management practices have led to more intense and destructive fires that are more dangerous to people living near the forests and more damaging to air quality,” the op-ed continues.
California’s environmental laws entered the national spotlight in early August when Trump blamed them for the severity of the wildfires that were ravaging the state.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was soon at the front of the administration’s push for California to begin adopting more active land management policies. Zinke traveled to California to see the damage from the fires and meet with local officials and firefighters Aug. 13.
Zinke ramped up calls for greater forest thinning while also dismissing the idea that climate change is playing a significant factor in the wildfires’ intensity.
“I’ve heard the climate change argument back and forth,” Zinke told Sacramento-based KCRA. “This has nothing to do with climate change. This has to do with active forest management.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown partnered with state lawmakers to introduce changes to the state’s policies. The bill would grant $1 billion toward forest thinning and ease regulations on cutting trees on private property, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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