Recently Governor Newsom and Senator Harris visited a home burned out by the Creek Fire. They brought the media and stood over the ash of a destroyed family home, touched what was left of a charred Chevy pickup, and decried the damage done by Climate Change. It was all they wanted to say: This destruction is climate change.
Well, we’re not going to argue about that. The governor was about to announce a major initiative on Climate Change, and he thought he had the perfect stage. Well, I’ll just say that managing the forest has nothing to do with causing Climate Change, but it can help solve it. Just think how much these fires added to the problem, how much carbon those flames liberated to increase climate change.
However, If the beetle-killed trees had been removed by foresters, if the low level chaparral and grasses had been trimmed back by hungry cattle and sheep, they would not have been there to burn. The Creek fire would not have become the largest single fire in California history. Our state would not have become a raging inferno.
We can acknowledge that the climate is changing. It is always changing. Maybe our reliance on oil made it worse, but no doubt, the American Southwest has a geologic history of change, with long droughts, some lasting a 100 years or more. A study of the people who came here before us – the Anasazi – shows they had built cities and farms, all of which dried up during the lengthy droughts. The faint lines of canal systems shows how they dealt with the droughts, managing the environment to suit the needs of the time.
There is nothing new in periods of drought, and nothing new in people managing their environment in order to live here. These things have gone on for hundreds if not thousands of years, on the same land we occupy today.
The answer to the climate problem is not simple or easy, but it must involve managing our forests.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.