The Western View: Wildfires

Taylor HillmanEnvironment, Features, Western View

Stop extreme environmentalism to stop extreme wildfires!

The Western View: Wildfires

We are seeing the dark side of the environmental movement. Thanks in part to the policies enacted in the last 40 years, we have nature on a rampage. Massive wildfires are disrupting lives, killing and injuring people and animals, destroying resources and structures, and costing millions to fight. The smoke pollution alone affects people dozens, even hundreds of miles away, and has been at hazardous levels in the Central Valley.

No doubt, we would have had some fires this year no matter what we did; wildfire is a fact of nature. In past centuries, lightning strikes started fires that burned until the rains came. Native Americans used fire to clear land for eons before the gold rush. But we learned how to keep them from being so devastating.

Early in the 20th century our forefathers created a forest management system that worked. Cattle pruned the chaparral and mature trees were harvested before they could become dangerous. It was good stewardship. But a powerful environmental movement grew in the later part of the 20th century and it became strong enough to stop lumbering, and it is taking the cattle out of the high country. Yet nothing was done to control the fire risk.

The result: massive wildfires. I was in Middletown this spring, and up in the Sierras this summer, and the danger was obvious. The forest was dotted with brown pine trees that had been weakened by drought then killed by a beetle infestation. Those trees stood brown and dry, ready to explode. The brush stood waist-high and thick. It was a disaster waiting to happen, and now it is happening.

The lesson is obvious. Protecting the environment does not mean leaving it alone.

Now it is time to change our ways. Humans have a right to be part of the environment. We have a right to be here, no less than the trees and the rocks, and we can actively manage the forest with lumbering and livestock. Bring back the chainsaw! With proper care and good stewardship we can protect the environment without these devastating fires.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.