Forestry Management and California Wildfires

By pjain      Published Nov. 4, 2019, 3:06 a.m. in blog Gardening   

California Wildfires - Keys & Trends - Todo

Is it unwise to buy land near forested lands - or is it a bargain?

Blackouts continue as Renewables - mainly wind shutdown by >35 mpg winds

Newsom, after eight years as Brown’s sidekick, now blames “dog-eat-dog capitalism meeting climate change.” He is trying to scapegoat Pacific Gas and Electric, the nation’s largest private utility, which has cut power to 1.5 million Californians this week in a series of pre-emptive blackouts to prevent its equipment igniting more fires, and ward off the lawsuits that have bankrupted it. But, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board has pointed out, the bungling and money-wasting at PG&E was largely driven by leftist policies of the Brown-Newsom regime. The Democratic political strategy was to use the company to advance their climate agenda, including laws mandating that 60 percent of electricity come from renewables by 2030. The upshot is that Californians paid an average 19.86 cents per kilowatt-hour for their electricity in August 2019, which is 50 percent more than the national average.

Solutions

Controlled fires, allow burns

Regular systematic prescribed burning to remove ground fuel, as Native Americans used to do, is one partial solution,

Allow Controlled Logging has been restricted - Dense forests

If we never logged and we allowed the natural fire cycle to occur, we wouldn’t have to log now. Over the last century, we prevented the natural fire cycle. This wasn’t a problem until recently because logging thinned the forest as fire used to. Logging died at the hands of the misguided environmentalists in this state over the last 30-40 years. Fuels have accumulated. Logging thins forests and prevents wildfires from becoming catastrophic.

Poor management policies for the last century have left forests vulnerable to fires. .. The costs of long neglecting and mismanaging forests have become an unsustainable burden in California. Old divisions between the timber industry and environmentalists hinder policy goals to thin overgrown forests to their original conditions. -- Little Hoover Commission report

Allow Grazing on Shrublands

Managing the state’s 7.5 million acres of shrubs is not likely feasible at all.

If we were to try to periodically remove shrubs across the entire state we would need a budget similar to our military let alone the ecological damage this would create. -- Peter Stine, a retired research scientist for the US Forest Service in Davis, Calif

  1. Using earthmoving equipment to dig through to the ground to create 30'+ fire barriers be dug through, as seen in many public parks is one way However, this requires roads to allow equipment to get access, as well as paying for that to be done - which individual owners may not want to do.

  2. Grazing has been opposed for many suspect environmental reasons. Grazing thins brush. Grass fires are easy to fight and stay small. Brush fires are hard to fight and grow large quickly. In this way fire climbs to larger and larger fuels until it races through the crowns of the trees, leaving behind something eerily reminiscent of a nuclear blast.

Ban and destroy homes that cannot be defended near future fires

[Solution lies in ] increased prescribed burning and dedicating more money and jobs toward forest management — measures the state is already adopting. -- Little Hoover Commission, CA oversight agency early 2019

Harden Remaining Homes

One solution is “hardening the houses on the front line” so they can withstand embers,

Bury Electric Distribution Lines that cause fires

Spending money on burying underground the power lines that spark so many fires.

Causes of California Wildfires - Keys & Trends

Dry Climate is a factor - "We can't do anything"

The importance of climate change is a key factor in causing more frequent and destructive fires .. an increase in dry conditions in already-dry areas lead to a higher likelihood of drought.

Portions of California are periodically consumed by fire, made worse by seven months of no rain, winds gusting at more than 50 mph and fuel moisture levels that are perilously low. All this is made worse with global warming -- Stine

Invasive Bark Beetle killing Trees - making them Kindling

Between 2010 and 2017, drought and bark beetle infestation contributed to the death of 129 million trees in the Sierra Nevada, increasing the risks of wildfires in the region -- U.S. Forest Service.

Cause: Federal owns 57%, Private 39%, State only 2%

  • California has 33 million acres of forests

  • While Trump has criticized state government bulk is not in its control.

Cause: Too much money spent fighting fires aggressively

The increased building of housing near forests that have resulted in the need to battle more blazes to save property and lives often as people refuse to evacuate to fires that seem to be miles away, but then when a 200' conifer explodes in flames in 100mph winds, burning branches can fly a mile or more unpredictably.

Policies of aggressively fighting every fire, however, have resulted in the loss of that natural thinning. This aggressive fire suppression has made matters worse, leaving forests overgrown and plagued by dangerous fuel loads.

We’ve reached the limit of the “fire suppression model” where the best and bravest firefighters use the mightiest equipment to extinguish fires. -- Stephen Pyne, top bushfire historians, and emeritus professor at Arizona State University

In addition, federal and state restrictions on logging caused timber harvesting in California to decline more than 70 percent between the late 1980s and 2012, according to a U.S. Forest Service report. Trees in federal forests where timber harvesting is prohibited have high mortality rates from wildfire, and dying trees currently outpace new growth, according to a -- California Air Resources Board (CARB) report

“When John Muir arrived and discovered Yosemite we had about 40 trees to an acre. Today we have hundreds of trees to an acre,” said Rich Gordon, president of the California Forestry Association, an industry group. “We will be better off if we can get closer to the way our forests once were.”

  • Since 2000:
    • Federal funds deployed to manage the lands has decreased
    • US Forest Service budget has remained flat
    • The money to fight fires has risen dramatically - spent mostly by the state

Overgrown CA Forests make it Far worse

California’s increasingly dry and overgrown forests are, effectively, large-scale tinderboxes.

Environmentalists Good intentions Block better management! A key factor - distorts sane wildlands management

“With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!” .. There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” -- Trump tweet

When “we try to thin forests of dead and dying timber, or we try to sustainably harvest timber from dense and fire-prone areas, we are attacked with frivolous litigation from radical environmentalists who would rather see forests and communities burn than see a logger in the woods.” -- Trump's ex-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Cause: Access Blocked - reduces ability to thin forests

There has long been a push to block access and create wilderness areas. This makes access more difficult during emergencies. This stops firewood scavenging in the national forests. Firewood collection creates mini fuel breaks along any open forest road. Only dead and down trees are legal to collect.

Cause: Endangered sub-species stops wildfire prevention sanity

The constant “discovery” of “subspecies” by scientists whose funding and careers depend on finding them is dubious at best. Often good management practices are halted at the order of a court when one of the “subspecies” is “discovered” on a parcel of land.

Cause: Water quality excuses halt prevention

Water quality is frequently used to halt grazing, logging, access, and other effective management tools.

Cause: Air pollution fears shutdown controlled burns - end in devastating Wildfires

Air districts have a narrow window of air quality in which controlled burns are allowed. It would be much better to allow a little more air pollution from controlled burns then to wait for massive wildfires with extreme air quality problems.

Plans for prescribed burning “to rid the forests of dense ground cover often clash with regional air-quality regulations -- Little Hoover Commission report

There’s also the problem of air quality in the smog trap of the Los Angeles basin, which has led to draconian measures to eliminate air pollution. Add the vocal opposition of urbanites to breathing in smoke, and authorities have shied away over the years from conducting the sort of prescribed burns needed to reduce dangerous fuel loads.

Wildlands Management Technical

Proper Wildlands resource management

  • Wildlands resource management includes

Forest management Policy has changed

Timeline of Forestry Management

  • For thousands of years, Native American fire practices lit periodic low-intensity fires, helped renew forests and kept them from becoming too dense.
  • Till late 60s, throughout the US, there was a policy of controlled fires
  • 1970s - Forest Service had changed that practice
  • 1988 a massive fire in Yellowstone National Park in 1988 caused the practice of letting fires burn where possible to be scrolled back
  • By 2007+ Yosemite, etc. allowed fires as natural and attempt to revert forests to natural state promoting larger trees like Oak and Sequoia.
  • 2016 Gov. Jerry Brown famously vetoed a bipartisan wildfire management bill that would have mandated “prescribed burns,” claiming the work already was being done.
  • Newsom, after eight years as Brown’s sidekick - Nothing has worked with $30b+ in damage to PG&E alone in 2018, 2019 fires.

Chaparral management

The 2019 Woolsey fire burning near Malibu in Southern California is being fueled by coastal chaparral.

oak woodland management

Grass land management

Desert management

Riparian management - trees grow around rivers

Invasive species management

Examples of Wildfires and References

Camp Fire - started in

Camp Fire, the massive wildfire that has destroyed 6,500 buildings and killed 29 people, started near or on federal land at the very lower boundary of the Plumas National Forest, an area which mostly shrubland and a bit of pine forest. The winds blew the fire to the west, which burned through predominantly shrubs, oaks and grass. CalFire listed the origin of the fire at Pulga Road at Camp Creek Road near Jarbo Gap. The fire spread over the vast majority of land that has burned so far in private hands where bulk of shrubs lie.

PG&E Being destroyed

Resources


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