Here’s the full article from the Washington Post, reprinted in the Denver Post. Some interesting snips from the article are below. Note: Emphasis added.
University of Colorado Boulder Professor Jennifer Balch said in an email that while treating federal forests makes sense near homes, that policy prescription won’t make a serious dent in the size and intensity of wildfires out West. These fires have increased fivefold since the 1970s as temperatures have risen and snowpack has shrunk. Just 2 percent of lands treated by the Forest Service between 2004 and 2013 experienced a wildfire.
“We can’t log our way out of the fire problem — thinning all the forests is not possible,” the fire ecologist said. “And even if it were, it won’t stop fires in the extreme weather that is happening more frequently, and will in the future.”
The Camp fire’s massive impact came into sharp focus Sunday, as the utility PG&E filed a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission suggesting it would file for bankruptcy because it faces more than $30 billion in liability in connection with the state’s wildfires. The company’s CEO, Geisha Williams, also stepped down Sunday.
Many California residents fault PG&E’s power lines for the wildfires that ravaged the state last year, and the matter is under investigation.
A piece published Nov. 30 in Geophysical Research Letters found that human-induced climate change now influences a fifth of the world’s fires.
Balch noted that the executive order did not address some kinds of the vegetation that makes communities vulnerable to fire, such as the chaparral that spread a fire in November that destroyed hundreds of Malibu-area homes. “You can’t log shrubs,” she said.
Despite the fact that the Forest Service is shuttered, officials there have given loggers permission to keep operating on existing sales — which was prohibited during both the 1995 and 2013 shutdowns — and are now exploring holding new auctions even if the government remains closed.
Agency officials informed staffers Thursday to figure out what it would take to bring back some furloughed employees for new timber sales, according to a federal official who was not authorized to speak on the record. Meanwhile, the important work of removing small vegetation and dry brush that serves as kindling for fires is not being done because of the shutdown, the longest in history as it enters its fourth week.
Employees working without pay and those funded by unspent appropriations from last fiscal year are managing the current harvests, the official said. Timber technicians who go through the forests to mark which trees should be cut are receiving their regular salary. But holding new sales would involve substantially more staff, the official noted.
Trump has repeatedly blamed devastating wildfires out West on poor forest management, rejecting the idea that climate change could be leading to a longer and more intense fire season in the United States.
Standing in the devastated town of Paradise, which the president mistakenly called “Pleasure,” Trump said the United States should follow the example of Finland, which spends “a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.”…
The president has regularly asked advisers how he could punish California for what he deems as poor forestry. Trump has been told repeatedly that he cannot take away money that has already been appropriated for the disaster, according to individuals familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly. Advisers have argued that taking such money from California would only hurt the citizens — not the elected officials he wants to punish….
“Our public lands are supposed to be managed in a way that benefits the people,” said Sam Evans, national forests and parks program leader for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s office in North Carolina. “Trump’s executive order does the exact opposite, by putting policies in place that cater to industry interests.
“It’s not telling the agencies to increase the number of communities protected from fire risks,” Evans said. “It’s telling them to put more logs on trucks, while cutting out environmental review, transparency and accountability to the public.”