Let’s Discuss: Other D Candidates’ Wildfire Proposals

from this website https://www.270towin.com/2020-democratic-nomination

In yesterday’s post, I quoted from Bloomberg’s website. It’s harder to find this information for others, but this article in the Desert Sun, did a nice job of rounding up the other candidates’ answers (although like for my requests from the campaigns, not everyone responded). Thanks to Susan Britting for providing this link! Also note that Malcolm North, a Forest Service Research scientist, was allowed to talk to the press and even design a thoughtful question for the candidates.


Wildfires pose an especially serious threat to low-income communities, people with disabilities, and seniors. That’s why Elizabeth has committed to:

*Improving fire mapping and prevention by investing in advanced modeling with a focus on helping the most vulnerable — incorporating not only fire vulnerability but community demographics.
*Prioritize these data to invest in land management, particularly near the most vulnerable communities, supporting forest restoration, lowering fire risk, and creating jobs all at once.
*Invest in microgrid technology, so that we can de-energize high-risk areas when required without impacting the larger community’s energy supply.
*Collaborate with Tribal governments on land management practices to reduce wildfires, including by incorporating traditional ecological practices and exploring co-management and the return of public resources to indigenous protection wherever possible.
*She’s also committed to prioritizing at-risk populations in disaster planning and response and strengthening rules to require disaster response plans to uphold the rights of vulnerable populations. A Warren administration will center a right to return for individuals who have been displaced during a disaster and while relocation should be a last resort, when it occurs, she is committed to improving living standards and keeping communities together whenever possible.

My take: not so sure more modeling is needed, I’m assuming “more vulnerable” means old and/or poor and/or minority. It sounds like spending a lot of money to figure out how to prioritize spending money. This is one of those things that it would be interesting to see what it would look like in practice. Maybe poorer communities get fuel treatments around them, and richer communities need to pitch in? Perhaps it already works that way in practice. The idea of “returning public resources to indigenous protection wherever possible” sounds interesting. I’m not sure how I think the federal government should be involved in a “right to return.” Seems to me like something that should be worked out between people, communities, their local governments, and insurers.

Pete Buttigieg: wildfires are included in climate change and resilient infrastructure.

Tom Steyer:

As part of my Justice Centered Climate Plan, I will invest nearly $500 billion in the upkeep and protection of our watersheds, wetlands, national parks, and forests — and this includes fire management as well as protecting our clean drinking water. Because while some of the impacts of climate change are already here, there are levelheaded preventative measures we can take to protect ourselves and our forests from the worst dangers. My plan puts $555 billion into developing climate-smart communities and housing and an additional $755 billion into adaptation, resilience, and green infrastructure. This will ensure that the people who are displaced from fires and flooding have affordable places to live with access to green space. And it will also ensure that they have good-paying jobs building our new climate-resilient infrastructure, protecting our lands and waters, and serving communities hit by the climate crisis as long-term disaster recovery workers.

That’s a lot of money, but I’m curious about the “levelheaded preventative measures” and if those are the same as “developing climate-smart communities and housing” or “upkeep and protection” of private and federal lands.

Bernie Sanders:

We must invest now in mitigating these more frequent and severe wildfires, making our infrastructure more resilient, and preparing for disaster response. We must change our framework of fire suppression and forest management to take the whole local ecosystem into account, including the rural communities who are most vulnerable.

In California, developers are building houses in fire hazard zones, a move partially driven by the housing shortage. Bernie is committed to fully closing the 7.4 million unit shortage of affordable housing to guarantee housing to all as a right. We will work to ensure housing growth is climate-resilient, with experts and impacted communities included every step of the way.

We’ll expand the wildfire restoration and disaster preparedness workforce. We’ll increase federal funding for firefighting by $18 billion to deal with the increased severity and frequency of wildfires. Furthermore, we must facilitate community evacuation plans that include people experiencing homelessness, and increase social cohesion for rapid and resilient disaster recovery to avoid the use of martial law and increased policing in disaster response.

We’ll also amend the Stafford Act to ensure that FEMA ensures that recovery and rebuilding efforts make affected communities stronger than they were before the disaster so they are more resilient to the next disaster.

There are certainly many more voters (and delegates) in California, as the map above shows, so perhaps a California-centric view of wildfires is appropriate. Still, the relationship between housing shortages and living in fire-prone areas (grasslands, shrublands and forests) is more complicated in the Interior West than a lack of affordable housing in the cities. People would rather be here, and many are retired or work from home.

I like the idea of increasing social cohesion (but the martial law thing is a little scary). However, I wonder how politicians who spend their lives saying bad things about their opponents (and sometimes their supporters) can quickly spin to uniting people and community-building. I’ll be glad to see it if he is elected.

The other candidates apparently did not respond to the Desert Sun’s query (nor mine).

I’d have to give the “thoughtfulness about wildfire” aka “not just another climate issue” award to Bloomberg and Warren. Others have told me that they have more staff and that could be the reason. Certainly they are the only two who answered my questions, so there might be something to that. What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Other D Candidates’ Wildfire Proposals”

  1. Invest, invest, invest. Yes, but most candidates also have big plans to invest in much larger projects, from a Green New Deal to free college tuition. I’d like to hear from any candidate who can articulate a plausible path to a better-funded and staffed USFS, significantly more fuels and forest-health work across ownerships, and expand forest and forest-products research.

    • No one seems to be offering any solution to getting bipartisan support for forest issues. Both sides are talking past each other and not addressing actual fuels management and wildfire mitigation work, on the ground. How can these candidates deal with 80 years of fire suppression?

    • Hi Matthew, do you have any comments about closure of the RY sawmill in Montana? They say it is because they can’t harvest their federal timber sales due to law suites against the projects. Sounds like the small town where they are located is going to be pretty hard hit.

      • Not really, but Mike Garrity sure did.

        See: https://missoulian.com/opinion/columnists/public-loses-on-federal-timber-sales/article_02d9c96c-2175-53e9-8e6d-36cb02fee8a0.html

        Public loses on federal timber sales
        By Mike Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies

        When Idaho billionaire Ron Yanke purchased the timber mills in Townsend and Livingston years ago to form RY Timber, he also bought lots of former Anaconda Company timberland. But just like Champion International and Plum Creek Timber who, according to a University of Montana study, cut trees three times faster than they could grow back, RY has already overcut their private land.

        Both Champion and Plum Creek are gone from Montana, but at least Champion was honest about why it left, stating in the Wall Street Journal in the early 1990s that trees simply grow too slowly in Montana. Champion then clearcut its timberlands and reinvested the money in the Southeast, where tree farms can be harvested a decade after planting rather than the century or more it takes to reach harvestable size in Montana.

        Plum Creek did the same thing, thanks to a board decision to “liquidate” its forest assets in the late ’80s and turn itself into a real estate investment trust to sell its marketable Montana lands for subdivision and development as Weyerhauser acquired its mills.

        In spite of this sad but well-documented history of timber operations in Montana, RY is blaming environmentalists for what they claim is an insufficient supply of timber from national forests. The basic economic principles of over-supply and over-production in the timber industry are the real problems.

        As Julia Altemus, logging lobbyist and director of the Montana Wood Products Association, told the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney: “There’s been a lot of over-production across the board. We have too much wood in the system and people weren’t building. That will make it tougher for us. What would help is if we could find new markets.”

        When Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. cut back its mill production cycle from 80 to 50 hours weekly, manager Paul McKenzie told the Hungry Horse News: “It’s purely market driven… demand for lumber across the country is down… supply has actually been good.”

        In fact, the “supply” from national forests is more than just good. Last year the Forest Service received no bids on 17.5% of the timber if offered, up from 15.6% that received no bids in 2018. That’s 615 million board feet that weren’t cut in 2019 because the timber industry did not bid on it. The truth is that Region 1 of the Forest Service, which includes Montana, has increased the amount of timber offered by 141% in the last 10 years and the cost to taxpayers continues to climb to staggering heights.

        A report by the Center for a Sustainable Economy found “taxpayer losses of nearly $2 billion a year associated with the federal logging program carried out on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands. Despite these losses, the Trump administration plans to significantly increase logging on these lands in the years ahead, a move that would plunge taxpayers into even greater debt.”

        Adding to that debt are significant “externalized” costs to the public when new logging roads are bulldozed into unroaded areas. Runoff fills streams with sediment that smothers fish eggs and aquatic insects. More logging also reduces forested habitat for elk, which then seek safety on private lands, resulting in problems from “game damage.”

        The Montana timber industry once again wants to rape and run. Just as environmentalists were not to blame for its overcut private lands (which are now filled with stumps, knapweed and degraded streams), environmentalists should now be lauded, not blamed, for trying to stop such destruction on our public lands.


        Also, see: “Jobs to come to Livingston after RY Timber closes in Townsend.”

        “RY Timber Inc. said in a news release Monday that layoffs at the Townsend location will begin in April, and that the closure would affect about 70 employees….Ed Regan with RY Timber Inc. said the Livingston sawmill would add approximately 35 to 40 jobs after the Townsend mill is closed. Some employees in Townsend may be transferred to Livingston to fill the added positions.”

        • Again, taxpayers’ losses have also increased in the FS recreation program. If “runoff fills streams with sediment” then Montana’s BMPs are not working. What evidence do we have to support that claim?
          Finally, not to be a snowflake, but I do hate using the term “rape” to refer to FS timber sales. Just.. really.

        • Thanks for the response. I know plum creek well. But they were talking about federal timber sales they purchased but can’t harvest because of law suites. I also know how devastating losing 70 jobs in a small town can be. Those 70 jobs probably supported another 100 jobs. The lumber market has been pretty good,
          but who knows what the coronavirus will do to it. Most of these people will vote for Trump. Can you blame them?

    • Everyone’s been talking about Trump quite sufficiently IMHO and Zinke is long gone.. some of us have to vote in a primary soon, and that’s why I thought looking at candidates’ views might be helpful. Also they might have interesting ideas to try, or impractical ones..which might tell us something about their staff and how deeply they dissect issues. Or not.

  2. The “environmental terrorist groups” have been very active in California. Consider all this evidence:

    The state of California just experienced its driest February on record.

    According to the National Weather Service “Downtown San Francisco recorded 0.00″ of rain in February 2020. The last time San Francisco saw no rain in February was in 1864.”

    According to climate scientist Daniel Swain:

    “Well, it’s official: most of California just experienced driest February on record. Locations like Ukiah, Sacramento, Redding, & San Francisco recorded no rain *at all* during a month at peak of the rainy season. Wildfire concerns are elevated this week.”

    Swain, who was commenting on a February 28th brush fire on the top of San Bruno Mountain, also said:

    “That we’re seeing *any* wildfire activity in late February in northern California is extremely unusual–let alone this kind of very active fire behavior currently occurring <10 miles from downtown San Francisco."

    Commenting on the "Baseball Fire" burning east of Covelo, Swain said:

    "It is pretty astonishing that there is a 40+ acre wildfire with a 'moderate rate of spread' currently burning--in late February--in *Mendocino County.* February is typically peak of the rainy season in what is usually quite a wet part of California."

    Finally, let's wrap up an update on the wrath of the "environmental terrorist groups" by highlighting the fact that the National Weather Service reported that:

    "At 106 miles per hour, Sill Hill (a very windy location in the San Diego County Mountains), is at least close to, and may be the highest wind gust ever measured in San Diego County. The wind gust occurred at 1:50 AM on 2/26/2020 during a Santa Ana Wind."


Leave a Reply to Larry Harrell Fotoware Cancel reply