“KEEP OUR FORESTS” is the title of the “A Declaration, and Call to Action, from California’s Scientists, Land Managers and Former Government Leaders.” It’s named for the historic Venado district of West Colusa County, where a meeting was held and the document was signed. Signatories include former Gov. Jerry Brown, former CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott, and a number of scientists, timber company reps, and NGOs. Among 4 key principles is:
Address forest resiliency on every acre. We know that fire will eventually impact all of the landscape,
so we must have a plan to address forest resiliency on every acre. Planned fuels treatments should
include the use of fire whenever possible to increase the amount of forestland treated. For example, a
proactive policy and regulatory strategy is needed to maintain future forest health. NEPA and CEQA
should be updated to consider the detrimental impacts of decades of fire suppression on our forested
landscapes and the importance of beneficial fire on maintaining forest health.
The last sentence is a great one for discussing here on Smokey Wire. How might NEPA be “updated to consider the detrimental impacts of decades of fire suppression on our forested landscapes and the importance of beneficial fire on maintaining forest health”?
8 thoughts on “California’s Venado Declaration: Modify NEPA?”
Interesting that this was done independent of the Newsom administration. Regarding CEQA, it pushes you towards significant adverse impacts for air quality with prescribed burning due to the inability to achieve air quality limits. After 50 years, it’s not a bad idea to address these landmark laws.
To answer your question, I would say it’s not the tool, but how you use it. I heard that statement several times from CEQ officials during my career. The rub here is that I believe we cannot legislate our way to the land conditions we want. We have the necessary decision-making tools available to us. The variables that limit effective use of these tools are public opinion (the raging debate about what is the “right” thing to do) and judicial interpretation (evaluating whether regulated procedures were followed).
For the Sierra Nevada, NEPA does slow down the ‘pace and scale’ of thinning. However, the delays are necessary to do actual surveys. The surveys are not only legally important, but ecologically important, as well. To me, it is a cost of doing business, and the Forest Service should not pursue any changes in that arena. Thinning projects, as currently produced, face very little litigation threats. Hire the people and get the work done.
“NEPA and CEQA should be updated to consider the detrimental impacts of decades of fire suppression on our forested landscapes and the importance of beneficial fire on maintaining forest health.”
This was written by someone who didn’t know what they were talking about (or just wanted to make a political statement). The first point is already a requirement of the “affected environment” in NEPA documents, and the latter should be part of the discussion of the effects of alternatives (presumably positive for proposed use of fire).
There’s a bill going through the CA Senate right now, AB 267 which would exempt fuel reduction and thinning projects from CEQA if they have already been reviewed under NEPA. It doesn’t directly reform either law, but it would help.
Does CEQA apply to federal land? I thought it doesn’t. Maybe the bill would apply to Shared Stewardship and Good Neighbor Authority projects.
The two key words here are “detrimental” and “importance.” I agree with Jon that this is just blather. Also, the “every acre” perspective is silly, whatever is meant by “forest resiliency.”
Who are the so-called “scientists” that signed this nonsense, how many are actually modelers, and which ones are being funded by taxpayers? That’s what I would like to know. Jerry Brown is a given.
I had to check it out. Sad to say, there were a couple of signers on this list that disappointed me — most of the others I have no idea who they are, but they appear to be government and university employees for the most part. The bottom line is their #1 Urgent Recommendation: “Spend $5 billion annually on proactive management. Allocate $5 billion per year from public/private sources for proactive fuels reduction, workforce development, infrastructure, and other facets of community fire adaptation.” Apparently that will pay for “forest resiliency” on “every acre” the signers determine is “important.” Something like that. Your taxpayer dollars at work.