By Douglas V. Gibbs
Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host

President Trump stated that improper land management induced by liberal left policies is behind the problem of massive wildfires in California.  I agreed with him, using Oregon as an example to prove my point.

Jarrett Stepman of the Daily Signal has spelled out Trump’s, and my, argument very clearly, clearly articulating that liberal environmental policies are leading to bigger California Fires, which means that the blood of the dead from this last fire is on the hands of the environmentalists, and their allies in the Democrat Party.

Stepman explains that as the stricken communities are adding up the tragic death toll, the horrific California blazes have not only killed people, but they have “inflicted untold property damage, laid waste to towns and huge swaths of wildland.”

The wildfires are becoming an annual norm, and they don’t have to be.

Donald J. Trump tweeted:  @realDonaldTrump
 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!

The liberal left Democrats were up in arms.  How dare he.

Some even argued that these fires, or at least the Southern California ones, weren’t even the kind of fires that could be influence by poor land management.  Others, as Stepman points out, “have argued that the kind of land management that Trump is calling for is too costly or simply impossible. Many others argue that the problem is global warming and that Trump is exacerbating the problem through his policy agenda.”

Stepman of the Daily Signal addresses the climate change argument by quoting one of his own articles where he uses a 2015 Reason Foundation study to defend his point:

“While it is possible that climate change has played a role in increasing the size of fires, the primary cause seems to be forest management practices, which have changed several times over the course of the past 200 years.”

While, Stepman points out, the total number of fires has remained steady and even decreased, the change we’ve seen in recent years is the “uptick in huge infernos that cause widespread devastation.”

He also points out that the connection between this increase in wildfires and the land management policy changes that have occurred since the 1970s is pretty hard to miss.

Laws like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, according to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., “have resulted in endlessly time-consuming and cost-prohibitive restrictions and requirements that have made the scientific management of our forests virtually impossible.” 

These laws, and others like them, have drastically reduced the amount of forest thinning and controlled burns that used to effectively keep wildland from becoming a danger to people and property. 

“One problem for landowners is disposing of deadwood. Dozens of biomass facilities that burn tree parts that can’t be used for lumber have closed due to emissions regulations and competition from subsidized renewables and cheap natural gas,” wrote The Wall Street Journal.

Stepman, in agreement with the Wall Street Journal, also points out the irony of it all, noting that while environmentalists support these laws, “destruction from fires imperils species far more than does regulated tree-clearing.”

Former California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, who now lives in Texas, explained how land management has changed dramatically in the last century and why it’s contributing to the increase in large fires. 

@ChuckDeVore:  In the mid-1800s, at the dawn of photography, photos showed an open California landscape with isolated stands of pines and oak. The Native population used fire to clear land so there would be game animals and other food. #CaliforniaFires 

In addition to poor land management policies which have made land management more difficult for the government, according to DeVore, they’ve also decimated the value of the land to the point that private operators have no incentive to promote an active, healthy land management.

There is now more dead plant matter in California than ever before.

DeVore wrote in Forbes: “Federal lands have not been managed for decades, threatening adjacent private forests, while federal funds designated for forest maintenance have been ‘borrowed’ for fire suppression expenses. The policies frequently reduce the economic value of the forest to zero. And, with no intrinsic worth remaining, interest in maintaining the forest declined, and with it, resources to reduce the fuel load.”

In short, as I explained in my article about the same problem emerging in Oregon, undergrowth, and dead material, is providing plenty of kindling for larger and more ferocious fires.  Or, as Stepman wrote, “An awesome amount of forest made wide swaths of California a tinderbox just waiting for a spark.”

The USDA Forest Service states that there are an estimated 129 million dead trees over a territory of 8.9 million acres across California.

This doesn’t even account for the shrubs and brush that have been the primary contributors to the most recent fires, and underbrush that would be cleaned out in some places by loggers if they were allowed to selectively log in those regions.

Why was it possible a century ago to do a good job at land management, but somehow today we can’t?

Stepman points out that there are “plenty of ideas we can do to turn around the disaster out West, from abandoning extreme and ultimately misguided environmentalist regulations to devolving land management from federal to state and local authorities (where it actually constitutionally belongs, in the first place), to even more entrepreneurial solutions like creating more privately managed charter forests.”

While forest fires, wildfires, and fires in general cannot be completely prevented, the reality is there are things we can do to reduce the odds of what happened with the Camp Fire, where the entire town of Paradise was destroyed, and 90% of the homes were burned down.

As with anything, there is no switch we can simply flip to resolve the problem.  No problem has that kind of quick fix, no matter what it is.  However, as Stepman points out in his article, there are ways to work towards reducing the frequency, and perhaps even the ferocity, of future wildfires in the West.

President Trump, having no fear of the liberal left’s attacks and propaganda, was simply willing to point all of this out.  And for his honesty, the liberal left has launched a whole new fake news tirade against him.

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