California wildfire
Poor forest policy is making conflagrations all over California the new norm as forest thinning and logging was halted decades ago.

Is climate change being falsely accused of sparking California conflagrations?

Climate change is the new scapegoat for failed forest and water policy

Blaming climate change for the recent California fires and the state’s water woes appear to be like the kid blaming his dog for eating his homework.

The reality of climate change isn’t the issue. The earth’s climate has warmed and cooled since the beginning of time. Mankind’s impact on climate change remains debatable and laced with hyperbole that does little to solve problems but much to perpetuate political agendas and poor public policy.

Not to be out done, President Trump jumped into the mix recently with a typical tweet that cast the blame on state officials for taking water that otherwise could be used to extinguish fires. While California and the feds seem to be in the business of banning human access to fresh water, that’s not the issue.

Decades ago a hue and cry went out across the U.S. that the timber industry was killing the Northern Spotted Owl, and to end this, logging had to stop. A major California newspaper did a series of stories on logging that used hyperbole and exaggerations, along with some very good photography, to sell this point and win a Pulitzer Prize.

Logging was stopped. Small towns crumbled, and forests became so overgrown that they began to die. Too many trees then competed for a finite amount of water that fell on the forests during the winter months. A northern California rancher once told me that streams and springs he knew as a child dried up because of this competition for water.

This forced deer and elk migrations to change and further changed natural patterns in the forest that exacerbated the problem. Voter-approved ESA-like protections given to the mountain lion didn’t help as the large predators decimate deer herds that once foraged on the forest. We’ve now introduced wolves that will further cause declines in deer and elk populations and force ranchers grazing their cattle on public lands to relocate them.

Stressed trees became fodder for the bark beetle that also killed vast forest vistas. The view from highways connecting places like Susanville and Red Bluff, or Chester and Quincy bear this out. Forest Service policies of squashing just about every lightning-sparked fire compounded the issue as fire has always been a natural part of the forest ecosystem. It is now virtually impossible to have a small, controllable fire anymore.

The consequences of decisions like these are legion, and expensive. Lives and property are lost and destroyed as millions of dollars in fire suppression costs, infrastructure repair and insurance claims are racked up annually because of mankind’s mismanagement of forests.

Public policy is not going to reverse heating and cooling cycles that moved the planet in and out of ice ages. We are likely at the apex of a warm cycle and, according to information I’ve heard, some scientists believe a cyclical change in sunspot patterns may soon move us into a period of cooling.

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