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Proposing county authority over public land is ludicrous

After reading Mr. Sauer’s Other Voices piece in the Sept. 6 edition of The Union, “A plan to save our forests,” I thought the correct title should be, “A right-wing plan to takeover local national forests,” or maybe, “Norm Sauer’s plan for a Nevada County coup d’état of the Tahoe National Forest.”

It’s really sad! And, as a friend pointed out, “to people who think like Norm does, ‘law’ is just an inconvenience to be used as either a distraction or skirted at the convenience of ideology. It is ironic for people who claim to be Constitutionalists.” Good point!

Mr. Sauer’s answer for dealing with potential catastrophic wildfire is a new land-use plan created by the county, and with the county taking over the legal authority of federal lands. Clearly, the liability issue alone was not even thought about by Sauer, not to mention the costs, but the nuts and bolts is to get more mining, logging, OHV use, opening up all the closed roads, and of course, cattle grazing.



Yes sir, get those cows chomping riparian vegetation – that sure helps to maintain summer stream flows to our reservoirs and the water quality. And higher OHV use? Why, because they are great for soil stabilization and never cause fires in forests? As far as logging, do we need logging that includes overstory removal and opening up the forest floor to being dried out which results in the growth of more highly flammable understory, or do we need thinning the understory?

To say the least, Sauer’s proposal is ludicrous. It really seemed odd how he skipped all details regarding forestry with his plan to seize control of national forests. If those are his answers to dealing with fire threat on public lands, he sure missed the question!




With regards to opening up roads, that is stunning seeing how national forests all over the Western U.S. are seriously over-roaded and the maintenance costs and watershed degradation costs have been, and continue to be, budget burdens and serious watershed problems. On national forests, road building and clear cutting, along with fire suppression, have created the conditions the forests are in today. Now we have climate change on top of all that. How many people really think local county governments can take on the challenges we face on our public lands today? My guess is not many, except a few politically driven extremists who don’t really think issues through.

What Norm Sauer advocates for solutions are the exact things that have caused many of the current forest problems, along with too much fire suppression. In the Sierra, fire frequency was higher in some forest types and infrequent but stand replacing in other forest types. From what I’ve seen, the Sierra forests can be a real mixed bag of forest types depending on annual precipitation, elevation, slope, aspect and soil productivity.

U.S. Forest Service Region 5 has some pretty good GIS spatial data for mapping that dials in what is out on the ground. My guess is, they could probably have even better vegetation analysis and fire modeling if they had funding for LIDAR. The Remote Sensing Lab would be the ones to agree, or not, on LIDAR. Region 5 has lots of experience with roads and road maintenance costs. What they might need is for the current do-nothing congressmen to get increased funding, targeted only for thinning and fuel reduction projects. Make those goals a requirement and not allow the money to be diverted.

Getting funding would require local congressmen to actually get something done. The congressmen we have now don’t seem interested in doing anything for their districts. Wouldn’t it be great if the BOS could help with lobbying our congressmen?

If Nevada County wants to deal with local fire threat, start with the areas in the county on private lands. The lands for which they were the governing agency that approved parcel split after parcel split without doing road improvements in areas of high fire threat. God help, more likely Cal Fire, help those folks who may need to evacuate quickly in areas of Nevada County with narrow, winding roads and overgrown highly flammable brush if there is a wind driven wildfire. It wasn’t the Tahoe National Forest that approved all those parcel splits and development, it was the county! That is where the county should focus first.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t get led down some crazy road local extremists seem fixated on. It’s complete rubbish!

Steve Willer lives in Grass Valley.


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