Virginia Moran: Cheney’s ‘Healthy Forests Restoration Act’ was anything but |

Virginia Moran: Cheney’s ‘Healthy Forests Restoration Act’ was anything but

Regarding the article on logging and thinning for fire safety, thank you. This is a conversation that needs to happen. It is well known the creation of this paradigm, kill native vegetation to prevent fires, was codified by former Vice President Dick Cheney when he sponsored the so-called Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003.

This act only funds native vegetation destruction. Nothing else. I encourage everyone to read it. It was heralded as a way to revive the timber industry with the added bonus that after the wood homes (made of trees) burn down, they could benefit from the rebuilding of yet another (ply)wood home. It has now been almost 20 years and it has been a near colossal failure.

Millions of “fire treated” lands (and for all intensive purposes your public tax dollars) have still burned, and over 50,000 structures have been lost but more tragically, hundreds of lives have been lost.

The opening of closed-canopy forests has accelerated the melting of our precious snowpack (just drive Highway 20 in January). That we are still building/rebuilding wood homes, even as I type, in a worsening drought and under intensifying climate change, is nothing less than insanity.

There is also corruption/lack of accountability with these publicly funded “fire safety” projects. On my own I have visited some of these locations and documented wetland destruction, ponds filled in, and invasive species type conversions then magically some of these lands go up for sale, their biological resources destroyed which makes approvals all the swifter.

I work with people who try to do the right thing sometimes at great expense. That there is no/limited accountability with these, again, publicly funded “fire clearing” projects concerns me greatly.

Our state fire department is also our forestry department. The first thing we must do is separate fire prevention from the conflicts of interest with the timber industry by creating an entirely new state Department of Fire Prevention, Research, and Victim Assistance.

California should be on the cutting edge of fire-resistant structure research and outreach. California has all but abandoned its fire victims, many of which cleared and logged their properties, and still lost everything. I am one of them.

More compelling for me personally because I have family members in law enforcement who risk their lives every day is, at the very least, should we not do everything we can to save the lives of our firefighters?

A fire captain I know described the fires in California now “like a nuclear war every year.” California has shamelessly put climate change on the backs of our firefighters. I care about our firefighters. Is this not all the more reason to use all the tools in the toolbox, not just those that benefit one industry?

How does a clearing project 25 miles from our homes save them from burning down? In looking at the data and information, what you can get anyway because it generally is “not kept” or “available,” it doesn’t — and isn’t this the point — to save lives and homes?

Where are the grant programs to directly protect/harden our homes? Install gravity-fed water tanks for firefighting? We tried. We were told there is no funding for this kind of thing but someone would be glad to cut our trees down.

How much more destruction and loss will it take for us to use everything we can for fire prevention? I ask those governing California: What are you waiting for and if it comes down to politics, you do this at the expense of more loss of lives and homes, including those of our firefighters.

If you agree, please contact your legislators. For more information see my website at

Virginia Moran lives in Grass Valley.

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