Virginia Moran: ‘Healthy Forests Initiative’ a misnomer |

Virginia Moran: ‘Healthy Forests Initiative’ a misnomer

“In a move that could ultimately damage forests and worsen the effects of fires in California and the West, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., cut a deal this week in Congress that assures passage of the Bush administration’s plan to increase logging in our national forests.

Deceptively named the ‘Healthy Forests Initiative’ by the administration, the legislation would allow increased logging of healthy mature and old-growth trees on federal lands under the guise of fire-risk reduction. Scientists have consistently stated that removing the larger, more fire-resistant trees will make matters worse …”

It goes on … this was published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003 (by Chad Hanson) and it has turned out to be prophetic. The so-called “Healthy Forests” legislation is turning out to be one of the greatest tragedies since being passed. It is nothing less than a deceptive and destructive lie.

Since “Healthy Forests” was passed, thousands of homes in California have burned down and hundreds of lives have been lost. Doesn’t sound like a success to me! Apparently it doesn’t matter. The science is also showing massive mechanical removal of our native vegetation is not stopping fires and it won’t.

The Act of 2003 must be replaced by legislation focused to (gasp) save homes and lives.

I imagine one day, future generations will look back at this time as strange and misguided, in particular the ridiculous targeting of manzanita as the cause of all our fire problems. Manzanita was revered and celebrated by the Native Americans that lived in this area and it is important to native bees (and non-native bees) and wildlife. Manzanita does not start fires. What starts fires is what replaces it — non-native grasses. One spark does not set woody vegetation off. One spark does set grasses off. The Paradise fire was caused by dry non-native grasses, not woody plants.

Regarding the latest ecological massacre off Dog Bar, I wasn’t worried when the manzanita was there. A spark can land on manzanita and it will not spontaneously combust. But when the “fire break” fills in with grasses, one spark can set it off. (Sympathies to Hansen Brothers right next door). What they have done with the clearing off Dog Bar is nothing less than laid a wick in the middle of gunpowder — the wick being the grasses that will now come in/act as the fire starter. If the winds are blowing to the south, the fire will take out Rattlesnake and Alta Sierra. Also, that area was once full of incredible native wildflowers. What a waste.

Perhaps most hypocritical is this scam was shuttled through the system by Dick Cheney during the Bush Jr. years, and California is in love with it. Ask if there are incentives to get a fire safe roof? Ask if there are grants for community gravity fed water tanks? Ask why the county made it easier for new homes to go in on steep slopes? Ask about anything but killing California’s biodiversity in the name of “protecting” your homes and you are told there is nothing else. There is also the convenient fact that after the massive clearing (again for your “safety”), these places are far easier to develop (ironic isn’t it?).

When we ask for data regarding if the massive cleared areas have burned anyway, we are told the data “isn’t taken” or “available.” How can this be? How can millions of acres be cleared for “fire safety” and nobody monitors if it’s working? Why not? How many millions of tax dollars have been spent in the name of “fire safety” that, in fact, is not?

Any citizen can monitor these places as I have done the past decade since my own home burned down (and I cleared; didn’t make a damn difference). I call on all citizens to keep an eye on these places that have been “fire cleared” (with your tax dollars). Do they fill in with invasive grasses, Scotch broom? Do they still burn? Will they stop your home from burning down? They may not want to monitor these things, but we can.

The “Healthy” Forests “Restoration” Act of 2003 must be replaced by legislation focused to (gasp) save homes and lives. Fire planning must be based on wind frequency/speed over and above “fuels” (it’s all fuel under the right conditions — high winds). The idea that one industry is capitalizing on the misery and tragedy of our citizens, “like a nuclear war every year now,” as one firefighter put it to me, is nothing less than an abomination.

Contact your legislators or just cut/print this out and send it to them. Thank you.

Virginia Moran lives in Grass Valley.

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