George Boardman: Trump administration takes a step to ease the western fire threat | TheUnion.com

George Boardman: Trump administration takes a step to ease the western fire threat

George Boardman
Columnist

The furious fires that are currently laying waste to large sections of Northern California are truly apocalyptic in their intensity.

"The fires are just literally burning faster than firefighters can run in some situations," said Ken Pimlott, chief of Cal Fire.

Gov. Jerry Brown expects the fires to set a new record in terms of cost and damage, but none of those numbers reflect the emotional and psychological cost to people who saw a lifetime of work disappear in minutes, or who lost loved ones.

The storms — and the fire season — are far from over, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to make political points. Global warming is being promoted as a primary reason for these hellacious events, along with people insisting on moving deeper into wild lands that make houses harder to protect.

...it’s time for California and neighboring states to follow the federal lead and enact sensible policies to aggressively manage wilderness areas that are becoming a threat instead of a solace to our way of life.

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Whatever the reason for the start of the fires, we know that our unwillingness to come to grips with the menace posed by our overgrown forests and wild lands creates ideal conditions for the living hell we're experiencing now. In a little noticed action a couple of weeks ago, the Trump administration decided to do something about the problem.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke instructed federal land managers and park superintendents to use the "full authority" of their bureau to begin clearing the dead and dying trees and brush that clog federal lands in the West. The goal, according to the memo: "proactively work to prevent forest fires through aggressive and scientific fuels reduction managements to save lives, homes, and wildlife habitats."

That's a reversal from federal policy of the last 25 years, when logging and road building in federal forests were discouraged. This benign neglect led to much of the overgrowth and diseased trees that fuel these massive fires.

The consequences of this policy are reflected in the budget of the U.S. Forest Service. In the 1980s, the service spent about 16 percent of its budget fighting fires. That grew to over 50 percent in 2015 — the first time in its history. By the way, that's money it has to take from programs to prevent fires.

The number and intensity of western fires is growing, fueled in part by environmental groups that dislike forest management practices that involve tree-thinning and limited burns, actions taken by native Americans before the white man appeared on the scene and decided he knew better.

The Zinke directive covers just federals lands, but that's more than 50 percent of the land in some western states. Now it's time for California and neighboring states to follow the federal lead and enact sensible policies to aggressively manage wilderness areas that are becoming a threat instead of a solace to our way of life.

More work

When I wrote last week about local attitudes toward racial minorities, I closed with the hope that our youth would see the futility in hate and discrimination. Call me Mr. Naïve.

I heard from the father of a Nevada Union student, who suggested I "go drive by the lower NU lot in the morning and check out the Duck Dynasty crowd. This is not Placer County."

The same day the column appeared, school Principal Kelly Rhoden sent out a memo about violations of the dress code. Here are some excerpts:

"Code #1: NUHS does not allow students to wear clothing or display paraphernalia that generate a hostile environment … Example: No Confederate flags, swastika's (sic), marijuana, alcohol, etc. This is unacceptable at school."

"Code #2: Any Apparel, accessories, or manner of grooming which denotes membership in a gang or hate group is prohibited. Examples: The increase in groups of students wearing the color Red."

"Code #3: Apparel or accessories with depictions of weapons, discriminatory or sexually suggestive messages, and tobacco, alcohol or drug-related images and/or wording are not allowed."

Maybe that's what Rhoden was alluding to when she sent a memo to school staff after the incident that inspired the "Love Walk," stating "We are aware as a staff that there is still hate language on campus and in our community. The best we can do is recognize it when it happens and stop it when we see and/hear it."

Question, answer

Speaking of the "Love Walk," I wondered in Observations last week how many city leaders joined Grass Valley Mayor Howard Levine in protesting the racial incident. The answer is quite a few, according to Council member Jason Fouyer.

He reports that four of the five council members, city manager, police chief and other city staff joined the march to protest an incident he called "a hit in the stomach to our community… Leadership were present, engaged, and proud to be part of such an important event."

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at ag101board@aol.com.

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