Environmentalists Destroyed California’s Forests

Millions of acres of California forest have been blackened by wildfires this summer, leading to the usual angry denunciations from the usual quarters about climate change. But in 1999, the Associated Press reported that forestry experts had long agreed that “clearing undergrowth would save trees,” and that “years of aggressive firefighting have allowed brush to flourish that would have been cleared away by wildfires.” But very little was done. And now fires of unprecedented size are raging across the Western United States.

“Sen. Feinstein blames Sierra Club for blocking wildfire bill,” reads the provocative headline on a 2002 story in California’s Napa Valley Register. Feinstein had brokered a congressional consensus on legislation to thin “overstocked” forests close to homes and communities, but could not overcome the environmental lobby’s disagreement over expediting the permit process to thin forests everywhere else.

Year after year, environmentalists litigated and lobbied to stop efforts to clear the forests through timber harvesting, underbrush removal, and controlled burns. Meanwhile, natural fires were suppressed and the forests became more and more overgrown. The excessive biomass competed for the same water, soil, and light a healthier forest would have used, rendering all of the trees and underbrush unhealthy. It wasn’t just excess biomass that accumulated, but dried out and dead biomass.

What happened among California’s tall stands of Redwood and Ponderosa Pine also happened in its extensive chaparral. Fire suppression along with too many environmentalist-inspired bureaucratic barriers to controlled burns and undergrowth removal turned the hillsides […] Read More