Rural Wildfire Forum
State Capitol, Sacramento, California
August 13, 2008
A generation ago, we recognized the importance of proper wild lands management. We recognized that nothing is more devastating to the ecology of a forest than a forest fire. And we recognized that public lands should be managed for the benefit of the public. We recognized that in any living community – including forests – dense over-population is unhealthy.
And so we carefully groomed our public lands, removing excessive vegetation and giving timber the room it needs to grow. Surplus timber and undergrowth were sold for the benefit of our communities. Our forests prospered and our economy prospered. And forest fires were far less numerous and far less intense than we see today.
But that was before a radical ideology was introduced into public policy – that we should abandon our public lands to overpopulation, overgrowth, and in essence, benign neglect.
We are now living with the result of that ideology. Forest fires, fueled by decades of pent up overgrowth are now increasing in their frequency and intensity and destruction.
The first victim of this wrong-headed policy is the environment itself. Recent forest fires in this region made a mockery of all of our clean-air regulations. Anyone who has seen a forest after one of these fires knows that the environmental devastation could not possibly be more complete.
But the cost of these policies doesn’t end there. Timber is a renewable resource – if properly managed it is literally an inexhaustible source of prosperity. And yet, a region blessed with the most bountiful renewable resource in the state has been rendered economically prostrate. A region that once prospered from its surplus timber now is ravaged by fires that are fueled by that surplus timber.
This is not environmentalism – true environmentalists recognize the damage done by overgrowth and overpopulation and recognize the role of sound forest management practices in maintaining healthy forests.
We are beginning to recognize the damage done by this Luddite ideology to our energy independence and the horrific fires are bringing into sharp focus the damage that it has done to the safety, prosperity, and environmental health of our forests.
I want to commend the organizers of today’s hearing as we begin restoring the role of common sense and modern forestry management to our public lands.