Mismanagement Turned California Forests Into A ‘Terrible Fire Threat,’ Expert Says
Years of mismanagement built up in California forests are feeding massive wildfires scorching the state, which is on track to experience its most destructive fire season ever.
Nearly 3,000 acres of state and local lands in California have been burned this year, about triple the size of the five-year average for this time of year. The amount outpaces 2017’s historic fire season in the state by about 70,000 acres, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. (RELATED: ‘We Are Not Climate Scientists’: Firefighters Dismiss Concerns Related To Global Warming)
The Little Hoover Commission (LHC), an independent California oversight agency, has been documenting forest mismanagement in the Golden State for decades. LHC described California’s Timber Harvest Plan in 1994 as an “inadequate tool” for balancing environmental and economic needs.
“Litigation rather than resolution is often the focus of the participants, leading to a strained decision-making process and lack of consensus,” LHC’s report said, pointing out one of the main issues with logging and forestry management in California.
Other issues in the Timber Harvest Plan included a limited view of the site impacts without accounting for the health of the overall ecosystem and focusing on process rather than outcome, according to LHC.
Recent droughts and bark beetle infestations have killed millions of trees in California that lie throughout the forests and are extremely susceptible to fire. About 129 million dead trees have littered California from 2010 to 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Our forests are dramatically overcrowded,” LHC project manager Krystal Beckham told The Washington Examiner.
“There are some places where there may be four times as many trees as there should be,” Beckham said. “When you have trees that close together, they can’t get the water they need, so they are more susceptible to drought, insects, and disease. And when they start dying, they become a terrible fire threat.”