How Overly Simplistic is That?

Nevada County is considering a fire abatement ordinance that would require private property owners to remove hazardous vegetation on unimproved parcels, similar to the one  recently passed in Placer County:  Hazardous Vegetation Abatement on Unimproved Parcels. According to a post by Supervisor Ed Scofield on the County website this is a relatively simple ordinance.

The County fire officer may identify, by planned inspection, those parcels requiring abatement. This is followed by a formal “notice to abate”, including the required fuel modification and allowing 30 days for the work to be completed. It also includes an appeal process. At the end of the required time, if compliance has not been accomplished, the abatement would be completed through the agency making the original citation. The costs related to the abatement could then be attached to the property tax as a lien.

About eight years ago property owners opposed a similar ordinance, generating enough heat that the BOS they set it aside. Circumstance, may have shifted, in the intervening eight years. CABPRO is supporting the reduction of forest fuel load in the National Forest by logging the forest to pay for the clean up of brush and ladder fuels. Why not on adjoining private property.

In Tea Party blog post Sue McGuire pointed out that forest mismanagement based on the philosophy of “ ‘Save the forests/old growth,’ has created extraordinary fuel loads, causing increasingly super-heated catastrophic wildfires.”

Our local lefty blogger, former Union Editor, thinks that property owners like CABPRO and the Tea Party would oppose any such regulation, calling their views on extraordinary fuel loads causing super-heated catastrophic wild fires “overly simplistic” in a recent post.

Among the misleading information and “false rhetoric”: “Save the forests/old growth,” has created extraordinary fuel loads, causing increasingly super-heated catastrophic wildfires.

No, not really; that’s overly simplistic.

I recently sat in on a presentation at the Northern Sierra Biomass Utilization Task Force on how to solve the problem of undergrowth and ladder fuels in the National Forest.  The present forest harvest rate is only 7-8%, resulting an exploding fuel load in the National Forest.  Like an over grown lawn the forest just keeps growing and growing,  and has reached a dangerous tipping point according to National Forest ecologists.

From an interview reported in The Union:

Malcolm North, an ecological scientist with University of California, Davis, said California forests have long since passed the “tipping point” in terms of overgrowth, during a presentation Tuesday for the board of supervisors.

Historically, fire was present in the forests with modest ground fires occurring every 10 to 15 years. With modern fire suppression tactics fully in force throughout the state, fire is restricted from performing its naturally occurring thinning duties. Thus, the forest is overgrown as the current density of trees in most swathes of California forest far exceeds tree density in the forest before the arrival of European settlers, North said.

“In the national forest, only 8 percent of the annual growth is taken out of the forests,” North said.

North said the current condition creates an atmosphere more conducive to large destructive wild-land fires as the density of trees allows for fiercer, hotter fires to spread faster and create far more damage. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent by federal and state governments in fighting fire could be dramatically reduced if more funds were directed toward forest-thinning projects, North said. The overgrowth not only allows more voracious blazes but hurts the overall health of the forest as there is more competition for soil moisture, rendering vast stands of the forest less resistant to drought and more susceptible to pests and disease.

We learned that National Forests burned in the Rim Fire had about 250 trees per acre. In a healthy forest the the number of trees per acre should be about 100 to 140 according to ecologist.  Looking at the pictures from the local TV station helicopter, parts of the National Forest experienced catastrophic fire damage, the land looks like a moonscape with all the vegetation gone except for some smoking black spires that were old growth trees now standing in mute testimony to human stupidity.

We now have visual proof that a build up in fuel load results in catastrophic fires. How simplistic is that?

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About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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