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Posts Tagged ‘Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey’

The Coast is Toast - California still missing the point.

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

The fires, fought at a huge cost to taxpayers, failed to translate into any meaningful reforms at the state or federal level despite efforts in Sacramento and Washington.

(Source: LA Times Bettina Boxall)

As wildfire fire fighting costs in California spiral upwards, driven by one of the worst wildfire seasons in the state’s history, our government still waffles.

‘I don’t think you can take money from suppression to do fuels treatment,’ Rey said. ‘Suppression money is what saves lives and homes, so that’s not going to be a very popular posture.’

-Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey

Popular isn’t the issue. Fuel modification is, and I for one. don’t know why everyone is dancing around the issue.  In fiscal 2008, half of the $1.4 billion that the U.S. Forest Service spent nationally on wildfire suppression was spent in California alone. State fire expenditures topped $1 billion.

I respectfully disagree, sir. The carrot still seems to be at the wrong end of the horse.  Modification of fuel saves lives while suppression, although highly visible, is ruining the environment. ( Please see our recent blog posts CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION - Time for a New Urban Wildland Fire Strategy? - Part 1 and 2 )

The other issue no one but us is broaching is why certain state agencies, commissions like the California Coastal Commission, and environmental groups, who say they want to protect the natural resources of the state aren’t helping the Fire Department and getting behind this. 

This hands-off posture is what Scot Franklin refers to as ” loving the chaparral to death.” Lets not destroy the chaparral all Californians love in order to “save it.”  It hasn’t worked,  isn’t going to work,  and bluntly, we don’t have the time or money not to try something different in 2009. If we do what we’ve always done, we’re gonna get what we always get - Burnt, crispy toast. 

State Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) sponsored several measures that went nowhere. One would have raised an estimated $43 million a year for fuel-reduction projects…

A bill written by Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) would have required that new subdivisions in high fire-risk areas have two access roads to ensure that residents could get out and fire engines could get in during an emergency. Developers also would have had to show that they had adequate water pressure and fire protection.

The proposal, supported by firefighter associations, was listed as a “job killer” by the state Chamber of Commerce, which argued that it could virtually shut down suburban development in certain parts of the state. The bill was passed by the Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

There is an absolute disconnect between requiring state taxpayers to take on the ever increasing burden of fighting fires…  “The solution is not just more engines, more airplanes,” said [Ruben] Grijalva, who previously served as state fire marshal and Palo Alto’s fire chief.

(Source: LA Times Bettina Boxall)

The issue is that federal spending on fuel reduction continues to lag far behind firefighting costs, in California and nationally, and until that changes… the coast is toast.

I hope reason prevails in 2009, and wish everyone a healthy, safe New Year.


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