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California Coastal Commission - Burns them out again

Friday, May 8th, 2009

They have to burn, they will burn,” said Coast Commission spokeswoman Sarah Christie.

State rules protecting maritime chaparral place homeowner’s lives at risk

California Families who have long bristled at the immense authority of the California Coastal Commission, contend that state rules protecting maritime chaparral have placed homeowners at risk and exacerbated the fire danger.

Although the commission flatly rejects that assertion, ( of course they would)  SINS OF COMMISSION thinks not- as this 2008 interview reveals -

Chaparral thrives up and down the coast- from Southern California up to Mendocino County-and is what the fire department calls fuel beds for fires.

Problem is maritime chaparral is designated by California Coastal Commission as “environmentally sensitive habitat” and protected by law,theoretically because “it is susceptible to disturbance or degradation by human activities” -  but the State Fire Marshal is responsible for the public’s safety.

Who is in charge? The California Coastal Commission…. or the state Fire Marshal?

Did the California Coastal Commission say endangered? Sensitive? Susceptible to disturbance? we think not.

It is estimated the so called “sensitive” shrub blankets 1.3 million acres across the state, or more. Others, including an expert from the [California] State Department of Fish and Game and those who have analyzed the issue for the Coastal Commission - meaning paid to say, believe it is closer to 20,000 acres but that it may appear far more widespread because other varieties of plants are mixed in.

Whatever the acreage, California Coastal Families say the commission’s chaparral-protection rule blocks them from taking even basic precautions against wildfires, such as cutting a defensive perimeter around their homes, or from remodeling or expanding structures on their property.

( Source: Capitol Weekly)

The statement means that “people will have their land effectively condemned based upon the personal opinion of one person, the expert the county or commission requires them to hire to do a biological assessment of their property as part of the permit process.

The commission emphatically denies that its regulations contribute to the fire danger, and notes that the state generally defers to local fire agencies in emergencies on questions of local property protection. But many homeowners who were forced to evacuate and huddle with neighbors aren’t buying that at all: The chaparral, they believe, contributed to the lightning-sparked Big Sur fires, which …destroyed 20 homes and charred at least 72,000 acres.

The central message here for us is that the maritime chaparral, like the San Diego coast sage shrub, are not just fire-prone, they are fire-dependent. They have evolved over a millennium to require fire to regenerate. They have to burn, they will burn,” said Coast Commission spokeswoman Sarah Christie.

( Source: Capitol Weekly)

SINS OF COMMISSION vehemently disagrees, and firefighters like Mr. Franklin concur.

Are you burnt out from all of these fires? And the season is just beginning.

Tired of spending billions of YOUR dollars to fight fires that shouldn’t be in the first place?

Help us get the film out to the people, the media and the legislators.

Donate now through our fiscal sponsors the International Documentary Association a 501 c3 non profit foundation and receive a tax deduction .

Save California.  Save the Coast.  Save your homes.

California Coastal Commission documentary gets first review

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

SINS OF COMMISSION got its first review today. Getting a review from a film critic would normally be a proud moment shared with friends and loved ones. A time to crack open a bottle of champagne and celebrate. But for me, it is a joyless solitary moment filled with torment as I toss and turn to reconcile within why someone in the “comments” section would call me a “criminal” who is supposedly “on the lam from justice” for making a film.

What crime did I commit? What charges are against me? And who is my my accuser that hides in the shadows of anonymity? Come forward and be seen.

Let he who is without sin among you, cast the first stone…

SINS OF COMMISSION is a film I never wanted to make, never intended to make, but felt compelled to make.  Why did I do it? Beacuse, for me, and hopefully for you,  once a truth is known, it cannot be unknown. One person sent an e-mail today and simply said, “thank you.” 

My husband and I have been battling the CCC for 13 years…My husband had a heart attack in 1998 from all of the stress from dealing with them and their lies and craziness -

Kathleen Kenny died from colon cancer one year after I interviewed her. Other people,  people you may know or possibly neighbors you have have heard about, suffered the slings and arrows of persecution thrown at them with impunity by commissioners appointed by the highest officials in our state - simply because they audaciously wanted to live on land they purchased. This should not stand. We must do better.

Something is rotten in the state of California but by suppressing SINS OF COMMISSION, that dirty dark secret will not be brought out into the sunlight of truth for all of us to see, to debate, to comment upon, to ponder, to talk amongst ourselves, and do such things as we do in a democracy. We must do better.

If you are an independent documentary filmmaker in a country in which independent journalism is seen as a danger to those in power, you are talking a risk. But preserving democracy for all means risks must be taken. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

At stake is more than just freedom of expression.  We Americans live in a country built on the principle of separation of powers - where power is separated into three distinct branches of government that are supposed to check and balance each other so there can never be an accumulation of absolute power in any one branch. This is not a Conservative principle, this is not a Liberal principal, it is not a Democratic principle, it is not a Republican principle…it is an American principle- and we must do better.

Any agency of any state or regulatory commission that embraces all 3 branches of government, in direct opposition of our principle of the separation of powers - even for the “noblest of intentions” - needs to be reevaluated.  Unfettered power still corrupts - and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Sins of Commission exposes Southern California’s law makers

Ginger Liu
Inside Hollywood Examiner
California Bush Fire

By taking on the California Coastal Commission head on, this riveting and intelligent documentary from Richard Oshen exposes the archaic and unbending rules of power on the lives of ordinary homeowners

The story unfolds naturally as we first sympathize with the rule makers in preventing the destruction of habitat by homeowners until the CCC quite remarkably shoot themselves in the foot as dogmatic rules and corruption unfold. The film shows all sides with interviews from couples that have fought the CCC for years, ex CCC staff that believe in the Commission but not their strict laws, and the Commissioners themselves who are absolute and unwavering.  

No one is denying the purpose of a commission that protects Southern California’s rich landscape. Oshen’s film dares to question authority and in doing so ignites the kind of investigative journalism that has been sadly missing during Bush years.

A link to Ginger’s article and comment stream Inside Hollywood Examiner

CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION - Time for a New Urban Wildland Fire Strategy? - Part 2

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Given the high costs involved in fighting fires, and the high risks to life and property, perhaps its time to test Scott Franklin’s concepts on a wider scale. In order to accomplish this, cooperation is necessary between resource management agencies and fire officials. Mr. Franklin says that this method will actually preserve the chaparral Californians want to preserve, and agencies like the California Coastal Commission are charged with preserving- contrary to what is happening now. Mr. Franklin is not alone. 

Too much fire will eventually decimate the native flora.

-Naturalist Rick Halsey, LA TIMES November 26, 2008.

Scientists in Southern California are finding new evidence that frequent fires are gradually replacing chaparral and sagebrush with highly flammable and prolific nonnative weeds, The Los Angeles Times reports. The landscape change is extending the region’s annual fire season, deepening the threat of mudslides, and endangering animal species. Ecosystems forged over time to thrive by being burned every 60 to 100 years are now being scorched every 10 to 15 years — or even more often.

(Source: LA Times - Mike Anton)

Slow destruction of chaparral and the transformation into grassland will have devastating effects on the landscape of California.

-Naturalist Rick Halsey, LA TIMES November 26, 2008.

Chaparral, he says, does not need to burn to the ground every 30 years to remain healthy. Just the opposite. Too much fire will eventually decimate the native flora — some of the most diverse in the nation — leaving a biological wasteland of invasive weeds. (Source: LA TImes- Joe Mozingo)

This article was published on November 27, 2008. Does anyone get the irony here? California resource management agencies, especially the California Coastal Commission, an agency that prides themselves on environmental cleansing, and routinely demands people cut down Eucalyptus trees, and up root rose bushes because they are “non-native”, as a condition to receive a building permit, are surprisingly silent on this issue.  Mr. Anton continues,

Last October’s Santiago wildfire destroyed native sage scrub while the recent showers have created meadows of flammable, nonnative weeds. Ecologists fear the changed landscape will become a greater fire danger.

(Source: LA Times - Mike Anton) 

Most of the information on fire saftey from CALFIRE concentrates on the need for a defensible zone around homes. BUT what about the larger issue… the huge spaces that surround communities? What’s going on there?  This is one of the key topics of SINS OF COMMISSION. The public needs to become engaged in the interagency dialog regarding land management issues we face in large open spaces.  

If we continue to fight fires, and do nothing to treat the underlying brush (fuel), it seems like we’re destined to repeat the same devastating mistakes again next year, and we Californians can’t afford that. It is ecologically and fiscally irresponsible, and appears criminally negligent to all forms of life.

TURF WAR!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
 

Fires Blaze along the coast of California

Wildfires rage in Southern California - NASA

Massive wildfires roaring through California are what many people jave come to expect our future will be.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Experts claim our monster fires are due to everything under the sun…from climate change to greenhouse gas and maybe even the sun itself.

SINS OF COMMISSION suggests there may be another factor no one speaks of,,, and possibly within our control.

Ever wonder why the number of forest fires in the Western U.S. and the amount of acreage burned have increased in intensity?

 

 

The fires are among the worst disasters in California history…

- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Line of fire: Approaching wildfire threatens a subdivision near Los Angeles, California, in 2003. Improved estimates of wildfire hazard could help firefighters focus limited resources on the most potentially dangerous fires.

Line of fire: Approaching wildfire threatens a subdivision in Southern California. Improved estimates of wildfire hazard could help firefighters focus limited resources on the most potentially dangerous fires.

Today Southern California is heavily populated with millions of homes, and these homes are surrounded by large unbroken swaths of protected brush - fuel beds, in fire department lingo. To continue to zealously protect brush without permitting the fire department to modify the denisty is only treating the result - not the cause.

What if we there is a way to trim the chaparral in an environmentally sensitive manner that diminishes the overall flame length thus controls the intensity of the fire - why can’t we do it?  Unless is fire being used as a device to prohibit, restrict or limit home building.

Or is it a turf war between state agencies competing for funds? 


    Portions of this story are excerpted from a series of features on sustainable development by IPS - Inter Press Service and IFEJ - International Federation of Environmental Journalists.



 
 
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