Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Feds and environmental wackos to blame for California Wildfires?

From the AP:
Federal authorities failed to follow through on plans earlier this year to burn away highly flammable brush in a forest on the edge of Los Angeles to avoid the very kind of wildfire now raging there, The Associated Press has learned.

Months before the huge blaze erupted, the U.S. Forest Service obtained permits to burn away the undergrowth and brush on more than 1,700 acres of the Angeles National Forest. But just 193 acres had been cleared by the time the fire broke out, Forest Service resource officer Steve Bear said.

The agency defended its efforts, saying... environmental rules tightly limit how often these "prescribed burns" can be conducted.

Bear said crews using machinery and hand tools managed to trim 5,000 acres in the forest this year before the money ran out. Ideally, "at least a couple thousand more acres" would have been cleared...

Some critics suggested that protests from environmentalists over prescribed burns contributed to the disaster, which came after the brush was allowed to build up for as much as 40 years.

"This brush was ready to explode," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, whose district overlaps the forest. "The environmentalists have gone to the extreme to prevent controlled burns, and as a result we have this catastrophe today."

Prescribed burns are intended to protect homes and lives by eliminating fuel that can cause explosive wildfires. The wildfire that has blackened 140,000 acres — or nearly 219 square miles — in the forest over the past week has been fed by the kind of tinder-dry vegetation that prescribed burns are designed to safely devour.

The blaze has destroyed more than five dozen homes, killed two firefighters and forced thousands of people to flee.

Obtaining the necessary permits [to conduct "controlled burns"] is a complicated process, and such efforts often draw protests from environmentalists.

Biologist Ileene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental organization, said burn permits should be difficult to get because of the potential damage to air quality. Clearing chaparral by hand or machine must be closely scrutinized because it can hurt native species.

"Our air quality, for a variety of factors, doesn't need to be further reduced by these controlled burns," she said.

Los Angeles fire Capt. Steve Ruda said that pre-emptive fires were used more frequently in the region in the 1980s. But... increasingly complicated environmental rules have made them less frequent...
Apparently, the environmental wackos wouldn't let the U.S. Forest Service conduct the necessary "controlled burns" that would have averted the catastrophe. Additionally, it seems that while Obama was pumping tax payer dollars into his stimulus package [pet projects, if you will], the U.S. Forest Service ran out of federal funds to conduct the necessary "prescribed burns".

Of course, I'm not blaming the Environmentalists for any of this. And I'm certainly not laying the blame on the president. He could ill afford to squander federal funds on "controlled burns" when he needed the money to fund his "green" projects.

It's just that, well, - for some reason or another, the word "Katrina" keeps popping into my head...

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