Environmental(ist) Catastrophe in Southern California?

Were the fires in Southern California preventable? It's beginning to look a lot like the answer is yes. Most importantly, it's been indicated that several arsonists have been at work. And global warming (not man-made, I don't think, but a natural increase in temperatures) and drought have had their significant effects. But nearly as importantly, environmental policy has caused the destruction to be much greater than it otherwise would have been.

Update: 12:01 PM - First-hand evidence of environmental restrictions leading to an increase in damage.

A post a few days ago by Connor Boyack noted an LA Times story quoting economists who said that the fires in San Diego will turn out to be a good thing for the economy. They must be environmental economists trying to cover up the real problem--radical environmentalism and radical advocacy of an untenable claim that man is to blame for the warming of the globe.

Steve Urquhart posted a few months back on his blog about the fires in the west, and how better management would save several million metric tons of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. In the instance of the southern California fires of 2007, he is vindicated.

Before being embarrassed by and recanting his comments, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the fires in Southern California were caused by global warming. The implication clearly was that he and others must be empowered to do something about it by taking away some of our freedoms. Well, and then I guess I spoke too soon. The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is now holding hearings on Reid's thesis.

It turns out that the likely greatest cause of the southern California fires has been arson--not global warming after all. I await very interestedly the results as to who the arsonists were. But we'll probably hear a lot of ranting, raving, and kowtowing about the claim that man-made global warming caused it.

Ironically, some of the freedoms that have already been taken away from Southern California residents--in the name of protecting the environment--have likely caused an increase in the destruction over what otherwise would have occurred. Lowell Ponte writes

A typical example of such government mismanagement came in a Southern California beach community a few years ago where residents were prohibited from clearing brush near their homes, lest they harm an “endangered species” of rat that lived there.

When fire, a natural part of the region’s ecology, recurred it burned the homes, the brush, and the legally-privileged rats.

Now we have become fire-burned experimental animals for left-wing firebrands.

Much like people who cheer setbacks in the war in Iraq because they are opposed to George W. Bush and his war, global warming advocates take a "see I told you so stance" every time a fire ravages the west. They feel vindicated in their lust for power over the minds of men.

There is no question that the earth is warming to a small degree. Droughts have made the west more susceptible to fires. But this series of fires was so destructive largely because of opportunism in the name of destruction. Arsonical and environmentalistical.

Will the arsonists be determined to have been members of terrorist groups? Will they have been environmentalists who sabotaged in much the same way animal rights activists and tree spikers have in the past? I don't have any inside information, but I would not ultimately be surprised if at least some of the fires were arsono-environmentalist caused.

It doesn't matter, whether they are directly to blame. Indirectly, many environmentalists exult and propagandize over the furthering of their purposes caused by the recent spate of fires. And the environmentalists' activities and advocacies have made the southern California fires of 2007 much worse than they would have been.

Investor's Business Daily opines:

The Santa Ana winds that fanned the flames didn't come out of the exhaust pipe of anyone's SUV.

We would suggest that the extent of the tragedy has been enhanced by the anti-logging and anti-thinning agenda of the greenies — an agenda that encourages overgrowth and prohibits sensible forest management, including the removal of dead trees as well as underbrush that is said to be the habitat of endangered species who ironically become crispy critters.

The same naturally warm and dry conditions in which these fires occur are the same conditions that bring people to Southern California to build their homes in fire-prone areas in the first place.

But I shouldn't include such statements in my public writings. After all, that is heresy against the Church of the Warming Globe.

Update: 1 Nov 2007, 12:01 PM - I appreciate Connor's comment (#6) of a few minutes ago. His mother is the deputy mayor of Poway, California. Here is an excerpt from a story of a press conference that Ms. Boyack was involved in (which Connor linked to in his comment):
As the smoke cleared and relief efforts accelerated, some leaders were thinking ahead to the next Southern California firestorm.

"We're going to have more Santa Anas," said El Cajon Councilman Bob McClellan, during the meeting of 30 officials. "What are we doing for the future so that we don't have more disasters?"

No one had an immediate answer, though several agreed something has to change.

Merilee Boyack, Poway deputy mayor, was among those suggesting change has to follow the fires of 2003 and 2007.

"This is twice," Boyack said. "I hope we don't have to have this happen a third time."

She said 14,000 of Poway's 25,000 acres have burned -- half in the 2003 Cedar fire and half in this month's Witch Creek fire -- and the people living in the remaining 11,000 acres are terrified.

Boyack, in an interview following the meeting, said she drove through the Poway burn areas Monday. And she said it was obvious that the homes with vegetation cut back around them survived, and that the ones that didn't survive were in subdivisions where native plants cannot be touched by a blade.

There needs to be a compromise between the needs of wildlife and the need to protect people, Boyack said.

"I think the balance has been tipped too far in favor of the environment," she said.


  1. If it turns out the arsonist behind this were environmental terrorists, I'm not sure if we'll ever know... I'd expect a story about some misguided kid looking for attention or playing with matches or something. Any story that catagorized the arsonist as environmental terrorists (if indeed they turn out to be) will likely be labels as a smeer campaign to promote a right wing agenda.

    National Parks in South Africa burn the entire park in phases over a 4 year period to keep natural processes in place - endangered wildlife in them is thriving inspite of this management, so much so that many have to cull elephants and other animals to prevent over population.

  2. I did hear that in at least one case a young child came forward and said he was playing with matches. But there were several points at which various fires started. Some adults have been arrested for arson, and one was killed in a standoff with police.

    We do need to have better public lands management in this regard in the US, and we need to let private landowners take care of their lands as they see fit.

  3. In the past So.Cal fires that have been started by arsonists (I can't recall a single fire that wasn't started by man)they've caught the prepetrators, which I find absolutely amazing.

    I also find it appaling that politians leap on this tragedy in order to further their personal political agenda.

    Especially someone like Harry Reid who is NOT a scientist, he's a politian.

  4. Frank, somebody might conclude you don't like conservationists or something. The fact is, conservation groups are all in favor of fire prevention in populated areas. What they are opposed to is the program of logging mature trees in remote wild forests that the Bush administration promotes in the name of "healthy forests." The federal government routinely subsidizes the destruction of our national forests with our tax money.

  5. Salt,

    Exactly. Harry Reid is not a scientist, yet he has a dramatic effect on politics and the environment in America by, as an official, making absurd statements.

    (I may make absurd statements, as well, but I have very little influence)



    In an effort to clear up an issue, I believe in being a conservationist. I believe that man is a steward of the earth, and that we should treat it with great care. I agree with you that conservation groups are in favor of fire prevention in populated areas. The reality, though, is that there are those fringe relative few who go beyond conservation to the effect that policies do not treat these populated areas in their best interests when it comes to fire prevention.

    And more homes burn down than should have even in the event of arson. That's wrong.

  6. Ironically, some of the freedoms that have already been taken away from Southern California residents--in the name of protecting the environment--have likely caused an increase in the destruction over what otherwise would have occurred

    My mother (Deputy Mayor in Poway, one of the hardest hit areas) met with the Governator the other day, as well as other SD reps, and FEMA. In the meeting they discussed, among other things, why certain properties were hit so hard.

    The governor noted that as they flew over, they noticed that the properties that had larger spaces cleared survived, whereas those that didn't, burned down.

    So my mother went on the offensive and blamed environmentalists who refuse to allow people to clear brush around their property to prevent such atrocities from occuring.

    The governor listened, took notes, and in a press conference w/ the Gov. this week (see bottom of article, "Balance tipped toward environment"), she argued the same thing.

    Really, it's ridiculous. Enviros in SoCal are so adamant that certain indigenous plants be protected, at the expense (now in two major fires in four years) of people's homes and lives.

  7. Connor,

    Thanks. This is extremely helpful information.

  8. I would like to see a link or some other proof that anyone is being told not to clear brush on private property. Sounds like an urban myth.

  9. Current law states that 100 feet must be cleared around your home.

    However, as this editorial notes, environmental agencies frequently lobby and impose rules and regulations upon homeowners regarding what they can and can't do around their home. All in the name of "the environment".

    The Blue Ribbon Fire Commission was created to find a solution to the problem created by frequent lawsuits and lobbying by environmental groups to halt such fire prevention activities. See this press release.

    Residential property hasn't been as large a target of environmentalists, often because the areas are already zoned and cut up for homeowners before their purchase - instead, companies purchasing and developing large plots of land are the focus.

  10. Read this article from San Diego that explains the issue. Developers are building houses in fire-prone areas, using flammable materials. Because these new developments are pushing the limit of the wildland-urban interface, they are required to leave wildlife corridors-- but that's not the problem.

  11. Richard,

    But I think that requiring private owners to bow to wildlife corridors is (at least part of) the very problem we are talking about.

    I did find interesting as well a couple of other points in the story--low amounts of money dedicated to fire fighting, not enough requirements for non-flammable building materials, inadvisability of putting homes on ridgelines, etc.

  12. Not only is it the enviros fault it's also the Clinton's fault!

    Honestly, Cal Fire is out their all year trying to get home owners to clear away brush. They get more resistance from homeowners then anyone. There are no environmental policies that don't allow homeowners to clear vegetation away from their homes.

    The same thing happens in Utah. Utah Forestry, Fire & State Lands tries to inform homeowners about defensible space and they don't listen. If it helps you sleep at night to blame it on the enviros then have at it. FIREWISE COMMINTIES.

    Leaving a wildlife corridor is not part of the problem. The problem is that 35% of all homes in the US are built in the WUI. You build there you should expect a chance of a forest fire with the possibility of your house burning down. Especially when you build in an environment that uses fire to sustain itself.

  13. People have been building in WUI for about four centuries now. We whine about inadequate space for our expanding population, but what we mean is that we don't want our expanding population to expand into areas that some think ought to remain wilderness. But when we allow residential expansion, we are duty bound to provide adequate protection for those properties. These people pay plenty of property taxes.

    The odd thing is that many areas of recent residential development used to be agricultural. And it didn't go up in smoke every four years. Building residential communities on the property certainly changes its use, but does that change completely explain the wildfires?

    Clearly, there are multiple causes to the wildfire problem. Instead of attacking this issue as if it has a single cause, a more comprehensive approach is warranted.


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