California’s Eco-Inferno — Berlau in American Thinker

Today, I have a piece in American Thinker on how environmental regulations, much more than global warming, were likely a factor in the intensity of the California fires.

Specifically, the article shows how the Endangered Species Act again hampered residents and city officials from reducing the fuel load from dry brush. This has happened before, as CEI adjunct fellow RJ Smith and former scholar Ike Sugg have documented, and was actually an issue in some Congressional races in 1994, when Southern California homeowners were forbidden from mechanically cutting brush because it might harm the habitat of the kangaroo rat. Many of those homes perished in fires. The GOP pointed to this as an example of big government’s encroachment on property rights, but many in Congress then abandoned Endangered Species Act for fear of being branded as anti-green.

Tragically for homowners, a “brush management guide” on the city of San Diego web site that the article links to and quotes from shows that not much has changed — only the names of the species. Now, it’s the California gnatcatcher that’s preventing effective fire maintenance. The city of San Diego warned residents: “Brush management is not allowed in coastal sage scrub during the California gnatcatcher nesting season, from March 1st through August 15th. This small bird only lives in coastal sage scrub and is listed as a threatened species by the federal government. Any harm to this bird could result in fines and penalties.”

In addition, the article shows why these fires can in no way be laid at the doorstep of global warming. The temperatures came nowhere near the record highs in these areas of more than 100 degrees on the same dates in 1965 and 1929. And mystery writer Raymond Chandler wrote about the fierce Santa Ana winds back in 1938.

So, to sum it up, extreme weather is nothing new in California. What is new is the lack of vegetation management due to irrational environmental laws that may be a cause of the fires spreading so far and so wide. And these laws, such as complete logging bans in national forests, ironically have bad results for the environment and wildlfe itself, as the fires from “excess fuel” cause air polution and have also killed many of the same species we are trying to protect.