Wildfire Crises Exacerbated by Government Forest, Insurance Policies

Washington, D.C., Oct. 26, 2007—In the aftermath of devastating fires ravaging parts of Southern California and causing an estimated $500 million in damage, it’s time to reassess government’s role in exacerbating the problem.

“Essentially every one of this week's Southern California's 15 major fires started on government lands—mainly in the three or four National Forests that stretch 250 miles from Mexico into Ventura County,” noted Robert J. Smith, an Adjunct Analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“The federal government has mismanaged all the National Forests for a century—believing fires were unnatural and evil and must be extinguished at all costs,” Smith explained. “Because the feds stamped these out for about 100 years, the forests have become filled with duff, needles, cones, deadwood and downed wood, and thousands of small undergrowth trees—what amounts to a tinder box.”

“The amount of damage that the wildfires will cause and the enormous increases Californians will likely see in their homeowners' insurance premiums stem directly from the broken insurance regulatory system set up under Prop. 103,” added Eli Lehrer, CEI Senior Fellow in insurance policy. “These fires make the case for state insurance reform crystal clear. To solve California's problems, however, state reforms won't be enough: We should also investigate creative, market-based approaches on the federal level.”

For further comment on wildfires and workable solutions with respect to environment or insurance policy, please contact:

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Experts Available for Interviews on Calif. Wildfires

Robert J. Smith

Adjunct Analyst – environment


[email protected]

Eli Lehrer

Senior Fellow – insurance


[email protected]