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Analyzing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s incendiary comments about California wildfires

Analyzing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s incendiary comments about California wildfires

129 million dead trees in California show that Zinke’s statements contain more truth than rhetoric.

I was slated to be hiking in Yosemite National Park today, but the Ferguson fire in the area forced our family to shorten our vacation. Instead, I am back at my front line battle station in Southern California.

The good news is that the wildfires are being contained, including the historically largest blaze in state history.

Progress made over the past few days in fighting the largest wildfire in California history could be lost this weekend, as the weather seems unlikely to continue to cooperate.

The Mendocino Complex, made up of the River and Ranch fires, grew to 329,800 acres overnight but was 76 percent contained as of Friday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

“Overnight, firefighters were able to reinforce containment lines, tying together pre-existing containment barriers, especially north of the Snow Mountain wilderness,” officials said.

The situation has been so dire, California had to import firefighters from Australia and New Zealand. Before working, they had to learn English, such as a drainage is a gully or ravine and a tanker is a water-dropping helicopter, not a water-carrying truck, which is known as a tender.

During his recent tour of the state, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke fanned the flames of eco-activist ire by blaming their policies for contributing to the fire.

Zinke, who visited neighborhoods ravaged by the state’s largest wildfire ever over the weekend and on Monday, said environmentalists and green regulations in California made the fires much worse.

“We have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access — that have refused to allow [the] harvest of timber,” Zinke told Brietbart radio over the weekend.

During his visit to the Golden State, Zinke pushed a narrative that increasing logging industry access to national forests could limit fire intensity.

“But we have these radical environmentalists that close off roads, refuse to have firebreaks, refuse to have any timber harvested, no grazing, and the result is these catastrophic fires,” Zinke said.

The term, environmental terrorist groups, may seem extreme at first read. The definition of terrorism is, “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

Once could make the case the green justice warriors have been using lawful intimidation for their political aims, which includes control of vast swaths of this country so they can no longer be used by the American people. The crusade for climate justice, which has been the banner for more big-state policies, has meant that practical and reality-based forest management techniques have been ignored or negated in the quest for the elusive, green ideal.

Yet terrorism leads to death and destruction. The loss of life and the billions in recovery efforts attest to the horrendous consequences of blindly implementing rules because they reflect the science du jour. So, in that way, Zinke is correct.

Serious policies makers would be considering solid data an analysis, such as the 207 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the Tree Mortality Task Force in California and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The analysis concluded that there are a record 129 million dead trees in California that have been killed due to forest mismanagement.

Randy Moore, Regional Forester of the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region stated in the report that these dead trees, if not cleared, would help wildfires grow and spread.

“The number of dead and dying trees has continued to rise, along with the risks to communities and firefighters if a wildfire breaks out in these areas,” Moore said, per the report.

“It is apparent from our survey flights this year that California’s trees have not yet recovered from the drought, and remain vulnerable to beetle attacks and increased wildfire threat. The USDA Forest Service will continue to focus on mitigating hazard trees and thinning overly dense forests so they are healthier and better able to survive stressors like this in the future.” he added.

The solution? “By combining tree removal with prescribed fire, crews will be able to decrease overly dense stands of trees, reduce greenhouse gases, and protect communities across the state,” the groups say in the report.

The trouble with the focus on climate change is that any action taken could, theoretically yield only long term solutions. If the focus of forest management reverts to real environmental protection, then localized and practical solutions will quickly resolve the causes for the rapid spread most of these blazes….including the ones started by arsonists.

Unless things change with Sacramento and Washington DC politics, we are going to continued needing to train other foreign fire-fighters in American technical terms.


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The social and environmental damage these loons have caused is beyond ken. The rest of the United States is propping up this experiment in an American STASI by subsidizing the 5 million illegals. The sheer incompetence that is always excused by the blaming the Republicans is breathtaking.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to puhiawa. | August 19, 2018 at 11:02 am

    I haven’t paid much attention to the politics of wohland management for the past 30 years. But when I bought a farm 35 years ago I decided to build in the woods, in part because that was not tillable land, and in part because I wanted my machinery 1/2 a mile back from where kids were likely to be.

    So, I started by prepping the 13 acres of woodland, clearing out all deadfall and selectively harvesting to promote growth of red and white oak and ash. When I was done it looked like a park.

    It is hard to understand why anyone can not understand that an unmanaged woodlot is going to be a fire hazard, and to do this on the scale they have is amazingly stupid.

Last year the Santa Rosa fires burned on state owned lands/reserves like Annadel, Jack London, Sugarloaf Ridge state parks. Those all started during a very nasty windstorm. 50mph to 70mph wind gusts. Charged Power lines and tree boughs don’t mix well. My lifelong conservative parents live in the area. I live nearby. There just wasn’t any way to stop that fire with the wind blwing embers everywhere. That fire occured in what’s called chaparral terrain, not pine/fir and manzanita forest like Redding car fire. It’s mostly coastal oak trees, brush and that fox-tail grass (forget the proper name).

Prescribed burns in coastals could help reduce fuel loads, but are problematic. There’s lots of poison oak in the coastal hills, and when it burns the poison oak oil becomes airborne. Inhaling poison oak smoke is a bad thing. Hand clearing brush would help, along with about 100,000 goats and sheep. I’m serious about grazing livestock. That’s coastal. There really isn’t a problem with acres and acres of dead trees like in the USFS administered Sierra/Cascades Redding car fire.

There’s so much to say about this, but i’ve not the inclination when it’s just easier for some Texan to say “F California and the Unicorn they rode in on.”

We’ve been fighting the crazy environmentlists for 30 years.

We went through Yellowstone in early May when the rivers were running edge to edge. Beautiful place, particularly before the Memorial Day weekend crowd starts.

(We don’t hike there. The idea of calling out “Bear! Bear!” as you walk along is a little foreign to us flyover country-ites 🙂

He’s right. Of course the watermelons don’t want to hear that, and will deny it tooth and nail, but he’s right.

    V.Lombardi in reply to bobtuba. | August 19, 2018 at 5:45 am

    Zinke’s ideas work, the Left’s do not. Forest management is a proven concept that was around far before the Left became “enlightened”.

“The analysis concluded that there are a record 129 million dead trees in California that have been killed due to forest mismanagement.”

The Enviro’s cover story is that there’s something special about “old growth” forest instead of managed forest, but the real reason is that they have a fetish against anything Man touches.

Like a cult of nature worship, with Man as the Devil.

Randy Moore, Regional Forester of the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region stated in the report . . . “crews will be able to decrease overly dense stands of trees, reduce greenhouse gases, and protect communities across the state”

So the Dept. of Agriculture isn’t much interested in science, either. Reducing greenhouse silliness is not the problem—fires are the problem. Politically correct compromise is inappropriate because it will be ineffective.

All government, all politics, all the time. Get used to the fires; they’re not going anywhere, if the government and the greenies get their way. But maybe they can consult NASA and set up a outreach program for Muslims even if they can’t do anything useful about fire prevention.

The CCC planted more than 3 billion trees from 1933-42, mostly in the western US. These trees were planted with the intention of a future harvest in 50 years. Now 80 years later the overcrowded forests are dying because they weren’t harvested and thinned out properly as intended because environmentalists don’t know history.

The eco nit wits wanted it to be as nature intended. Nature intends burns. Big. Uncontrollable. Destructive. Burns. Sorry for those humans being harmed by this nonsense. If only Cali were able to split into different states.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to Andy. | August 19, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Has anyone attempted to find archaeological evidence of the scope and intensity of forest fires in California?

      JusticeDelivered in reply to JusticeDelivered. | August 19, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      I spent some time looking into this, and the answer is that native Americans did do controlled burns. I am surprised that California disrespected such knowledge, not:)

      Well there’s the Tillamook Burn in Oregon. Granted that was the 1930s and the initial spark was man-caused so I’m not sure where Al Gore stands with that one.

Of course Zinke gets it – he is from MT. Pretty much everyone from MT, except for, of course, Jon Tester, who only comes back every 6 years for campaign video footage, understands the issues. The west burns every summer, thanks to 100 years of fire suppression, and 20 years of greatly reduced logging. Ran into our former state senator last summer, who worked with Zinke when he was a State senator too. We started talking fires, and he said that he had talked to Zinke a month or two earlier about it. And, yes, MT has more Dept of Ag land (esp Forest Service) than Interior Dept. but Zinke claims to have twisted the arm of the Sec of Agriculture, who really didn’t understand the problems.

    Anonamom in reply to Bruce Hayden. | August 19, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Where I live we are choking on the smoke from fires on federal land. The expected date of containment? NOVEMBER 30th. Because all the feds do is pay people to watch them burn. The feds eliminated almost all the logging and exponentially increased the fuel, and now they sit back and watch it burn. And we choke to death.

    I really, really despise the sclerotic mess that is our federal bureaucracy.

Around here we do what is called ‘burns’ to get rid of deadfall and brush but leave the trees. The main problem out there is the wind that adds oxygen and lowers the flashpoint of the brush and deadfall.

    Bruce Hayden in reply to Elzorro. | August 19, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    That doesn’t always work as planned. Apparently just west of us in ID, a prescribed burn just got away from the FS that was doing it. In August. WTF were they burning in August? This year, probably would have been safe through maybe mid July, given how much snowpack there was. But not this late. Fire season seems to have started a couple weeks late this year in W MT and N ID, but it is here now.

Freddie Sykes | August 19, 2018 at 6:54 am

We do not needs roads in forests to fight forest fires. We need road in forests so that work crews can harvest dead wood and clean underbrush. Forest fires may be started by arson, accidents or natural causes such as lightning. You cannot prevent them as they are a necessary part of forest renewals but you can minimize the amount of fuel that they have access to.

Of course Zinke is right. That makes no difference to the left. If he’s from the right he cannot possible be right. He must want to destroy the planet.

The lack of rational thinking that does into being an eco-freak is mind-boggling.

Conservatives conserve the forests. Eco-terrorists “resist” common sense and forest saving ideas if they come from the right. Thus they care more for politics than their supposedly beloved forests.

The “dems” in california are just treating the forests like they treat all the big cities that they control.
Let them rot and when they burn down blame it on every one else !

Law of Unintended consequences. No good deed goes unpunished.

Forest fires are rare in Europe. (Some in the Mediterranean countries, which are dry like much of California.)

Forests there are “managed” and have been for centuries.

I stopped by the FS ranger station in the next town down river in NW MT in late July to pick up some maps. Got to talking to the information guy at the front desk. A couple of interesting things came out. One is that their budgets were effectively getting cut back every year, that they met with further cutbacks. In his office, they were cutting staffing, hours, and how long their offices were open. Our local ranger station was shut down (we are in a different Forest, though only 20 miles away, which is why I stopped by for maps), and the closest ranger station to us was now 20 miles in the opposite direction. I commented that back in the 1980s when I was working with the FS for its IT (he remembered those systems, showing his age), the FS was always complaining about its budgets getting cut. But that isn’t what is happening now. I used the word “effectively” intentionally above, because actual FS budgets aren’t getting cut. The issue is that fire fighting is now separately budgeted, and the cost of doing so is rising significantly faster than their overall budget is rising, hence the reality that their budgets for everything else are getting cut, year after year, as fire fighting crowds out everything else. And there is no way, in the short run, to control what they spend on fighting fires. It is bad, and getting worse.

Secondly, I asked him when he thought that fire season would start for them. He replied that they were already fighting some small ones in the norther districts of his Nat Forest, but they had just had their first call out, down the highway west of us there, and I should see their trucks when I continued my trip. And I did – one truck was returning with their lights on, while the other two were finishing cleaning up. Less than an acre right by the highway means man caused, but they didn’t know yet how. Their concern was that half of their fire crews were out of the area just then, fighting fires south and west of them, and they neeeded them back ASAP, for fighting fires in their district.

    Anonamom in reply to Bruce Hayden. | August 19, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    You ought to ask him what he means by “fighting” fires. Unless they believe that structures are threatening, it usually simply means staging near the fire and (somewhat) trying to control the direction. It does NOT mean actually attempting to extinguish the fire.

      Bruce Hayden in reply to Anonamom. | August 20, 2018 at 3:37 pm

      Yes and no. Manpower available determines what can be done. Early in fire season, they can actually try to put fires out, as was the case the day I visited that ranger station. But he told the story of the previous season where they had maybe a half dozen fires burning w/I 10 miles of that ranger station, and one of the low priority fires that had limped a long for a couple weeks with someone checking its progress every day or two, got hit with some wind and did a big run. The had wanted to have been actually building containment around it, but too many higher priority fires took precedence.

      You are correct that often fire fighters protect structures instead of actually fighting, or even containing, the fires. But that is much less the case in NW MT simply because of density of habitation. In SW CA, thousands upon thousands of ,people live up among the pine trees. MT, on the other hand, is has the 3rd lowest population density (after WY and AK), and might overtake WY for the second slot if large cities were ignored. Which allows most of the people going fighting fires being able to work on containment, and not dwelling protection. The real exception in recent times was the fire by Hamilton (s of Missoula) two years ago, which had a bunch of houses back up in the forests that were expected to burn.

We have millennia of geological records, and 250 years of historical observation, which clearly show that forest fires and other wild fires are the norm, rather than an exception. These fires happen all across the country, not just in California. But, most states have some form of active forest management, especially in areas where extensive human development has occurred. But, California is different.

In California, the Cereal State [Home of the Fruits, the Flakes and the Nuts], the government of the state is dominated by back-to-nature conservationist who live a make believe world where nature is somehow benign. So, they ignore the likely potential for forest fires and even build huge settlements right next to of among the trees. They choose nature materials, such as wooden shingles, and eschew modern fire protections in the design and construction of these homes. Then when a fire breaks out, are all atwitter as it sweeps down the mountains, ahead of high seasonal winds, and into developed communities. These seasonal fires occur every year, especially in Southern California, but, as such things do not fit into the mindset of the loons who run the state, they are ignored. When you elect lunatics to govern your area, crazy things just have to happen.

Occasional Thinker | August 19, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Many years ago the Everglades flooded and deer were starving due to much of their food sources being underwater. Florida opened a special deer season in the affected area to thin the herd. If there is enough food for one deer and you have three, three die and none survive. If hunters harvest two, two die and one survives which is the best outcome to a bad situation. Environmentalists and animal rights groups got a judge (surprise) to issue an injunction delaying the hunt for a study. I remember seeing a news cast of workers in boats pulling emaciated corpses from the flood waters while one of the activists stated they really weren’t about protecting the wildlife as much as they were about stopping hunting. Occasionally one of them slips and speaks the truth about their objectives.