‘In the name of protecting endangered species, we have banned tried-and-true forest-management practices … resulting only in the loss of those animals and the destruction of countless lives…’
(Michael, Barnes, Liberty Headlines) A bipartisan group of congressional legislators is urging the adoption of emergency forest-management provisions that could have prevented California’s devastating wildfires over the past several years.
The provisions—part of last minute negotiations in a Farm Bill being promoted by the Congressional Western Caucus—might have averted tragedy in California’s most recent fire, which killed 88 people as more than 200 remain missing.
But Senate Democrats, backed by the progressive environmental lobby, are blocking the bill and refuse to budge.
“Following one of the most devastating wildfires in our nation’s history, it’s absolutely critical that House-passed forestry provisions are included in the final Farm Bill, and it’s absurd that some of my colleagues would oppose them,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif. “In my district alone, the destruction has been immense.”
Both the House and Senate passed respective versions of the near $1 trillion agricultural legislation in July.
But expanded forest-management regulations of the type that would allow the U.S. Department of Agricultural and U.S. Department of Interior to override California’s bizarre environmentalist-driven state laws and administrative rules only appear in the House Farm Bill.
Congress is required to pass a Farm Bill every five years, and the deadline to pass the current bill was Sept. 30.
Senate Democrats have refused to include expanded forestry reforms—as well as a food-stamp work requirement rider also contained in the USDA’s budget.
Democrats are beholden to “special interest fear-mongering,” according to California Rep. Tom McClintock, a member of the Western Caucus.
With less than three weeks before the end of the current Congressional term, however, Senate Democrats have added leverage from the incoming Democratic House Majority in January.
“In the name of protecting endangered species, we have banned tried-and-true forest-management practices on more and more land, resulting only in the loss of those animals and the destruction of countless lives and homes,” said McClintock.
“These byzantine laws and regulations, administered by ideological zealots, have caused California’s forests to become dangerously overcrowded and overgrown,” he said.
In August, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke railed against the policies of what he called “radical environmentalists,” which he said were significantly to blame for California’s tragic fires—though environmentalists blame global warming.
It doesn’t matter “whether you’re a global-warming activist or denier,” Zinke said at a Trump cabinet meeting in August, the removal of dead timber will dramatically reduce necessary fuel for the fires, he said.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to progress has been the years’ worth of environmentalist lawsuits at the local, state and federal levels that have made realistic forest management impossible.
Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a National Public Radio interview last week that the federal government has been “litigated into paralysis about being able to do the common-sense [forestry] thinning and underbrush cleaning that needs to happen.”
California environmentalists have been obsessed with blocking the logging industry and restricting residential and commercial growth for years, to the extent that they may well-have created the conditions for the state’s record fires.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and Cal-Fire reported an historic 129 million dead trees in California prior to this year’s deadliest fires.
“The dead trees continue to pose a hazard to people and critical infrastructure, mostly centered in the central and southern Sierra Nevada region of the state,” a joint statement said prophetically in Dec. 2017.
Fourteen members of the Senate Western Caucus also sent a letter to Farm Bill negotiators on this week.
“This is a problem with a clear, actionable solution. These provisions will help protect our environment, improve air quality, and save lives—preventing their inclusion in the Farm Bill would be nothing short of irresponsible,” said LaMalfa.