TRUMPING WILDFIRE!

PRESIDENT TRUMP BEAT ME TO THE PUNCH! 

Leave it up to the Donald. If there’s a door worth opening, he’ll open it.

As a conservative environmentalist, I’ve been brainstorming for more than 25 years to figure out an effective way to hold liberal environmentalists accountable for the damage they cause to the environment, to Nature, and, therefore, to us. After reading a number of times that President Trump had threatened to begin withholding federal funds from California for dealing with wildfires because, according to Trump, “Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen,” the light finally clicked “ON.”

Trump had opened the door. He had provided an opportunity to begin the accountability process.

The fire Trump was referring to in his statement that, with proper Forest Management, it “would never happen,” was the Camp Fire, described as “the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history to date.” This 153,000+ acre wildfire that raged in and around the central California town of Paradise, from November 8 to 25, 2018. It resulted in 86 deaths and destroyed nearly 14,000 residences. 

Expanding on the “proper Forest Management,” that would help prevent fires like this disaster in Paradise, the Washington Post reported that Trump said, on a visit to Paradise, that the president of Finland had told him they spent time raking their forests to reduce problems with wildfires. Connecting this to the situation at hand Trump added, “You’ve got to take care of the floors, You know the floors of the forests, it’s very important.” One publication — Quartz — even reported while the Camp Fire was raging, that: To prevent wildfires, the Trump administration mentioned plans to open more US forests to grazing (to “clean the floor,” apparently)

In predictable NeverTrump fashion, the Post added: “The Finnish president later said he had never spoken with Trump about raking.” No problem! There’s a bounty of evidence a lot closer to home than Finland to support the indomitable Trumpster’s allegation that taking care of the floors of the forest can (and does) prevent wildfire. In fact, some of that evidence comes from the Camp Fire itself! Plenty more comes from less than a hundred miles from Paradise; some, from right next door. 

I can take some personal satisfaction from the “right next door” evidence, because I’ve given a couple of talks at Chico State University (about 15 miles from Paradise) about how grazing can be used to sustain and even restore ecosystem health. At those talk one of the things I’ve talked about is using animals, (including goats) to graze the land in a way that reduces fire danger.

What kind of evidence are we talking about? First let’s talk about what kind of “taking care of the floors of the Forest” we’re talking about. About 96 miles from Paradise the town of Nevada City, California has created a Goat Fund Me page (That’s right. I didn’t misspell it — “Goat Fund Me” via gofundme.com to raise $30,000 to hire goat ranchers to use their animals to clear flammable brush and grass from a 450 acre greenbelt that surrounds that town. Would it work? Does anyone believe it will work? One item of evidence is the fact that the Vice Mayor of Nevada City, Reinette Senumm, says the town is using “Goat Fund Me” to raise money quickly because the goats are only available on the short term. Why? They’ve already been hired out for fire prevention to other municipalities the rest of the year.

In fact, Goats are used to reduce the flammability of land surrounding the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant in California. Getting back to the site of my talk — Chico, a month before the Camp Fire started, the city of Chico imported hundreds of goats to begin a month-long grazing program to reduce fire danger in one of the city’s parks. The Camp Fire burned to Chico’s edge but, according to the fire map, barely entered the town and didn’t really get near the park.

Illustrating the effectiveness of using grazing to prevent wildfire, there are areas where wildfire has burned to the edge of land that has been grazed and stopped right at the fence. What stopped it? Not the barbed wire that kept the cows, sheep or goats in. Three wires, one and a half feet apart, can’t stop a raging windblown wildfire. What stopped it was the beating heart of ecology, specifically, land that is actively involved in the interaction we call life (in this case, eating grass, feeding it with fertilizer, and moving on to let it regrow and produce more food). Land where that interaction happens is more alive and resilient than land that is “protected” from it.

So, let’s take a look, because the only way information like this can be communicated is to enable someone to experience it first hand. That’s especially true for people who have been convinced that everything humans do in and to Nature, (except surround it with laws and regulations) has negative results. Since I can’t take you there physically, here are some photos. First…

I copied these photographs from a US Geological Survey report on the Murphy Wildland Fire Complex (2007) in Idaho and Nevada. Karen Launchbaugh, who took the photo on the left, is Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Director of the Univ. of Idaho Rangeland Center. W. Butler, I believe, works for the US Forest 
Service

Below is another fenceline firestopper photo downloaded from the Realtors Land Institute website:

 
According to Paul Bottari of Wells, NV., Member of the REALTORS® Land Institute 2017 Government Affairs Committee, the 6,000 acre unburned field on the left in the photo had been grazed by about 150 to 200 cattle six weeks before a fire was ignited by an electrical transformer and burned across an adjacent field that “hadn’t been grazed yet.” “Then when the fire reached our fence,” wrote Bottari, “it stopped except where there were a few stringers of high grass still remaining.” (visible in the photo)

Add another even more dramatic fenceline firestopper photo from Zak Miller on GrazeItDon’tBlazeIt.com

 
Now that we’ve got your eyes sharpened a bit here’s a photo showing where the same phenomenon (fire stopped at a fence) happened during the burning of the Camp Fire itself.

Was grazing the reason the Camp Fire stopped at this fence? The photos shown above give us a pretty good idea of the answer to that question.  (Also, I’m working to find out. I know someone whose house burned in the Camp Fire.)

“But, wait a minute!” I know some of you are saying after seeing what you have just seen, and I know you’re asking: “How can grazing stop a wildfire, except by eating everything burnable?” That’s a complicated topic, not because the answer is complicated, but because so much propaganda has been disseminated attesting that grazing causes wildfire as well as other negative impacts to ecosystems, and can only stop wildfire if the animals eat everything, then it’s overgrazed. Well, let’s visit some more evidence.

The above aerial photo, downloaded from a website that explains how grazing livestock in a way that mimics the interaction of wild grazers with their habitat shows a ranch in Australia where grazing is used to enhance ecosystem health. Viewing that photo I believe you can get an idea of how grazing can stop wildfire at a fence line.

How about a couple more photos closer to home (within a few miles of my home in Sedona, Arizona, actually). First — A photo showing how grazing can reduce (actually remove) fire danger. The area show below is near a water pond where cattle create the impact of a dense herd by coming here to drink frequently when they’re in the area. Doesn’t look very burnable, does it? I call this photo “Lub.”

Next, — “Dub” The exact same location after the cattle have moved on to an area where there is both water and food. (Check the dates, and the location.) With the cattle gone the grass has regrown, but now it’s too green to burn. That means the cows will be back soon to graze it before it becomes burnable. Hear the heartbeat: “Lub — Dub.” For a more orderly presentation of this evidence click HERE.

Having seen all these photos, it’s now time to ask yourself a couple of questions: Which of the two main types of management shown here — grazing/no grazing (aka “protection”) would you want your house to be near? Next, ask yourself which of those two types of management — grazing or “protection” — should be expanded in an effort to retard the explosion of wildfires currently plaguing the American West? And, which type of management should be reduced, regulated? Maybe, in some especially hazardous situations, banned?

If what these photos appear to illustrate is true — that removal of grazing makes open country ecosystems (especially those that include grassland areas) more susceptible to wildfire — that would seem to make removing grazing from those areas extremely unwise, even hazardous. What’s more, if it can be proved that removal of grazing actually makes wildlands of that sort more susceptible to wildfire, then, where that series of events has happened and resulted in actual damage of significant value — loss of homes, even lives — that would seem to make those who are responsible for removing grazing in those situations accountable and liable for the damage thus caused. (It sounds to me like Trump is willing to make that case.)

Expanding on the above realization, there are plenty of other types of environmental damage for which environmental groups could be held accountable once we realize that  protection really is management  — management described as “the removal of human management, use, and impact” when what is truly being removed is accountability for the actual results and outcomes of this type of management erroneously labeled as “protection.” (Take another look at those pictures.)  

How does this anti-management management measure its success and accountability?  The answer is: politics and economics. Politically — protection identifies its success in its ability to attract lots of votes and get its proponents elected to positions of power (and money). Economically — the success of “protection” is confirmed by its ability to attract huge amounts of contributions — “Send us your contributions to Save the Earth, preserve Nature, stop climate change, avoid the end of humanity! Oh, and never mind the results.”

What are some of those other types of ecological damage for which protection could be held accountable? (At this point I hope POTUS Trump is reading because he can help us solve these problems.) For an answer to that question, visit these posts on this site:  CANYON OF FOOLS, TRAIL RESTORATION WITH A CLICK, DOES ENVIRONMENTALISM WORK? CONDUCT YOUR OWN ECOLOGICAL STUDY, WHERE’S A REAL ENVIRONMENTALIST WHEN YOU NEED ONE?, WHERE’S A REAL ENVIRONMENTALIST MORE! and anything else on www.rightwaytobegreen.com that catches your eye.

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