California shows progress in wildfires while Colorado battles its largest ever. Critics debate the causes and politics of wildfires and how to prevent them in the future.
California officials are reporting the state’s wildfires are mostly contained, but asked residents to remain vigilant.
This year, 4.1 million acres in the Golden State have burned, with a single fire-the August Complex Fire-accounting for 1 million acres.
- The intense wildfires have damaged sectors of California’s agriculture industry. Cattle ranchers lost livestock to the fires, while cannabis and wine producers were hit worse.
- After the Federal Emergency Management Agency initially rejected California’s disaster assistance request, Governor Gavin Newsom and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy appealed directly to the President, who approved the aid after the California politicians made “a convincing case.”
- NYT explains the aid rejection was “unusual, but not unprecedented”, with information showing anywhere from two to three disaster applications denied every year between 1974 and 2016.
- California relief comes as Colorado’s worst fire in history, the Cameron Peak Fire, gained intensity and the CalWood fire in Boulder County torched more than 9,000 acres with only 15% containment.
- In the state of Washington, an effort to advocate for “prescribed burns” has increased support for the practice, which uses controlled fires to clear brush and dried detritus without risking widespread fires. NBC News also takes a look at the practice, saying it was “integral” to management prior to 1910, and should be prioritized as climate change contributes to the increasing intensity of recent wildfires.
- New York Magazine details accusations from a former Trump Administration official who claims denial of disaster aid was politically motivated.
- Vox explains that federal-state cooperation on disaster declarations involves personal politicking between a Democratic governors and President Trump.
- The New York Times alleges that while federal assistance for wildfires has been turned into a political weapon in the Trump Administration, the areas in California most affected by wildfires “tend to be Republican.”
- Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank dedicated to “free-market solutions”, argues bad forest management practices are the cause of more intense wildfires rather than climate change.
- Tony Francois of Pacific Legal Foundation suggests that whatever the causes, local and state governments can sue their federal counterparts to bypass the bureaucracy he claims is partly responsible for inaction and force them to confront the lack of responsible federal forest management.
- Susan Crabtree of RealClearPolitics writes in a piece republished by The Federalist that a lackadaisical approach to holding Pacific Gas & Electric accountable by California politicians contributes to the intensifying annual fires the state faces. An investigation last year by the Wall Street Journal found the utility company responsible for more than 1,500 fires between 2014 and 2017.
© Dallas Gerber, 2020