President Trump was roundly mocked in 2018 for saying California needed to change their policies and manage their forests. As it happens, a panel of experts agrees with him. Scientists at the National Council for Science and Environment recommend a thinning of forests through controlled burns or manual clearing, Climatewire reports. They blame forest mismanagement, not climate change, for the devastation caused by California fires.
Environmental rules in California currently prevent forest management.
There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2018
Climate change played a minor role in the wildfires that devastated California in the past three years, a panel of experts said yesterday, blaming most of the damage on land management and development.
Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley, said 20% to 25% of the wildfire damage resulted from climate change, and “75% is the way we manage lands and develop our landscape.”
Jennifer Montgomery, director of the California Forest Management Task Force, said climate change “accelerated” wildfires by creating hotter and drier conditions throughout the state that intensified naturally occurring blazes.
“Climate change is an amplifier for natural systems and natural occurrences,” Montgomery said.
The comments by Montgomery and Stephens at an environmental conference in Washington undermine recent assertions by the head of California’s largest power utility that the wildfires were climate-driven.
Wildfire has a long history in California and until recently was a vital part of the state ecosystem, helping to thin forests. In the 18th century, when California was occupied by indigenous communities, wildfire burned about 4.5 million acres a year, said Stephens, the Berkeley professor.
In 2018 — when wildfires killed 100 people in California and destroyed nearly 25,000 structures — the fires burned 2 million acres. From 2013 through 2019, wildfires burned an average of 935,000 acres annually in California, according to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“When you think about what fire used to do in the state, it was so integral to systems. Fire was almost as important as rain to ecosystems,” Stephens said.
Climate change today “is just another factor that causes increased drying and an increase in the fire season,” he added. “The fire season is longer because we have less snow on the ground and temperature increases. There’s no doubt that will continue.”
Due to development, the fires cause more damage and more loss of life.
“Wildfire is not really wildfire — it’s not pointy green trees,” she said. “You get these so-called wildfires at intersection of development.”
Both Montgomery and Stephens advocated thinning California’s forests, either through prescribed burns or manual clearing. They spoke yesterday at the annual conference of the National Council for Science and the Environment.