Did Forest Management or Climate Change Cause California Wildfires?

“Please remember the words, very simple. Forest management. Please remember that,” said President Trump, in Sacramento on Monday for a meeting with Gov. Gavin Newsom. The president contended that brush and dead trees in California’s forests are “like a matchstick.” Gov. Newsom countered that “The hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier… something happened to the plumbing of the world. Climate change is real and exacerbating this.” 

The governor’s natural resources secretary, Wade Crowfoot, told the president. “If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians.” Embattled Californians have cause to wonder. 

Wade Crowfoot graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1996 with a degree in political science and in 2004 earned master’s in public policy from the London School of Economics. Crowfoot was deputy cabinet secretary to Gov. Jerry Brown and also served as west coast director for the Environmental Defense Fund. In the Monday meeting, Crowfoot did not spell out the science on climate change. That would require some presentation of hard data that had been submitted to others for replication. 

While waiting for the political science grad to lay out the data, Californians might check out California Wildfires: Key Recommendations to Prevent Future Disasters, a 2019 briefing by Lawrence McQuillan, Haydeon Carol Park, Adam B. Summers and Katherine Dwyer. The authors find “Cal Fire and other state and federal agencies to be at fault for allowing fuel conditions to persist that enabled so many wildfires to reach epic proportions.” Their recommendations include: Emphasize proactive forest management and forest restoration; conduct more prescribed or controlled burns; Allow private-property owners to more easily remove trees and provide active forest management through forest thinning and the creation of breaks, especially near communities

While blaming climate change for wildfires, state officials also ignore another potential cause: arson. As KION reported on September 11, Anita Esquivel has been arrested for intentionally starting fires near Highway 101 in Monterey County. 

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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