Two Words Explain California’s Wildfire Woes: Spotted Owl

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Spotted Owl, Illustration.

This is an excellent article on the historical background of forestry, forest management, and wildfires published by the The CALIFORNIA GLOBE

Some things in life are hard to understand and explain. The theory of relativity, for example, or the origins of black holes. Other things are easy to grasp, however.

Such as: California’s wildfire woes. In the past five years summer and fall firestorms have killed dozens of people, wiped out homes, businesses and entire communities, torched millions of acres of forestlands, caused billions in property losses, and swept away untold numbers of animals and wildlife.

The cause of all this wreckage is easy to pinpoint. It’s simple as two words: spotted owl.

In the 1980s California was a superstar timber producer. Nearly 150 sawmills churned out four billion board feet of lumber every year, leading the nation. Working-stiff loggers had money in their pockets, their families thrived, and little lumber towns tucked away in the north woods boomed.

Enter the spotted owl. A night-flying denizen of the deep woods, the owl became a cause célèbre for people who had never seen one and never would. When the government moved to protect it as a threatened species, it ushered in an ugly slugfest pitting environmentalists, California state officials and the U.S. Forest Service against loggers and the timber industry.

The fight was over protecting the owl’s habitat. After lawsuits, protests and even violence, the environmentalists won.

Kevin Nelson has put together a report that is both comprehensive and succinct. Well done.

It is an article well worth reading and ends with a description of how California has painted itself into a nasty corner and may have little hope of exiting it.

Additionally, the knowledge base is almost extinct. Fewer people know how to do the things that generations of logging families once took for granted, and those who still retain these skills are often old-timers whose time is running out.

The irony here is that environmentalists, the state and the USFS are now in need of the very industry they have vilified and fought for so long. According to Dan Porter of the Nature Conservancy, the critical lack of timber industry infrastructure and know-how is “one of the biggest barriers to scaling ecological forest management.”

So let me be sure I have this right:

You identify a “problem” and then destroy a way of life as a means of solving that perceived problem. But then your “solution” creates an even bigger mess, one that causes you to go back to the very people whose communities and livelihoods you trashed, asking them to help you with your latest bright idea. But these small town Americans have themselves become an endangered species.

Meanwhile, has anyone seen a spotted owl lately?

via Watts Up With That?

October 16, 2022