Wildfires have long been a natural part of the west coast’s ecosystem, but what we’ve seen over the past decades, especially in the last few years, is on a scale not seen since the raging infernos of the early 20th century. The nearly 900,000 acres burning in Oregon have forced at least 10 percent of the state’s population from their homes.
According to CAL FIRE, six of the Golden State’s 20 largest blazes in history have occurred this year alone. The largest so far, called the August Complex Fire, has scorched more than 750,000 acres and was only 30 percent contained as of Monday.
Right now, the Pacific states look like something out of the Book of Revelations. You’ve seen the pictures — thousands of homes engulfed in flames and glowing red skies so thick with ash it makes Beijing’s air look pristine by comparison. Of course, the ultimate tragedy is at least 33 lives lost from these wildfires.
But where most Americans see tragedy, Democrats see a political opportunity. Former President Barack Obama tweeted this last week: “The fires across the West Coast are just the latest examples of the very real ways our changing climate is changing our communities. Protecting our planet is on the ballot. Vote like your life depends on it—because it does.”
Very subtle. But not subtle enough for old Joe Biden and his crack team of campaigners to miss the cues. Biden has a new slogan: vote for Joe or you’ll burn alive in a raging wildfire. And when that happens, don’t blame decades of land mismanagement, blame Donald Trump!
“If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires?” Biden said on Monday from the relative comfort of Wilmington, Delaware. “If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater? We need a president who respects science, who understands that the damage from climate change is already here.”
Of course, Biden offered zero policies or ideas for how to solve wildfires today or next year or the year after or even 20 years from now. He did, however, make sure to label President Trump a “climate arsonist.” Whatever that means.
We Need Smarter Policies, Not Political Rhetoric
What we need are policies that we know work in mitigating fire risks. One effective tool is logging. For decades, there was a vibrant logging industry in the Pacific Northwest. Not only was this a vital source of jobs for rural folks, but it also helped keep forests healthy.
Logging companies had a strong profit incentive to keep wildfire risks low by clearing out dead trees and debris, and making sure forests didn’t become overgrown — a tragedy currently playing out in the Sierra Nevada right now.
About 150 million dead trees currently litter the Sierra Nevada. Thanks to decades of overgrowth, the recent drought, and bark beetle infestations, the U.S. Forest Service estimates there’s roughly 2,100 tons of wildfire fuel per acre.
One of this year’s mega-fires — the Creek Fire — is already feeding off this debris. Two hundred campers had to be evacuated over Labor Day weekend to avoid being harmed by the blaze that has now consumed more than 220,000 acres. Unfortunately, intense opposition from environmentalists means revitalizing the logging industry is unlikely anytime soon,
Better Land Management Needed 20 Years Ago
Most of the discussion about forest management currently revolves around mechanical thinning and prescribed burns. Mechanical thinning includes physically removing dead trees, pruning branches and bushes, and creating firebreaks to limit the size and scope of fires.
While this is beneficial, it’s not always practical or economical. That’s why there’s a big discussion about prescribed burns, which is exactly what it sounds like—intentionally lightning small, low-intensity fires to clear debris.
Before European settlement, Native Americans used prescribed burns to keep forests from overgrowing, and while we know it’s effective at mitigating fires, it’s not being used nearly as much as it should. Even California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a climate zealot, has admitted his state needs to do more prescribed burns.
In fact, he’s entered an agreement with the Trump administration to thin 1 million acres of forest a year by 2025. That’s great news, but a recent study identified 20 million acres in need of thinning in California alone.
Democrats Beholden to Interest Groups that Enable Fires
Newsom is also one of those politicians embracing the politics of destruction to further his green agenda. Just the other day he gave a speech in the burnt-out wake of a destructive wildfire in another one of his shameless photo ops. While he did mention land management, he quickly pivoted back to suggesting a certain group was to blame.
“California, folks, is America fast-forward,” Newsom said. “What we are experiencing right here is coming to communities all across the United States of America unless we get our act together on climate change — unless we disabuse ourselves of all the BS that’s being spewed by a very small group of people that have an ideological reason to advance the cause of a 19th-century framework and solution. We’re not going back to the 19th century.”
Likewise, Biden has trotted out more of the same policies that were the hallmark of the Obama era—more green energy subsidies, emissions mandates, giveaways to electric car buyers, and, of course, the Paris climate accord.
“When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, he thinks hoax. When I think about it, I think jobs. Good-paying union jobs to put Americans to work, building a stronger, more climate resilient nation,” Biden said on Monday. “I’ll bring us back into the Paris Agreement … I’ll also see American workers building and installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations along our newly engaged infrastructure programs and highways, all across the country,” Biden continued.
You get the idea. But the question remains: How will thousands of electric car charging stations reduce wildfire risks? The answer is they won’t. If anything, all the power lines needed to attach all the solar panels and wind turbines Biden wants to add to the grid will increase the risk of fires, especially out west. Don’t believe me, just ask California.
Climate Change Can’t Be Stopped, Only Mitigated
Even the most ardent climate activist will admit that even if we dramatically reduced emissions across the globe today, the models they put so much faith in predict the world will still be warmer by 2100. As Todd Myers, director of environmental policy at the Washington Policy Center, put it: “An aggressive – and expensive – climate policy would not reduce risk of wildfires even eighty years from now.”
As Myers noted, the obsession with cutting emissions and expunging fossil fuels has likely made the wildfire situation worse. Two years ago, University of Washington climate scientist Cliff Mass wrote this when blazes scorched the Pacific Northwest: “Those who blame our dangerous situation on a ‘new normal’ solely resulting from climate change, are not only misinformed, but they can act as obstacles to the actions that are acutely needed: a massive effort to thin our forests and bring back low-intensity fire.”
He’s right. Ironically, the activists screeching the most about man-made warming are the same people using the legal system to keep the state and federal foresters from doing their jobs. Environmentalists have become experts at using landmark environmental legislation, like the Endangered Species Act, to halt logging and forest management.
This lawsuit game has become a racket for environmentalists. Over the years, some groups have made millions suing the federal government and getting taxpayers to pay their attorney’s fees. This is essentially a giant taxpayer donation to the eco-left.
Of course, it’s politicians who enabled and encouraged activists to behave this way. Politicians like Joe Biden, who’s been in D.C. for nearly half a century and vigorously protected the kinds of laws and policies that keep forests from being properly managed. Right now, it seems like he and his supporters are more committed to the politics of destruction and fearmongering than finding real solutions for the crisis facing our forests.
While Biden may win the election on this strategy, the American people — especially those in the wildfire-prone west — will lose.