President Trump issued an executive order expanding logging on public land, reasoning it will lessen threat of wildfires.
Trump signed the order the Friday before Christmas, after a trip to Paradise, California. to see the defistation left by wildfires. Speaking to the press, Trump claimed Finland managed forests by routinely raking them.
The executive order instructs the secretaries of agriculture and interior to consider harvesting a total of 4.4 billion board feet of timber from forest land managed by their agencies on millions of acres, and put it up for sale. The order means a 31 percent increase in forest service logging since 2017.
Washington Times Reported:
University of Colorado Boulder Professor Jennifer Balch said in an email that while treating federal forests makes sense near homes, that policy prescription won’t make a serious dent in the size and intensity of wildfires out West. These fires have increased fivefold since the 1970s as temperatures have risen and snowpack has shrunk. Just 2 percent of lands treated by the Forest Service between 2004 and 2013 experienced a wildfire.
“We can’t log our way out of the fire problem — thinning all the forests is not possible,” the fire ecologist said. “And even if it were, it won’t stop fires in the extreme weather that is happening more frequently, and will in the future.”
A piece published Nov. 30 in Geophysical Research Letters found that human-induced climate change now influences a fifth of the world’s fires.
Balch noted that the executive order did not address some kinds of the vegetation that makes communities vulnerable to fire, such as the chaparral that spread a fire in November that destroyed hundreds of Malibu-area homes. “You can’t log shrubs,” she said.
Despite the fact that the Forest Service is shuttered, officials there have given loggers permission to keep operating on existing sales — which was prohibited during both the 1995 and 2013 shutdowns — and are now exploring holding new auctions even if the government remains closed.
Agency officials informed staffers Thursday to figure out what it would take to bring back some furloughed employees for new timber sales, according to a federal official who was not authorized to speak on the record. Meanwhile, the important work of removing small vegetation and dry brush that serves as kindling for fires is not being done because of the shutdown, the longest in history as it enters its fourth week.
Employees working without pay and those funded by unspent appropriations from last fiscal year are managing the current harvests, the official said. Timber technicians who go through the forests to mark which trees should be cut are receiving their regular salary. But holding new sales would involve substantially more staff, the official noted.
[Trump threatens to block California's FEMA funding unless the state cuts down more trees]
On Wednesday, the president tweeted that California receives “billions of dollars” for its wildfire recovery efforts and that he was poised to cut off that money unless the state changes its forest management practices.
“Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money,” Trump stated. “It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”
"Our public lands are supposed to be managed in a way that benefits the people,” said Sam Evans, national forests and parks program leader for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s office in North Carolina. “Trump’s executive order does the exact opposite, by putting policies in place that cater to industry interests.
“It’s not telling the agencies to increase the number of communities protected from fire risks,” Evans said. “It’s telling them to put more logs on trucks, while cutting out environmental review, transparency and accountability to the public.”
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