In the February 2018 issue of The Wrentit I described the controversy over Cal Fire’s massive Vegetation Treatment Plan, which would grind, burn, or poison large areas of habitat throughout the state in the name of fire suppression. This program started by removing dead or dying trees from forests and has expanded to include removal of all “fuel” in large areas. On May 10, 2018 Governor Brown pitched in with an executive order that provides $96 million in funding for these activities and doubles the area to be affected, from 250,000 to 500,000 acres.
Although well-intentioned, these plans do little to increase fire safety, while causing widespread ecological damage. As explained by Richard Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute, wildfire damages and death are caused primarily by building flammable houses in or near flammable terrain. Clearing forests or chaparral ten or fifty miles away from communities does not provide real protection. The state’s plans do almost nothing to increase buildings’ resistance to fire or to promote more sensible zoning and planning. Multiple organizations in California are trying to introduce some sense into the plans and Pasadena Audubon will work with them to reduce the amount of ecological damage.