Months ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown urged state lawmakers to loosen restrictive logging regulations put in place to appease environmentalists — a move that appears to have confirmed that President Trump’s recent critiques of state logging practices was correct.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported back in August that Brown was proposing one of the most significant changes to the state’s logging rules in nearly half a century.
“Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing broad new changes to California’s logging rules that would allow landowners to cut larger trees and build temporary roads without obtaining a permit as a way to thin more forests across the state,” the paper reported.
Environmentalists in California weren’t on board. They’ve been pushing for years to make California’s logging rules more restrictive, not less — but forest fires in recent years appeared to change the calculus for certain lawmakers.
“Under Brown’s proposal, private landowners would be able to cut trees up to 36 inches in diameter — up from the current 26 inches — on property 300 acres or less without getting a timber harvest permit from the state, as long as their purpose was to thin forests to reduce fire risk,” the Sentinel reported. “They also would be able to build roads of up to 600 feet long without getting a permit, as long as they repaired and replanted them.”
Forests, particularly in northern California, California lawmakers admitted, have become dangerously overgrown. But there’s currently little incentive for landowners to clear their trees — they are only allowed to clear dead and decaying wood and undergrowth and can’t clear healthy tress. By allowing landowners to recover some money from the process — letting them create and sell lumber, for instance — it could incentivize them to make bigger changes.
Environmentalists said they were worried landowners would go way too far, cutting down ancient redwoods or clear-cutting property, but even the most ardent environmentalists admit that some thinning is needed.
Despite his own embrace of new logging rules back in August, Gov. Jerry Brown balked at President Donald Trump’s suggestion that poor forestry and poor forest management might be to blame for the massive wildfires that ripped through northern and southern California earlier this month, claiming dozens of lives and tens of thousands of acres.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” the president tweeted while he was in France observing the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
“Our focus is on the Californians impacted by these fires and the first responders and firefighters working around the clock to save lives and property — not on the president’s inane, uninformed tweets,” Brown’s office responded.
Instead, Brown blamed global warming for the uptick in fires.
The president may not have been wholly correct but it seems he was certainly on to something.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article wrongly suggested that Brown had changed his logging policy in response to the recent forest fires. Brown originally proposed a change in logging policy back in August in advance of the recent forest fires.