Submitted by Diana Westmoreland Pedrozo of the Merced Chapter
IT MATTERS WHERE AND HOW WE PLANT PEOPLE AND OUR FOOD
In the 1990’s, I attended meetings where the governmental agencies were convinced that fencing off grazing land would protect the native species in vernal pools. Well, 10 years later, they understood that cattle acted like the deer and the elk moving seeds and other creatures in the dry dirt of summer that came alive during the winter rains. The mismanagement of our forests for over a century, compounded by more recent environmental laws that do not consider the long term consequences of fuel build up have brought us to today.
We are all too aware of the devastation that fires caused last year throughout the state. Then the rain came to Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties causing floods and more death and destruction. There has been lots of debate and frustration for years about decisions regarding land use on federal, state, and private forest and working landscapes. Endangered species, wildlife and grassland management have been over regulated, micromanaged or left alone. Ranchers have known for generations that if you don’t manage the land, the feed and the fuel disasters will happen.
Richard Atmore gave testimony to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors about his perspective on what happened with the Thomas Fire. Please take the time to listen to this video. It’s just over 7 minutes and is an excellent, succinct description of what happened when there was way too much fuel on the ground that offered the perfect storm for intense destruction by fire.
Efforts started in 2009 to work on a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. In 2010, Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved the plan. They formed the Rancho Ventura Conservation Trust to preserve the rangeland that could help offer their urban neighbors wildlife protection on the working landscapes. By 2017, only 2% of the plan was complete. They ran into problems with environmental issues, the Fish & Wildlife Service, and CalFires decision not to burn during the drought. The hope is now that we can learn from our mistakes and move forward for a better future.
And then there is the dying Sierra Nevada Forests. The Bark Beetle and the drought have been a tsunami of destruction. Seeing pictures is bad enough but to see the dying trees in person breaks your heart. With all the fuel in the forests and more people living in communities and remote areas, CalFire concentrates their efforts and budget protecting mountain homes and businesses. We need to take a hard look at how we will manage our forests as more people retire, or choose to live in more remote areas.
Diana also recommends reading the article What all those dead trees mean for the Sierra Nevada, by Bettina Boxall, LATimes printed 1/28/17. For story and graphics, click here.