Democrats & Liberals Archives

Finding Solutions, Not Blame

Duncan Hunter would like you to believe environmentalists are the enemy. On his appearance yesterday on ABC’s “This Week”, Hunter reasonably asserts that flammable brush near homes should be removed to reduce fire danger. But Duncan, environmentalists agree that homes and flammable brush are a dangerous mix.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, also on the program suggested local communities use zoning to keep residences from being built in high fire danger areas. She talked of the need to factor in drying weather conditions in adjusting zoning. She also agreed with Hunter about the need to adjust regulations to allow more brush clearing near homes.

Not heard on the program was the fact that fire-prone brush removal near homes is exempt from environmental regulations.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, said he predicts “a tug of war” between environmentalists and the firefighting community over laws that protect certain fire-prone vegetation from being cut down near homes.

“We have brush that comes right up against housing subdivisions,” Hunter said.

County regulations, however, say removing flammable vegetation is exempt from environmental restrictions if fire professionals recommend it in writing.

Rules call for homeowners to create a 100-foot buffer around their houses. If homeowners fail to comply after repeated warnings, the county has the authority to remove the brush and charge the homeowner for the work.

The casual listener is left with the impression that environmentalists are inflexible ideologues who value the life of sage brush over the homes of humans. Sure one can find ELF activists who fit that description, but the vast majority of us are reasonable folk who agree that once a home is built, protecting it from fire is more important than preserving the brush in its perimeter. You may even be surprised to find many of us willing to lift the requirement for a written recommendation for exemptions, if other conditions are met.

But when developers push for exemptions to zoning to build residential areas densely into forests where common sense tells us they don't belong, don't blame the environmentalists when ensuing fires destroy those homes which would never have been built had environmental concerns guided the zoning and zoning enforcement at the outset.

Of course, the broader solution is facing up to global warming with bold international initiatives which seek to reverse the trends which bring us ever more severe climate changes and their catastrophic results. But reality demands that we also seek the more immediate solutions to deal with dangers closer at hand, whether they be brush removal near existing homes, or zoning to prevent dangerous development in the first place.

Posted by Walker Willingham at October 29, 2007 10:05 PM
Comment #237211

Walker Willingham

The voice of reason, nice to see you back. I am

afraid people every where will soon realize the

importance of clean air and water, regardless of how

much they would like to place a home on a mountain

top or on the edge of a cliff over looking the

ocean, or a beautiful lake in the middle of a

forest. I believe a Presidential commission must

be formed with all segments of the population that

have some idea of what the consequences will be

in the event, nothing is done to salvage the

planet from those who, with unintended or

deliberately, cause destructive harm of the

environment. We all have choices, I hope everyone

can see something they can do or say in order to

make our planet better rather than take it for


Posted by: -DAVID- at October 30, 2007 7:08 AM
Comment #237215

A well intended article Walker. There have been a lot of threads on WatchBlog lately concerning environmental issues and global warming. I have come to the conclusion that there is still a small percentage, who for various reasons, will have nothing to do with the idea of global warming and its associations with the actions of man. While more and more information and speculation as to the effects of that information comes out some still elect to maintain a position of denial.

I am sure some will argue that you folks have no business living in areas unusually susceptible to environmental hazard. I am not of that ilk. I think that if people wish to live in questionable locations so be it. But they are going to have to realize that there are going to be additional costs involved that would not be incurred if they lived in more stable regions. Building codes will need to be changed to make homes, businesses etc less vulnerable to hazard. Fire retardant materials must be mandatory to build in prone areas. Also as you say the brush should be removed to an acceptable distance and it should be maintained on a regular basis. These areas I am sure probably also require more emergency personnel than other areas of the country. In the end it all comes down to cost. It should not be expected that those of us who do not live in prone areas continue to fund these disasters year after year. Especially in light of the frequency with which they occur now days. Whether or not these natural disasters are the result of global warming or not really is not of much concern at this point. Other than as a possible solution to the problem. And as far as I can see there is no rush to validate warming or tackle the problem. Regardless of the latter, weather patterns have most definitely changed noticeably over the last 30 years. When one elects to move to or continue to live in a highly susceptible area they will simply have to be willing and able to pony up the total cost of living as safely as possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I do feel your pain and sympathize with your situation. I lived in the state of Oregon for a couple of years and being an outdoors person I absolutely loved it. Life decisions did not allow me to return. I often think I would love to move out of cornfield county and escape the miserable winters. But when I take a close look at the alternatives and associated problems those wants do not seem essential. On the bright side our winters are getting warmer and shorter.

Posted by: RickIL at October 30, 2007 9:42 AM
Comment #237216


…some will argue that you folks have no business living in areas unusually susceptible to environmental hazard. … I do feel your pain and sympathize with your situation.
For the record, I do not and would not live in such an area. For that matter I would not move anywhere in Southern California as there is not the necessary water resources to sustain its absurdly large population. But that’s another story.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at October 30, 2007 9:59 AM
Comment #237224

I have a BS in both natural resource management and forestry. I consider myself an environmentalist with a brain. Much of what I read about extreme envirommental actions makes me cringe. We can live in harmony with nature if we have the will. For those who would like a great read by a man known as the “Father of Modern Forestry” pick up a copy of “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold. Leopold taught at the U of Wisconsin for many years and this book is highly entertaining and well worth the read to understand what a balance of nature looks like.

Posted by: Jim at October 30, 2007 12:45 PM
Comment #237231

The world population is growing by 211,000 per day!
The U.S. population growth rate is increasing.
The acres of arable (farmable) land per person is decreasing drastically every day (now 1.15 acres). The environmental impact in heavily populated areas is significant.
Clean water will no longer be taken for granted.

Posted by: d.a.n at October 30, 2007 2:59 PM
Comment #237245


Sorry for the mistake. The way your thread is written makes it easy to assume that this is a concern for you specifically. At any rate my thoughts still apply to those who inhabit such areas.

Posted by: RickIL at October 30, 2007 6:05 PM
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