Taxes, Wildfires and Missed Opportunity

Smoke rolling in over the Trinity Alps.

Most folks have noticed, it is fire season in California and most of the western United States. What many may not know is that the ‘brilliant’ state of California has also begun to send out ‘fire suppression’ bills to the rural residents of the state to raise an estimated $84 million to help fund Cal Fire, the agency responsible for battling wildfires.

This new tax has been levied on only the rural residents, without a 2/3 vote, simply because they live in the areas where fire is most prevalent and because the state budget was $10 billion in the red, the general fund is empty and the Cal Fire budget has more than doubled over the past 10 years.

I’m sorry folks, but this new tax is wrong, unfair and should serve as a major wake-up call to all residents of the state.

First, most of the western forests are now more than 300% overstocked due to the general public’s support of stopping logging and preventing healthy forest management which has resulted in excessive fuel loads and diseased forests ripe for devastating fire. Second, most of the long-term rural residents of the state have done extensive fire-proofing on their property. Third, public officials have done little to curb development in forested areas, let alone plan for fire events. Fourth, many rural Californians already pay a local fire fee to support local fire districts and fifth, this new tax will discourage rural residents from passing future bond measures and initiatives to support local needs.

This tax needs to be withdrawn, period. Forests on public lands are a public resource and their management should be paid for by the public. It is long past time for active management to return to all western forests. There are jobs to be created, revenue to be generated for local schools and communities and money to be saved from fighting fewer fires, which would be less devastating if management were allowed.

Forests are a renewable resource…and more quickly renewed through active management practices than as a result of recovery from a fire, which often times devastates the soil. It is time to return commonsense to the way we manage our forests and run our government. Just saying….

  1. August 16, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    Good read, & so true. I pay county taxes,and while I live on a graded road, that gets hit hard during raining season. But instead of using tax dollars to pave this road,one closer to the city is getting repaved(doesn’t need it),and sidewalks widen for 7.5 mill.. Unfair, I think so.

  2. Tracy
    August 16, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    Ironic: wildland firefighters took a pay cut and now those who own land have to pay a tax to fund their organization.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      August 16, 2012 at 9:44 PM

      I think Cal Fire has done decent work…my issue is not with them…it is with the the bureaucratic quagmire in Sacramento that doesn’t believe that the public should pay to fight fire on public land…worse…that they will not allow thinning and harvesting to occur that would allow for fires to return naturally and not cause devastation. Sorry, but taxing private land owners, who already pay for protection and have fire-proofed their property, should not be picking up the bill for the rest of the state.

  3. August 16, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Great post Jeff. Thank you for writing on this important issue!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      August 16, 2012 at 9:45 PM

      Rode into the Trinities today…amazed how diseased the trees are…it’s sad.

  4. dadblunders
    August 16, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    There is a growing body of evidence that even Native Americans used to burn off parts of the forest to promote regeneration and forest management. They didn’t have the technology to help in many other ways but they did do control burns to help with stability and habitat diversity. It is also thought they would clear off parts of forests to built things out of the wood on purpose for the same reason. It seems to me that if they knew about diversity and keeping a forest healthy 1000’s of year ago we shouldn’t be so afraid of it today. (not wild fires either…just in case you thought I meant that….I mean open up more forest for how they were meant to be used) Just my two cents…..

    Aaron

  5. August 16, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    Sorry about my first comment,guess I was thinking of my own recent argument with the county about my situation. Your article was well written. Good luck on getting this overturned.

  6. Danielle
    August 16, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    It is true, Native American’s used fire in the Pacific Northwest as a tool. It is estimated that in the PNW that 1mm acres per year were burned. In addition, natural fires burned due to lightning strikes. In the Sierras and Klamath areas, the fires burned every 5 to 30 years. The difference with those historic fires vs. today’s fires is the fuel loading that Jeff mentioned. Since we’ve suppressed fires for 60 years all of that fuel/vegetation that otherwise would have been burned off every few years has built up, so when we do have fires, they become catastrophic fires. Many argue to allow fire back into the ecosystem and use it as a tool as the Native Americans did to allow things to get back to a more natural state. However, introducing fire into the existing fuel conditions in our forests is asking for trouble without pre-removal of the fuels; case in point the fire in Lassen State Park….(the Park service was letting a lightning strike burn….bad idea given the low humidity and high temperatures in the area….that fire is now over 25,000 acres and will most likely not be contained until the rains come)

    If we would thin our forests, use the material for biomass energy or wood products not only would we be creating jobs in our rural areas and creating green energy and a green building product but we would be reducing carbon emissions from fires when they do burn and reducing the costs of fighting fires…..Seems like a win-win…..And then maybe they wouldn’t need the SRA fee; which as I understand the funds are going to be used for education and outreach and planning thru fire safe councils, with only a small portion for fighting fire.

  7. August 17, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Great post, Jeff, thanks for speaking out on this issue! Our forest management has been shameful for the past three decades and we are now seeing the destructive legacy that we brought upon ourselves. Our state government is mistaken if they think this will head-off any of the firestorm situations that are awaiting to happen all around our state. Having lived through a bad one in SoCal a few years ago, this really brings to light how badly we are managing our forests and rangelands.

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