This week, America’s West Coast found itself on fire. Millions of acres have burned across California, Oregon and Washington. The smoke clouds have been so immense that they have blotted out the sun in certain areas; air quality has been so poor that hundreds of thousands of people have been forced indoors.
There are several key reasons for the extent of these wildfires. Federal and state policies have been geared around stifling wildfires for decades, rather than allowing controlled burns to prevent accretion of flammable vegetation.
As ProPublica reports, California alone saw the burning of 4.4 million to 11 million acres per year prehistorically; between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to only 13,000 acres per year; in February 2020, Nature Sustainability concluded that California would need to burn some 20 million acres to restabilize in terms of fire.
Meanwhile, even those who pursue controlled burns must jump through extraordinarily regulatory hoops to do so: The Clean Air Act treats smoke from controlled burns as a pollutant, for example.
Even California Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted to President Donald Trump that the state had botched its fire policy: “We have not done justice for our forest management.” But that admission was the mere precursor […]
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