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Fire on the Mountain

The much needed rain that last winter delivered was a welcome relief from the drought, but for many forests in California the rain was too little too late. Thousands of acres of forest land in California have dead and dying trees. This year’s fire season started early with fires growing in size and frequency. While the fires and the loss of forest land can be devastating to local communities and wildlife it can also have an impact on our water supply and our storage facilities. For the last ten years local communities and associations have been warning about the dangers of leaving so many acres of federal lands untreated and unmanaged. This year’s fire season started early and is still not over. While we breathed smoke from fires to the north and west of us, residents of the rest of the state dealt with smoke from fires burning in the Sierra’s to the south. For several months most of the west was covered in a haze from out of control wild fires. Twenty years ago the public was told that logging on federal lands needed to stop because clear cutting was destroying the habitat of the northern spotted owl. Later the Northwest Forest Plan would draw circles around known owl sites and make that land unavailable for harvest. This combined with other regulations for species and water quality have dropped timber harvest on federal lands from 12 billion board feet annually to less than 1 billion nationwide. In addition to the impact on forest management this drop has been devastating to local schools and governments that used to receive 25% of the funds from wood harvested on the national forest. While it is critical that we improve water storage for the state of California it is also critical that we protect those forests that as Gifford Pinchot said, ” act as a sponge for the water that we all depend upon.” n

(Picture by Roger Jaegel.)

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