Our New Normal

Our New Normal

It has been a long hot summer full of triple digits and raging wildfires burning throughout the State resulting in bad air quality. Although this year’s fires have not technically burned in Tulare County, we too are experiencing the effects from Northern California wildfires.

Keep in mind we still have two more dry months ahead and the fire season will be with us until the first snow falls. Let’s hope Tulare County will be spared a major fire in 2018.  

We have to ask….is this our new normal? The Governor has been very vocal in sharing his beliefs that it is, and the cause – Climate Change.

Then again before we re-arrange our budgets to provide more dollars to fight fires, we need to take a good hard look at the forest management in California – and how it is currently funded.

Nearly half of the State, and a large percentage of our state forest areas, belong to the Federal Government. Therefore, the Federal Government needs to be at the table with local and state leaders to address the issue of managing our forest lands.

Together, we need to evaluate the existing policies which have severely hampered our ability to act responsibly and chart a new course in providing immediate as well as long term solutions to the mismanagement of our forests.

 I recently read an article in the 2018 summer edition of Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) entitled Fighting Fire with Finance. The article referenced a new tool being explored by the U.S. Forest Service called a Forest Resilience Bond whereby private funding would be available to forest resource beneficiaries such as hydro project operators and water agencies delivering water to agricultural and urban users.

This funding would allow users to do large scale projects which would improve forest health based upon the concept that the new water developed by the water interests would belong to resource beneficiaries. The revenue derived from incurred water flows would be used to repay bond holders. The article made reference to a pilot project in the Tahoe National Forest.

Developing funding concepts that use private rather than public funds may be a way to jump start a forest management solution, rather than traditional government appropriations. In the light of limited funding resources and the magnitude of the tree mortality crisis the use of private funds is most intriguing.

As residents of California we cannot accept the proposition that the “new normal” will include destruction of property, human life and our natural resources. The time to act is before not after fires are ignited.