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Forests: "lock 'em up, burn 'em down".

During the last two weeks of April, California experienced a statewide, record-breaking heat wave that threatens to start the wildfire season early this summer. Dozens of cities sweltered under temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. Deadly firestorms ravaged Southern California last year, but the much larger, denser, brush-clogged forests in the northern half of the state may provide a far greater conflagration this summer. In addition to the mounting fire hazard, California, like much of the rest of the country, is experiencing a severe wood-product shortage. Prices for lumber, plywood and particle board have skyrocketed, doubling and tripling in the past year. This, in turn, drives up the cost of housing construction.

A sensible solution: Why not allow some harvesting of trees, for fire safety, forest health and to serve the human need for wood products? Environmental extremists will have none of it. On April 27, Democrats in the state senate, backed by the Sierra Club and the Conservation League, killed a bill by Republican state senator Dennis Hollingsworth that would have allowed property owners to clear brush and trees up to 300 feet from any structure anywhere in the state. The Hollingsworth bill was supported by rural counties, property-owner associations, farm groups and the state Chamber of Commerce.

Because of radical environmental controls, logging in California has dropped by more than 60 percent over the past 15 years, with only 1.66 billion board feet harvested last year, compared to 4.67 billion in 1988. The state now gets 70 percent to 80 percent of its wood from other states or overseas. How will state legislators protect themselves from the political backlash when the inevitable wildfires destroy homes, take lives and turn scenic gems like Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Shasta and Sequoia to smoke and ashes? They are seeking cover behind SB 1369, sponsored by Democrat Senator Sheila Kuehl, a militant lesbian environmentalist. The Kuehl bill limits firebreaks around structures to 100 feet and only in select areas. This is a prescription for statewide catastrophic wildfires. A political firestorm that toasts the politicians responsible for these destructive poll ties is desperately needed to save the Golden State from being reduced to smoldering ruins.
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Title Annotation:Insider Report
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 17, 2004
Words:362
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