Competent Forest Management

We’ve had it before—and still do in private forests—but have lost it in our public ones due to the environmentalists, as this article by Congressman Tom McClintock in the Wall Street Journal notes.

An excerpt.

Pundits and politicians have taken to calling the rising incidence of catastrophic wildfire “the new normal.” But California’s experience in the 21st century is neither new nor abnormal. It is, in fact, the old normal. The devastation unfolding today is how nature manages forests. Like an untended garden, an abandoned forest will grow until it chokes itself to death. Nature deals with morbid overcrowding through drought, disease, pestilence and ultimately catastrophic wildfire.

Scientists studying charcoal deposits in California estimate that prehistoric wildfires destroyed between 4.5 million and 11.9 million acres a year. When Juan Cabrillo dropped anchor in San Pedro Bay in October 1542 (the height of the Santa Ana fire season), he promptly named it the “Bay of Smoke.”

Our modern sensitivities reel at the devastation of the Camp Fire, which recently incinerated 153,000 acres, wiped out the entire town of Paradise, and claimed at least 86 lives. Yet in 1910 the “Big Burn” in Idaho and Montana consumed three million acres, wiped out seven towns, and killed 87 among a far smaller and sparser population.

The U.S. Forest Service had formed only five years earlier, driven by scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of forest ecology. The first wave of American conservationists didn’t watch helplessly as the cycle of catastrophic overpopulation followed by catastrophic wildfire wiped out entire forests. Instead, they believed, management could keep forests healthy and resilient for generations.

Excess timber comes out of a forest in two ways—it gets carried out or burned out. For much of the 20th century, harvesting excess timber produced thriving forests by matching tree density to the ability of the land to support it. Foresters designated surplus trees, and loggers bid for the right to remove them at auction, with the proceeds going to the U.S. Treasury. These revenues were then put back into forest management and shared with local communities.

What went wrong? In the 1970s, Congress passed a series of laws subjecting federal land management to time-consuming and cost-prohibitive environmental regulations. Instead of generating revenues, forest management now costs the government money. As a result, timber harvested from federal lands has declined 80%, while acreage destroyed by fire has increased proportionally.

A half-century of environmental regulation hasn’t helped the forests thrive. A typical acre in the Sierra can support roughly 80 mature trees, but the current density is more than 300 trees. A single fully grown tree can draw 100 gallons of water from the soil on a hot day. Drought kills overcrowded forests quickly.

The environmental left blames climate change. Yet this doesn’t explain the dramatic difference between federal lands and private forests that practice scientific forest management. The boundary lines can often be seen from the air because of the condition of the forests. How clever of the climate to decimate only the lands hamstrung by these environmental laws.

Retrieved December 18, 2018 from https://www.wsj.com/articles/only-good-management-can-prevent-forest-fires-11545090601

 

Posted in Environmentalism

Christmas Vacation

Hello Everyone:

I will be taking our traditional Christmas/New Year blog vacation until Monday, January 7, 2019.

Have a Wonderful and Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!!

David H. Lukenbill

 

Posted in Holiday

County’s Homeless Programs

Sacramento County is touting its success with the homeless in this news article but there is no mention of the illegal camping by the homeless in the Parkway, surely the biggest homeless issue the County faces; and the exclusion might be telling us all we need to know about the County’s priorities.

The News Article.

Homeless Initiatives are Working – County Expands

12/14/2018 Health & Social Services

Article Date: Friday, December 14, 2018

In 2017, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved funding and implementation of four major initiatives to address critical needs of those experiencing homelessness and to help reduce the homeless population. Subsequently, two associated augmentations were added to further address the needs of all vulnerable population groups. The first programs began in October of 2017, several began in 2018 and many are in the process of becoming operational. In just one year’s time, the County has achieved phenomenal results from these new initiatives.

  • Improve the Family Crisis Response and Shelters (October 2017)

◦146 families served in shelter

◦50 moved to permanent housing

  • Preserve Mather Community Campus (October 2017)

◦351 individuals served in transitional housing

◦116 moved to permanent housing

  • Full Service Rehousing Shelter (March 2018)

◦91 individuals in scattered-site shelters

◦19 moved to permanent housing

  • Flexible Supportive Re-housing Program (February 2018)

◦191 individuals enrolled

◦94 moved into permanent housing

  • Transitional Aged Youth (May 2018)

◦115 served with prevention, diversion and intervention services

◦35 moved to permanent housing

◦32 maintained housing through services

◦17 entered emergency shelter

  • Unincorporated County Navigation Services (April 2018)

◦177 served through outreach and rehousing services

◦30 moved to permanent housing

In total, 416 individuals have moved into permanent housing since the start of the first initiative in October 2017.

“We are thrilled to share the success that our programs have had in this first year. In some programs, success has been demonstrated in mere months,” said Ann Edwards, Director of the Department of Human Assistance. “We are reaching people we have never been able to engage and they are seeing a real difference in their lives.”

On Oct. 16, 2018, the County Board of Supervisors endorsed the investment strategy for nearly $20 million in new State funding to combat homelessness in partnership with Sacramento Steps Forward and the City of Sacramento. On Dec. 11, the Board of Supervisors approved the acceptance of more than $11 million that the Department of Human Assistance will directly administer, building of the existing initiatives to reduce homelessness.

State funding comes through the State’s new Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and the California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program. The funds will provide additional emergency shelter for both families and individuals through Emergency Family Shelter and the Full Service Rehousing Shelters (FSRS). The FSRS is a scattered-site model using master leasing of vacant homes in the region to house up to five persons in addition to a fulltime house monitor. Residents are provided with intensive case management services and rehousing assistance to help them exit the program into stable, permanent housing with the support they need.

The funding also will create a Flexible Housing Pool (building on the Flexible Supportive Rehousing Program) that will offer both services and re-housing assistance to help households in shelter or working with navigation programs to move into housing more quickly.

For the first time, clients experiencing homelessness who are engaged in Adult Protective Services or jail diversion will be offered this practical assistance to resolve their homelessness. The County will also administera new expungement clinic to help remove barriers to housing and employment.

To be eligible to administer and receive the HEAP funds, the Board of Supervisors declared a shelter crisis on Oct. 16. Other cites declaring a crisis and participating in the program include the City of Sacramento, Elk Grove and Citrus Heights.

On Dec. 12, The Board of Supervisors heard and adopted the proposed Sacramento County Homeless Plan that is required to facilitate participation in the State’s No Place Like Home (NPLH) program. This program provides funding for new permanent supportive housing for people who are experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or who are at risk of becoming chronically homeless, and who are also living with a serious mental illness and in need of mental health services. In NPLH developments, the County will provide a 20-year commitment to comprehensive services, including behavioral health services.

In addition to meeting State requirements for NPLH, the County’s Plan serves as a building block for all partners within Sacramento County to implement shared strategies that make a measureable impact on homelessness. The Plan was endorsed by the City of Sacramento and County Continuum of Care on Dec. 12.

“The County Homeless Plan reflects countless hours of collaboration with County departments, community groups, stakeholders and other jurisdictions within our region,” said Cindy Cavanaugh, Director of Homeless Initiatives. “The Plan lays out comprehensive strategies and concrete actions for Sacramento over the next several years. While pleased with early results of our homeless initiatives, this Plan says that, as a community, we are not letting up.”

Sacramento County will be eligible for $5,087,737 through the noncompetitive NPLH funding for housing developments, and is eligible to apply for a share of $400 million in competitive funds. The Board of Supervisors will approve development applications for the first round of NPLH competitive funding on Jan. 29.

With the initial success of the Sacramento County homeless i​nitiatives and additional funding sources for expansion, collaborative community partnerships, and dedicated service providers, Sacramento County recognizes that change is possible for our community and the lives of its valued residents.

Retrieved December 15, 2018 from http://www.saccounty.net/news/latest-news/Pages/Homeless-Initiatives-are-Working-%E2%80%93-County-Expands.aspx

Though the latest Parkway Ranger Reports do indicate a high level of camp clearing, so that is good news…see October 2018 (latest as of today) report at http://www.sacparks.net/Rangers/Documents/October%20%202018%20Monthly%20Report.pdf

Posted in Government, Homelessness

Green Madness

From the article of the same name in City Journal a reminder of the reality of deep ecology.

An excerpt.

During his time in the White House, Barack Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other administration officials, asserted that man-made climate change was the greatest threat to humanity’s future—not just one threat among others, or a pretty big one, but the greatest. As recent Pew research makes clear, far more Americans on the political left think that climate change is a big deal than do those on the right, and since the Left is typically more secular and the Right more religious, we see a spiritual paradox: on the environment, those on the left are the true (if pagan) believers, while those on the right are the dogmatic “atheists” (the whole climate thing is just an exaggerated crisis cooked up by liberal elites and the fake media).

Conservative skepticism notwithstanding, though, climate-change ideologues have more or less shaped public debate on the issue—successfully branding their opposition as “climate deniers.” And by now, nearly 50 years after the first Earth Day, a broad-ranging and increasingly draconian ecological consciousness has become pervasive in American life, extending far beyond climate issues. Go to the supermarket, for example, or look inside your pantry. You’ll find that hundreds of items in bags and cans have certifications of “Non-GMO.” That means that they contain no genetically modified organisms. In recent years, more than 27,000 products have been so certified (by the Non-GMO Project), with the purpose of putting our minds at ease that what we’re about to eat is not genetically modified and will not sicken or kill us or make us sprout a third arm. Non-GMO fanatics and millions of consumers call these forbidden fruits “Frankenfood.” Never mind that nobody has been proved to have been harmed or killed by GMOs. (That can’t be said for organic spinach or bean sprouts.) And never mind that for 25 years, almost all corn, cotton, and soybeans grown in the United States have been genetically modified, with nobody sickened or dead or sporting an extra limb. So why the intransigence of the activists and the gullibility of so many consumers?

The issue here is not the inevitable one of managing risk and rewards in modern life. It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder whether plants genetically modified to withstand the herbicide Roundup, say, might cause more of the poison to be used and thus entail some cost or harm. The giveaway term is the reference to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The real issue, that is, is not primarily technical or scientific; it’s moral and spiritual. With genetic engineering, in this view, we’re trying to play God and invariably upsetting the natural order of things. Put differently, and in the terms of the radical ecologist David Graber, we’re the fallen human parasite going after holy Mother Nature.

Consider an extraordinary 2017 news release from the Marin County, California, Department of Health and Human Services. The document reported that the kindergarten vaccination rate in the county had reached its highest rate, 93.2 percent, since 2000—a “dramatic change” from the 2011–12 school year, when the rate was a dangerous 77.9 percent. To nobody’s surprise, California experienced an outbreak of measles at that time, and Marin County was logically suspected as its source. The county turnaround was in part explained, said the news release, by the passage of California State Senate Bill 277, eliminating personal and religious exemptions from vaccination requirements, which had endangered the lives of medically fragile children. Marin County is home to a population of rich, well-educated, and politically liberal citizens, who succumbed to the anti-vax movement in droves. What drives anti-vaxxers, besides their unfounded warnings about autism, is the same principle that motivates the non-GMO crowd: we need to keep our technological hands off the supposedly divine order of nature, even if elements of that divine order, like viruses, are killing us.

I found this out firsthand years ago, when I had a conversation with the late Arne Naess, the Norwegian father of what is known as “deep ecology” and guru of the European Green movement. How seriously did Naess regard the divinity of Mother Nature? He told me that the eradication of smallpox was a technological crime against nature. The smallpox virus, he said—which had maimed, tortured, and killed millions of human beings—somehow “deserved” human protection.

Most people would regard protecting the smallpox virus as a crackpot idea, but the broader notions of deep ecology have made major headway in mainstream thought, especially through the advocacy of influential Greens such as Bill McKibben and David Graber, who have sounded the alarm for years on global warming, the depredations of fossil fuels, and the evils of human technology. Since the early 1970s, deep ecology has been the beating heart of radical environmentalism. Most people today have never heard of Naess and know nothing about deep ecology, but without knowing it, they have increasingly accepted many of its precepts. With climate change (whether you believe in it or not) destined to be a major policy issue for years to come, along with related issues concerning human interaction with the natural world, it’s worth understanding what the vision of deep ecology entails—and what its practical consequences would be.

Deep ecology is really radical: its two fundamental principles—“self-realization” and “biocentric equality”—amount to a complete rejection of Western modernity. According to deep ecologists Bill Devall and George Sessions, authors of the 1985 book Deep Ecology, self-realization is “in keeping with the spiritual traditions of many of the world’s religions,” but the self of which they speak is quite different from the modern Western version—one based in a notion of individual liberty and self-fulfillment. The ecological self encompasses humanity as a whole and, even more, includes the entire nonhuman world. No one is saved, they say, until all are saved; and the “one” includes me, all human beings, whales, grizzly bears, mountains and rivers, and “the tiniest microbes in the soil.” That’s a big self.

Retrieved December 13, 2018 from https://www.city-journal.org/climate-change-madness

Posted in Environmentalism

Snow Pack Looking Great

This is very good news, so far, for our area, from the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

Heavy storms in the Sierra from late November into early December have boosted statewide snowpack to more than 100 percent of normal for this time of year, according to California Department of Water Resources data.

According to the most recent snow surveys, snowpack as of last Wednesday stood at 106 percent of normal across the state, and higher in some parts of the mountain range.

The central Sierra, from Tahoe to Yosemite, was at 113 percent of average as of last Wednesday, and the south Sierra was at 125 percent of average last Thursday thanks to a huge storm that brought feet of snow to Mono County.

It’s more than double last year’s totals for the same time frame. Statewide snowpack was 50 percent of average or less by early December 2017, DWR survey data show.

And this month’s snowpack may grow even more. Some rain and snow are forecast to continue near Tahoe on Monday, according to National Weather Service Reno.

NASA satellite images show a snow-less California as late as Nov. 20. By Dec. 2, most of the Sierra was white-capped.

Multiple weather systems over the last two weeks have led to snowstorms, travel delays on Highway 50, “near white out conditions” in isolated areas and plenty of fresh powder at Tahoe ski resorts.

Retrieved December 10, 2018 from https://www.sacbee.com/news/weather/article222897855.html

Posted in Water

Two Faces of Environmental Movement

Once when we really needed them and once when not so much.

First, when we needed them:

At Owens Lake as this story from California Sun reports.

A century ago, Los Angeles pulled a sensational swindle. Agents from the city posed as farmers and ranchers and strategically bought up land in the lush Owens Valley, 200 miles to the north. Water rights in hand, the thirsty metropolis proceeded to drain the region via a great canal.

If the deception weren’t bad enough, the result was one of the nation’s worst ecological disasters. The 100-square-mile Owens Lake was emptied, creating a salt flat the size of San Francisco that unleashed enormous amounts of hazardous dust.

As recently as 2013, it remained the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.

Even so, the lakebed has been experiencing a turnaround. Under court order, Los Angeles has spent about $2 billion over the last two decades to introduce vegetation and shallow flooding.

That’s led to a dramatic reduction in the dust blowing off the desiccated ground as well as another outcome that took many by surprise: the almost overnight return of tens of thousands of birds on the Pacific Flyway — grebes, dowitchers, whimbrels, sandpipers, sparrows, and others. Last April, Owens Lake was designated as a shorebird reserve of international importance.

Retrieved December 6, 2018 from https://www.californiasun.co/stories/the-strange-rebirth-of-owens-lake/

And a time when not so much.

As this story in the Redding Record Searchlight about raising Shasta Dam reports.

An excerpt.

A trio of tiny salamanders could stand in the way of a massive $1.4 billion project to raise the height of Shasta Dam.

An environmental organization has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking a judge to force the federal agency to make a determination on whether three salamander species living around Lake Shasta should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The suit was filed after the wildlife service failed to act on a 2012 request from the Center for Biological Diversity to list the three amphibian species as either endangered or threatened under federal law.

The agency had one year to decide to list the amphibians or reject the request, said Jenny Loda, an attorney for the group.

Because the federal agency did not rule on the request, the center sued, she said.

What happens with the center’s request could affect the plans to raise the height of Shasta Dam by 18½ feet, she said.

Retrieved December 6, 2018 from https://www.redding.com/story/news/2018/12/05/tiny-salamanders-may-stand-way-massive-shasta-dam-raising-project/2210322002/

Oh well, guess we have to accept the bad with the good….

Posted in Environmentalism, History, Shasta Auburn Dam

California’s High Speed Rail Project

I have been, and continue to be, supportive of the concept of high speed rail for California, but after reading this account from City Journal, will not be so for the California version until, and if, it becomes competently administered.

California just seems to have trouble doing large stuff right.

An ecerpt.

In 2008, California voters approved a bond for a high-speed rail line connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles with the fast-growing cities in the state’s Central Valley. With trains running at 220 miles per hour on dedicated tracks, California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) would be the first true high-speed rail line in the U.S. The project’s backers, including Governor Jerry Brown, promised that CAHSR would cost just $33 billion and be finished by 2022, including extensions to Sacramento and San Diego. It would whisk passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes—fast enough, if European experience is a guide, to convince most air travelers on that route to take the train instead.

Ten years later, supporters have ample cause to reconsider. CAHSR’s costs have severely escalated: the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) now estimates that the train’s core segment alone, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, will cost from $77 billion to $98 billion. Promises that private investors would cover most of the costs have fallen through. Forecasts for the project’s completion date and travel times have also slipped. The fastest trains in the CHSRA’s current business plan have a running time of over three hours, and the first segment of the line—San Jose to Bakersfield, almost 200 miles short of completion—won’t open until 2029.

The project’s troubles have been largely self-inflicted, starting with poor route choices. At the south end of the line, from the Central Valley to Los Angeles, rather than proceeding in a direct route from Los Angeles to the northwest through Tejon Pass, roughly along Interstate 5, the planned line takes a detour to the northeast through Palmdale, a rapidly growing exurb, and enters the Central Valley through Tehachapi Pass. The CHSRA justified this choice by arguing that the Tejon route would require more tunnels and slow curves and be more vulnerable to earthquakes.

But in a convincing independent analysis, aerospace engineer and transportation activist Clem Tillier has called the CHSRA’s study of the Tejon alternative “a finely crafted web of distortions.” The study, Tillier wrote, used skewed assumptions guaranteed to produce a poor Tejon route. Most notably, the CHSRA supposed that no route could cross a planned residential development in a key portion of Tejon Pass. The CHSRA instead produced a Tejon alignment that veered around the development with sharp curves and six extra miles of tunnel, even though the additional tunnel would cost more than buying the entire development outright. Tillier concluded that a better Tejon alignment would save 12 minutes of travel time and $5 billion in construction costs over Tehachapi. These 12 minutes could make a critical difference to ridership, as most studies have found that trains rapidly lose riders to airplanes for journeys longer than about three hours. Speculation that the interests of real-estate developers rather than riders motivated the Tehachapi detour is hard to dismiss.

The CHSRA has also wasted large sums of money through poor management. Tillier has detailed how the Authority plans to spend billions to outfit Bay Area stations with unnecessary tunnels and viaducts, rather than making elementary improvements to operations. A state audit has shown that the CHSRA knowingly incurred massive additional cost risks by starting construction prematurely; desperate to show progress and to meet a deadline for federal funds, the CHSRA began construction in the Central Valley without buying all the land it needed, or even completing negotiations with the freight railroads whose rights-of-way it planned to use. The state auditor also criticized the CHSRA for hiring expensive consultants, over the objections of its former CEO, to do routine budgeting work.

Some of the worst revelations in the state auditor’s report concern basic failures of contract management. The CHSRA paid contractors without inspecting their work, and contract managers’ review of the quality and cost of finished products was often so shoddy that the auditor could not even conclude whether the CHSRA’s spending was justified. In one especially egregious case, in 2017, the CHSRA hired an external consultant to check the work of Parsons Brinckerhoff (now WSP USA), which had been paid $666 million for engineering consulting. The external consultant found that the CHSRA had not received finished work for 145 of 184 tasks that Parsons Brinckerhoff had called “complete.”

Retrieved December 5, 2018 from https://www.city-journal.org/californias-high-speed-rail-project

Posted in Government, Technology, Transportation