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Specious protection

We haven’t had much to say about the biggest story of the week — the fires in southern California. This is a topic that falls well outside of any expertise I might have, and perhaps the same is true of my colleagues. Hugh Hewitt, on the other hand, is an environmental lawyer, and he has been all over the subject of the fires in his blog and in his Daily Standard column. According to Hugh, the environmental disaster we are witnessing stems from federal species protection policy and the aggressive displacement of local authorities when it comes to land use policy. He points out that “species protection prohibits many ordinary fire precautions. You cannot clear coastal sage scrub, no matter how dense, if a gnatcatcher nests within it–unless the federal government provides a written permission slip which is extraordinarily difficult to obtain. The same prohibition lurks behind every species designation, and can even apply to land on which no endangered species has ever been seen but about which allegations of ‘potential occupation have been made. The land that has passed into ‘conserved’ status is at even greater risk of fire than private land that is home to a protected species because absolutely no one cares for its fire management policy. The scrum of planners, consultants, and G-11s that put together the plans should be monitoring these areas closely. Instead, they regulate and move on to savage the property rights of the next region.”
Hugh also notes that Senate Democrats, including California’s Barbara Boxer, have obstructed President Bush’s healthy forest initiatve, which calls for a thinning of the forests. Now, suddenly, the Senate Democrats have changed course. We hope that the voters, particularly those represented by Sen. Boxer, will take note.

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