CHICO, Calif. – President Donald Trump is calling on California to do a better job with forest management to prevent deadly wildfires from happening.
The topic got a lot of attention following President Trump's visit to Sacramento on Monday. But experts like U.C. Berkeley Forestry Specialist, Dr. Bill Stewart, says no amount of forest management would prevent the kinds of fires California has seen lately.
Dr. Stewart says neglected forests can add to the problem. How closely trees are spaced and how much debris is beneath the trees determines the fire danger. Dr. Steward says private timber companies are doing a much better job of managing that – than the government could.
Despite being criticized by President Trump for poor forest management, Gov. Gavin Newsom requested more funding, pointing out that it is federal lands in the state that pose the biggest problem.
"The wind-driven fires we're having now…nothing is gonna slow those down,” said Dr. Stewart. “When you get high, 30 mph consistent winds, it does not matter what you did. It's gonna burn.”
"57% of the land in the state is federal forest land…3% is California,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “So, we really do need that support."
Dr. Stewart says there will never be enough money to manage forests as it is currently being done. It will require California to soften its rules and change its attitude about logging. While that may sound unlikely, he adds there are plenty of reasons to consider it.
Stewart points out that managed forests make up only about 20% of the land in California subject to wildfires. 80% is either wilderness or land covered by grass or shrubs.
Dr. Stewart says rather than always putting fires out, it may be necessary to start controlled burning of forestland, when winds aren't high, to provide buffer zones that can slow future wildfires down.