Due to live coverage of the tragic wildfires that have displaced more than 500,000 people in Southern California, CNN delayed for a few hours its scheduled Tuesday night broadcast of its much-touted documentary “Planet in Peril.” But that didn’t keep CNN “golden boy” Anderson Cooper from using the tragedy to hype the program as much as he could.
Cooper suggested on CNN’s Larry King Live that the fires confirmed the documentary’s vision of an eco-catastrophe. Cooper said that higher temperature due to global warming may have been a factor. It was a “timely documentary,” Cooper said, because “California certainly seems to be in peril.”
But ironically, much of the reason California is in peril is due not to climate change, but to the very environmental policies championed by Cooper’s documentary and our new Nobel laureate, Al Gore. While, in its statement praising Gore, the Nobel Committee said that global warming may “threaten the living conditions of much of mankind,” the current wildfires show that the more immediate threat comes from the champions of the gnatcatcher, kangaroo rat, and the Delhi Sands Flower-Loving fly.
Environmental mandates have made fire safety for humans take a back seat to the well-being of the aforementioned California creatures, as well as that of every bug and rat lucky enough to be listed as an “endangered species” under federal and state law. For over a decade, environmentalists have hamstrung Californians in their efforts to clear the dry brush that is providing the fuel for this massive fire. If any of these endangered or even “threatened” species are found in shrubs or bushes on public or private property, it becomes very difficult to give this vegetation even the slightest haircut.
“The core problem is that species protection prohibits many ordinary fire precautions,” wrote California radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, who is also a real estate attorney, in a Weekly Standard article just after deadly fires broke out in the state in 2003. “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.”
In 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Blue Ribbon Fire Commission, whose members included Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as well as state legislators of both parties, concluded that “habitat preservation and environmental protection have often conflicted with sound fire safe planning.” But did this bipartisan finding or any of the documented harms to fire safety from environmental rules make it into CNN’s exploration of possible causes of the current fires? Not a gnatcatcher’s chance.
Instead, climate “expert” Cooper told viewers Wednesday night that the wildfires were “symptoms of a planet in peril. Fire, drought, deforestation; it’s all connected.”
Well, Anderson, explain this then. On Wednesday, the high temperature in San Diego was 87 degrees. That’s seven degrees lower than the record high of 94 degrees, back in 1965. So tell us again, Anderson, how recent global warming is to blame, when the weather is not nearly as hot there as it was more than 40 years ago.
What’s really changing the “climate” in Southern California is that there is more fuel for fires, since much less of the brush, as well as dying trees, can be cleared, thanks to environmental mandates.
And a look at the “brush management guide” for homeowners on the City of San Diego web site shows that not much has changed even after the warnings of the Blue Ribbon commission. The confusing instructions state that vegetation within 100 feet of homes in canyon areas “must be thinned and pruned regularly.” But then, the same sentence goes on to state that this must be achieved “without harming native plants, soil or habitats.”
Then in fine print at the bottom of the page, the real kicker comes in: “Brush management is not allowed in coastal sage scrub during the California gnatcatcher nesting season, from March 1 through August 15. This small bird only lives in coastal sage scrub and is listed as a threatened species by the federal government. Any harm to this bird could result in fines and penalties.”
Coastal sage scrub is a low plant ubiquitous near coastal California that grows like a weed under almost any condition. And since gnatcatcher nesting season lasts almost six months, there could be much buildup of brush that becomes hard for homeowners to control. Especially since the maintenance rules severely restrict the use of electric mowing devices even when gnat nesting season is over.
But the problem is even worse on land owned by the federal and state governments. To satisfy the feds, San Diego has placed more than 170,000 acres off limit to development for the exclusive purpose of “protect[ing] habitat for over 1,000 native and non-native plant species and more than 380 species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.”
Public land passed into this “conserved” status, notes Hewitt, “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 these plans should be monitoring these areas closely. Instead, they regulate and move on to savage the property rights of the next region.”
And enviro groups also get more and more land locked up by conveniently finding more species to petition the government to protect. In California, as in other places, it’s often a case of creative subdividing of essentially the same species. First it was the Stephens kangaroo rat whose designation as endangered put much brush clearance off limits. Then the San Bernardino kangaroo rat got listed. Then the Fresno kangaroo rat. And so on and so on.
The ironic thing is that it doesn’t necessarily work out for the gnatcatchers — not to mention more majestic creatures — anyway. According to the Associated Press, the fires struck close to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, threatening condors, a cheetah, and many other animals. The Blue Ribbon Fire Commission found that the 2003 wildfires resulted in “the loss of valuable watershed, wildlife, and critical environmental habitats."
Of course, saving species never really was the objective of many enviros. It’s just a subterfuge for their main interest of controlling the human species.
Endangered Species Act abuses, including those that prevent fire breaks in Southern California, were an issue that helped get the GOP in power in 1994. But with some exceptions like former Rep. Richard Pombo of California, Republicans began to abandon this issue, lest they be branded as anti-green. It’s time for the GOP, as well as truly moderate Democrats, to befriend the beleaguered property owner again.
And if the Nobel Committee really wanted to give an award to folks preventing a hazard threatening mankind, they should yank Al Gore’s prize and hand it to the brave California firefighters whose jobs have been made so much harder by the nonsensical practices of the environmental movement.