In his daily outgassing of June 27, Rush to Judgment Limbaugh said that the Tahoe fires were the fault of conservationists who refused to permit the thinning of dry forests around the lake.
I know a few things about Tahoe. I worked there for five years, as a journalist and environmental policy guy. I spent a lot of time talking to scientists, covering agency meetings, and traipsing through the woods with forest rangers.
My Tahoe experience taught me that, like most everything else involving man''s imprint on nature, explaining the fire and its consequences is like explaining a river. Many tributaries, not just one, feed the main stem.
Remember one thing. Western forests burn. They always have and they always will. It''s the way Mother Nature wired the system. If you choose to live in a forest, you are choosing to live in a fire-prone environment. The coulda, woulda, shoulda finger-pointing that usually follows episodes like the Tahoe fire won''t change that reality.
However, if you choose to point fingers regarding the Tahoe fire, remember to use both hands.
Logging? Yep. Tahoe''s forests were stripped in the mid-19th century to supply timbers and fuel wood to the nearby Comstock mines. The forest that grew back was not as healthy. In a sickly forest, more trees die.
Development? Sure. Truth be told, Tahoe should have been a national park, not a developed community. But the federal government didn''t act, the people came and it''s too late to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Politics? Of course. Tahoe is not an easy place to govern. Folks around the lake are good people but have sharply divergent points of view on how the place should be managed. Old Tahoe hands, from conservationists to property rights activists, bear many scars.
Bureaucracy? Always. Tahoe government is a thicker layer cake than in most places. At the top of the cake is the bistate Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. That slows down tree thinning and other projects. But the TRPA was established for good reason, and not by a bunch of liberals either. The compact establishing TRPA was signed into law by a California governor named Ronald Reagan.
You can find more explanations for the state of Tahoe''s forests, ranging from global warming to road salt. All are contributing factors. Balancing our place in nature is hard and will remain so. Limbaugh can claim all he wants that he has easy answers for everything, but all his simplistic ranting won''t make it so.
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