Markets have less influence over government-owned land, however, which is managed based on political considerations, mostly under the influence of special interest groups. Fire risks seem higher in areas of high public (meaning, government) land ownership; lower (with a few exceptions) in places where much of the land is privately owned, mostly due to the strong incentives people have to maintain and protect their property.
When property is owned collectively, there’s less incentive to manage it wisely. Environmental rules and restrictions have leaned in recent times toward non-management, or a policy of benign neglect, under pressure from those who think human meddling in these landscapes is unnatural and wrong. That’s left more fuel to burn when lightning, a fallen power line or an arsonist ignites a fire.
We’d argue for a land management approach that puts humans and human habitats first, whenever practical, and embraces the idea that we can manage these landscapes not just for economic, aesthetic and ecological benefits, but with an eye toward safeguarding public safety as well. We shouldn’t allow the real and rhetorical smoke generated by California’s wildfires to cloud our judgements about the nature of the problem.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Gazette's Comments on the Fires
With luck, the California fires may lead to more rational land management than Mark Udall and his "environmentalist" allies are currently willing to tolerate. The Gazette devoted an editorial to the subject this morning. Here is only a part of what it had to say: