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California Burning

Bob Rogers

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 — Someday there won’t be much of California left to burn. Considering all the fires the state has dealt with in recent years it’s a wonder that there are any trees left, especially in the more populated areas. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s counter claims that “environmental terrorist groups” are to blame after the greenies targeted Zinke’s rebuke of excess federal lands are signs that somebody besides a human firebug is causing the state’s green forests and golden brushy hillsides to turn ashen black.

Look at western states other than California, however, to see a pattern emerging that seems to indicate that something other than climate change, i.e. “global warming,” may be the real culprit. Washington state, Oregon, Nevada, parts of northern Idaho and northwestern Montana, Arizona’s and New Mexico’s mountains, parts of Nevada, Utah, central and southern Colorado have all experienced recent mass wildfires.

The West has undergone more than just political change in recent years. The desire to get away from America’s major crowded cities has attracted an exodus of political population primarily from the east coast to the west coast. When that happens, new residents want something more than subways, bus fumes and street crime. They want at least some small piece of tranquility that comes from nesting in the West’s many rolling forested hills. That brings out the best dreams of land developers: new and very lucrative subdivisions and all those heretofore spaces left to deer, rabbits, birds, cougars and other wild critters are turned into wildfires-in-waiting.

California’s big game hunting has dwindled to an exercise in permit zoning. Areas that once held reasonably good populations of mule and blacktail deer have been denuded of habitat by newly created subdivisions. Colorado remains a destination for elk and deer hunters in the Rocky Mountain high country but at lower elevations, areas circling metropolitan Denver and Colorado Springs, once the home for deer, antelope and upland game, has been relegated to what we might call “urban suburbia,” areas now compacted with shopping, hotels, restaurants, theaters and other economic attractants.

Take any hunk of forested tree country, remove most of the timber and forage, and after covering much of the land with heat-attracting concrete and asphalt, stake out hundreds of new homes and a few very upscale ranchettes, add hordes of people, and you’ve got a primer for sparks, trash, weed and leaf burning. One thing leads to another and eventually some public servant at your front door gives you an order to evacuate.

A recent wildfire was blamed on sparks from ricocheting bullets at a gun range. Can’t say for sure if that was or wasn’t the cause but where once there existed balanced populations of wandering coyotes and cuddly black bears and even a mountain lion or two, recent home buyers who fed the critters meal scraps are now demanding wildlife agencies “do something” about those scary animals that are coming too close to the suburban landscaping. And they want NO HUNTING signs to be posted everywhere.

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