Modern Forest Management


Since the year 2000, according to the California Air Resources Board, wildfires have destroyed over 19 million acres, mostly forest and chaparral, over 30,000 square miles. At the same time, these wildfires exposed millions of Californians to smoke so thick and toxic that people were advised to stay indoors for weeks. Utility companies, attempting to prevent fires from starting, cut power during hot and windy summer days to millions more Californians, sometimes for several days in a row. During one of the worst fire seasons in recent years, in the summer and fall of 2020, it is estimated that wildfire smoke released 127 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, more than California’s entire electricity, commercial, and residential sectors combined.

A recent study by University of California researchers revealed that in 2020, wildfires produced more than double the amount of greenhouse gas emissions than all the reductions made in California between 2003 and 2019, combined. In fact, emissions from wildfires were the second highest source - behind transportation but ahead of the industrial sector, and ahead of all power plants put together.

The conventional explanation for these catastrophic wildfires is that climate change has led to longer, hotter, drier summers in California, creating conditions where small fires can more easily turn into ‘megafires’. In response, California’s politicians and government agencies have enacted a series of measures designed to achieve “net-zero.”, such that all economic activity in the state will either generate zero CO2 emissions, or whatever emissions are generated will be offset by activities that sequester an equal quantity of CO2.

But current climate policy, and public debate, has an enormous, gaping hole. It fails to take into account that one of the biggest sources of California’s carbon emissions - not cars, not electricity generation, but ‘mega’ wildfires - results from outdated, ideologically-driven forest management practices.

This is an enormous missed opportunity to develop positive, practical policies to combat climate change in a way that brings people together around common sense solutions, moving beyond polarized and divisive ideological extremes.

There are modern ways to manage California’s forests that would restore them to health, prevent recurring ‘megafires’, and introduce practices that guarantee California’s forests are not only carbon neutral, but substantially carbon negative.

This report will outline the reasons California’s forests have become so unhealthy, survey their current status, and then propose a new approach to managing them. There are important lessons to be learned from how California has historically managed forests, and this report will lay out a number of policy recommendations that combine CO2 reduction goals with opportunities to revive rural economies, and fast-track innovative business models that bring widespread benefits across our state in a number of crucial industries.

Read the full report here

Note: this article was excerpted from a report prepared by Golden Together, a Movement to Restore the California Dream, Steve Hilton, Founder. Lead Author, Edward Ring, California Policy Center.

Edward Ring is a co-founder of the California Policy Center and the author of “The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California.”

Photo: R. Gundra, via Wikimedia, under CC 4.0 License.