Steven Greenhut: “Frankly, union power drives state and local firefighting policies”

10 Aug

Thanks Cynthia for sharing this 2020 article from Ed Ring. Ring documents the 20 year decline in California forest management, citing both the Sierra Club and the firefighters unions as the problem.

I think the title is a little broad – “Environmentalists”? A word that has become just another slur for people you don’t agree with, like Tree Huggers? I consider myself an environmentalist. I believe in proper forest management, thinning of dead and dying fuel, raking and burning tree trash – “biochar”.

And yeah, if I see a good looking tree, I’m liable to hug it.

No, we’re talking about The Sierra Club, an organization made up of the rich and entitled, for the rich and entitled, and supported by the rich and entitled. They don’t represent “environmentalists” as a class of people. Hey, do you pick up litter? Do you turn off the hose when you’re not using it? Congratulations, you’re an environmentalist!

“Sen. Feinstein blames Sierra Club for blocking wildfire bill,” reads the provocative headline on a 2002 story in California’s Napa Valley Register. Feinstein had brokered a congressional consensus on legislation to thin “overstocked” forests close to homes and communities, but could not overcome the environmental lobby’s disagreement over expediting the permit process to thin forests everywhere else.

I don’t agree with Ring that the lawsuit brought us where we are today. Our courts and legislature allowed that to happen, they backed down to a PAC that also donates heavily at election time – what do you think?

In 2014, Republican members of Congress tried again to reduce the bureaucracy associated with “hazardous fuel projects” that thin out overgrown forests. True to form, the bill got nowhere thanks to environmental lobbyists who worried it would undermine the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the law that requires thorough impact assessments ahead of government decisions on public lands.

Here’s what I think – as late as 2019, Feinstein bowed to pressure from the Sierra Club and the new Sunrise Movement, as well as her coworkers in the senate, and dropped her competing “more moderate” resolution on climate change.

Her protest was weak, she really doesn’t want to go against these people. These PACs have a lot more influence than the average voter because of entrenched politicians like Dianne Feinstein. We need term limits as well as a limit on PAC contributions.

I have to agree with Ring’s friend Steven Greenhut, whom Ring quotes below – the firefighters’ unions are too powerful and they aren’t working for anybody but themselves:

Meanwhile, tragically, expect California’s politically powerful firefighters’ union to do little or nothing to support the timber industry or rural inhabitants who don’t want to move into urban condos.

As Steve Greenhut explained in a recent column in the Orange County Register: “Frankly, union power drives state and local firefighting policies. The median compensation package for firefighters has topped $240,000 a year in some locales. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighters earn less, but their packages still total nearly $150,000 a year. The number of California firefighters who receive compensation packages above $500,000 a year is mind-blowing.”

No wonder firefighters are overwhelmed during California’s wildfire season. The state can’t afford to hire enough of them.

As long as PACs like Sierra Club and the unions are allowed to make enormous contributions at election time we will continue to see fire policy failure from the State of California.

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