Biofuels Plant Won’t Protect Us from Wildfire

- by Virginia Moran, May 16, 2014, Source: The Union

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"134","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 333px; height: 219px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;"}}]]Regarding the proposed “biofuels” plant (i.e. acceleration of climate change) project, here is what I find “scary”: that residents of western Nevada County are never allowed to live our lives in peace. If we are twitchy and irritable it is because we are constantly on guard regarding what the next project will be to exploit our county.

What I find scary is cronyism (i.e. revolving door) between public and quasi-public agencies here, and members of the so-called private sector (“consultants” and contractors) who tend to look out for their own interests (i.e., profit).

What I find scary is fire officials and the like who use hysteria that upsets people by running around talking about how “dangerous” the fire season is going to be and how “scary” it all is without offering any solid solutions regarding how to prepare for fire.

As I have written before, I brushed-cleared my property in San Diego, and my home and neighborhood still burned to the ground. Catastrophic fire is driven by wind. Houses set other houses on fire.

What I find scary is that our fire agencies/officials continue to ignore solid science in favor of pushing their own agenda.

Instead of a biofuels plant, what would economically benefit our county for the long term is more open space, parks and bike paths that tie into downtown areas ...

Solid science shows it is wooden structures within fire-prone landscapes that are the real “fuel.” It makes more sense to implement measures to reconsider wood as a building material in fire-prone environments, provide incentives to retro-fit existing homes with fire-proof measures such as steel roofs and teach people how to use fire barricade gels, etc.

As one of many examples, in the mid-1800s, Shasta City, now a historic state park, burned down. They rebuilt the town with brick and iron, and it’s still standing (and because it’s still standing, it’s able to be a state park). At the time, replacing the wooden structures with brick and iron was called “common sense.” This was in the mid-1800s before we had 350 different layers of “fire protection agencies,” including all their various fees and taxes.

What I find scary is that officials in Nevada County continue to ignore the nature of our soils here. Slopes are collapsing due to the cutting of native trees and shrubs on these slopes. This starts a nearly unstoppable erosion process that is literally eating away people’s property. The slopes recede toward the homes with irrevocable consequences to the stability of the land and permanent loss of property values. In severe cases, it could undermine the foundation of the home.

What I also find scary is that taxpayers are paying to clean up these slides and slumps to the tune of almost a quarter of a million dollars just for one (Fay Road, Alta Sierra).

What I find scary is a county that made it easier to build homes on fire dangerous slopes but wants to arrest people for not masticating/destroying the “fuel” on their property.

What I find scary is public officials who completely disregard the wildlife of our county and obviously do not understand the role our native vegetation plays in providing essential ecosystem services, including holding slopes, providing habitat, channeling water back into our watersheds and acting as sinks for holding carbon.

Every time friends from the valley or points south visit me, they always say the same thing — ”it’s so pretty here.” Why is it always about the east side of our county? (Sure, it has a certain lake). Western Nevada County can also boast natural assets such as our rural setting rich with native oaks, shrubs (such as the beautiful manzanita) and wildflowers.

Instead of a biofuels plant, what would economically benefit our county for the long term is more open space, parks and bike paths that tie into downtown areas and funnel cyclists to existing businesses (such as Folsom has done). If you find the idea of a biofuels plant “scary,” then stop the biofuels plant and push for real measures to prevent fire in western Nevada County.

Virginia Moran is a field biologist and resident of western Nevada County.