Drought and wildfires are constantly with us. This summer and fall are expected to be particularly bad for both according to many forecasters and predictions. Some areas are hard hit, and some have been very bad in the past. Now, Spring of 2021, fire season is already upon us here in the Black Hills and elsewhere.
Except for California, the country was actually doing much better than usual – 2019 and 2020 were relatively quiet fire seasons in the Great Plains and Rockies. This is perhaps largely because of the very wet winter of 2018-2019. Although drought has returned to the Four Corners and much of the Southern Rockies and Southern Plains, conditions were much better than the past five-ten years. That is changed in 2021, as a huge chunk of territory is at the highest (worse) rating: not severe but EXCEPTIONAL drought. This is the “Drought Monitor” showing what parts of the country have drought conditions. The darker the color, the worse the drought.
Looks pretty ghastly, doesn’t it? Nearly 2/3 of the Forty-Eight States are in some stage of drought, from “Abnormally Dry” (bright yellow) through “Exceptional drought” (dark red/black) both S – short-term and L – long-term. Even usually wet areas (with 30, 40, 50 inches of precip a year normally) are suffering this Spring. Summer will likely be worse. Much worse.
But drought is normal. It is part of history and pre-history in much of North America – just as it is on the other continents. It is a natural cycle, influenced by many things.
Wildfires, especially in the urban-wildland interface, is NOT natural. Not in the way it has now been happening for the last half-century. Whether it is a fire in the suburbs of Colorado Springs, in the Santa Monica hills, in the Powder River Basin, or a few miles from Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, the power and destruction of wildfires are very much the result of human decisions.
In California, the annual fire season was nasty in 2019 and 2020, and expected to be so again this year, although it is less impacted by drought right now. The blame is laid on thickly. Back in 2019, Forbes has a good analysis of the situation, pointing out that neither “manmade global warming” nor the electrical company is really to blame. The discussion is still relevant as we gear up for the 2021 season. Some key points: these fires ARE manmade and in conditions that are made worse by government action and the actions of individual people, families, and companies. Forbes’ article was a strong condemnation of the current government of the People’s Republic. And little has changed, except for the worse.
Decisions for the most part made by government. I’m not saying that fires do not happen on private forestlands, grasslands, or brushlands. But government owns and controls many of that type of ecosystem, and the government “manages” those lands in ways that magnify the impacts of drought and lead directly to wildfire, crop failures, and dustbowls.
Consider right now the Black Hills. On the map above, we are at moderate drought. Yet we are already fighting grassland fires, and preparing for forest fires. And at the same time, the US Forest Service, following what many suspect to be the orders of Biden-Harris and their gang, has announced that timber sales will be cut by 50% or more from previous years. They claim the production is “unsustainable,” while tens of thousands of acres are not even thinned – setting up conditions for major and catastrophic fires in the near future in what we call locally “doghair” – dense stands of tiny, unhealthy, weak Ponderosa pine that get inadequate sunlight and soil nutrients and water. The decision by the “environists” now in charge of FedGov forest policy has already led to the closure of one of the three major sawmills still left in the Black Hills – Rushmore Lumber near Hill City (and Mt. Rushmore). Costing 120 DIRECT jobs and probably twice that many indirect jobs. Why? Lack of timber and NOT lack of demand for that timber.
Once again, we see the evils of government control of resources, and the tragedy of the commons.
Afterword: I call the idiots who are now in charge, and the treehuggers and Mother Earth fanatics “environists” instead of “environmentalists” following the example of a local newspaper publisher, who coined the word because these people are so stupid. They have nothing upstairs, hence we leave “mental” out of their name. But the only reason they have any influence and power is because government has created the conditions for these idiots to dictate to others – and destroy jobs, economies, and lives.
Second afterword: Drought is NOT a result of “manmade global warming” but of natural cycles related to solar emissions, wind patterns, volcanic eruptions, and other factors. This is unlikely to be as bad as the worst known droughts in the Western States. One about 800 years bad was a major contributing factor in the collapse of the ancient Anasazi civilization of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico: long, long before Western Civilization was producing large amounts of greenhouse gases.