Stringent Air Quality Standards Might Have Added to Yosemite Fire, Will Media Report?

As the fourth largest wildfire in California continues to burn around and inside Yosemite, investigators are examining what the short and long-range causes of the fire are.

A report by Reuters Sunday claimed that stringent air quality standards in the Golden State may have been a factor.

"A cluster of controlled fire and tree-thinning projects approved by forestry officials but never funded might have slowed the progress of the massive Rim Fire in California, a wide range of critics said this weekend," reported the wire service.

The United States Forest Service was scheduled to trim brush in the region, but apparently some of these projects were never funded by Congress.

The Forest Service claimed in a document obtained by Reuters that about 9,000 acres in that area were determined in 2012 to be suitable for intentional burning in order to create fire prevention buffer zones.

Now the money paragraphs (emphasis added):

"But reductions in funding for fire prevention efforts by Congress in recent years coupled with stringent air quality standards that limit the timeframe for such burns have hampered efforts to carry them out on a larger scale." [...]

In addition to perennial funding shortfalls for prevention efforts, [Craig Thomas, conservation director for the environmental coalition group Sierra Forest Legacy] faults federal and state air quality regimes that limit the timeframe for prescribed burns by counting the smoke they generate along with industrial and auto emissions - while not counting the smoke from an actual wildfire.

Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), whose district is impacted by the fire, was also quoted as blaming a 25-year decline in logging on public lands in the region.

"If we were harvesting the same amount of timber we once did, we'd have fewer fires but also a revenue stream for the treatment of many thousands of acres (hectares) that we're not treating today," said McClintock.

Reuters is commended for reporting McClintock and Thomas's views regarding this historic fire.

Will other media follow suit?

Stay tuned.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.