Congratulations to Ron Nehring

Congratulations to former National Center staff member Ron Nehring, who who has been appointed to the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Says a statement released by the governor’s office:

Ronald Nehring, 35, of El Cajon, has been appointed to the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. He has served as senior consultant for Americans for Tax Reform since 1998 and is currently a member of the Governing Board for Grossmont Union High School District. Nehring is also the vice-chairman of the California Republican Party. He was previously director of development and public affairs for the National Center for Public Policy Research. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Nehring is a Republican.

Long-time readers of this blog will recall that, in 2003, I covered Ron’s comments (here and here) regarding a major forest fire that came within a whisker of burning down his house (read the story and see photos here).

That particular fire played a major role in getting Rep. Scott McInnis of Colorado’s Healthy Forests Restoration Act through Congress, in large part because former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock, in easily some of the most riveting talk radio monologues I have ever heard, guest-hosted the Rush Limbaugh program and described how San Diego was all-but-surrounded by flames.

Though it doesn’t cite Hedgecock or the Limbaugh program, a December 3, 2003 AP story seems to agree with my basic thesis:

Legislation aimed at speeding decisions on where to allow timbering in national forests had languished in Congress for three years until the recent fires in California, which burned 750,000 acres and destroyed 3,640 homes, forced a compromise.

As National Center Senior Fellow Dana Joel Gattuso, recently writes, however:

President Bush’s 2002 Healthy Forests Initiative, a blueprint for protecting national forests from catastrophic fire, and the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act were supposed to close a chapter on devastating fires. The new reforms promised to change the old, outdated laws that have restricted logging, causing a build up of dense fuel loads over the years and creating lethal fire conditions. They were to limit activist groups’ endless appeals and frivolous lawsuits that have halted critical, time-sensitive thinning projects. They also were to fast-track treatment of forests by eliminating the time-consuming environmental review process for those thinning projects that do not threaten the environment.

But by all accounts, we’re not out of the woods yet. Attempts at reform to shift priority to fire prevention are being challenged by a small yet fanatical group of eco-activist groups who argue thinning projects kill habitat and species.

Today, more acres of forests blanket this nation than in past decades (we grow more than we cut), supporting vast amounts of wildlife habitat and species once threatened by extinction. But the steady increase in forestland over the years also places them at enormous risk for fire. Over the past five years, wildfires have become more severe and widespread, harming human life, homes, air and water quality, and of course, wildlife.

The population of the northern spotted owl in the Northwest, for example, has declined despite a rise in the number of old growth forests and habitat. A new study by scientists at the Forest Service finds that wildfires are among the possible reasons for the endangered owl’s waning numbers. Fires, the report concludes, have been a greater threat than logging projects.

Granted, it will take time to see the effects of the Act’s and Initiative’s new reforms. But in the meantime, activists’ challenges to these measures have brought crucial thinning in high-risk forests to a standstill, threatening to ignite another season of unmanageable fires.

It looks like Ron Nehring and everyone else involved in preventing and fighting forest fires will have their work cut out for them. Good luck to all of them.

Addendum July 16: In the silliness category, this left-wing blog is calling on the California State Senate to refuse to confirm Ron Nehring’s appointment, in part because Ron worked with the African-American leadership group Project 21. How does working with black conservatives reduce a person’s ability to help develop sound forest policies? The silly leftie blogger also thinks anyone in the conservative movement is “guaranteed to vote the wrong way” on forest policies — as if righties like seeing their houses burn down more than lefties do! (Some folks are just way too partisan.)

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