Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wildfire issues in the election

San Diego County "Fire Tax"

Proposition A in San Diego County failed to receive the necessary two-thirds majority required to approve a new tax increase. The $52 per year for most property owners would have created a regional fire agency and provided funds for firefighting aircraft, engines, and other equipment. The measure received 63.2% of the vote, about 3.4% less than needed to pass.

Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands

Peter Goldmark, who has been a wildland firefighter with the Okanogan County Fire District No. 8 for over 30 years, is trying to unseat two-term incumbent Doug Sutherland. The latest returns show Goldmark with 50.53% of the votes with 55% of the precincts reporting. Some areas in the state are extremely slow in counting ballots. Final results may not be available until late this week or even next week.

The Lands Commissioner oversees the Department of Natural Resources and their firefighting organization.

Goldmark is the past Director of Agriculture for the State of Washington and has a Ph.D. in molecular biology. According to Goldmark's web site, he is not your average wildland firefighter. He...
...maintains a small scientific research facility at his ranch and has published scientific articles in national and international journals. He currently maintains a wheat-breeding program at his facility and has recently released new varieties for Washington wheat farmers.

Barack Obama's position on wildland fire

Now that he is the President-Elect, how will wildland fire be affected? Of course campaign promises don't always materialize, but Obama has an official two-page position paper on wildland fire. We don't recall any Presidential candidate having a specific, written position on wildland fire before this election.

Here are some excerpts:
Barack Obama will focus the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management’s efforts on working with local communities on hazardous fuels projects to make communities safer and forests healthier.

An Obama-Biden Administration will use controlled burns and prescribed natural fire to reduce such fuels in close coordination with those communities that are most at risk.

Reducing the dangers of wildfires cannot be addressed through federal action alone. Under an Obama-Biden Administration, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies will work with local and state governments and insurance companies to pursue effective wildland urban interface planning, develop building codes and other “best practices” to prevent and mitigate fire impacts in high risk areas.

The U.S. Forest Service firefighting budget is based on a ten year average of firefighting costs that is out of step with the increased frequency, size and intensity of wildfires. Over the last decade, fires have burned an average of more than 7 million acres a year – twice the average of the 1990s. Barack Obama will work with the Congress on a bipartisan basis to ensure agencies have the funds needed to suppress and manage wildfires without taking money from other important programs within the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.


Were there other election issues or candidates that are of interest to wildland fire personnel? Let us know in the comments.

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