Dept. of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano linked climate change to the Colorado wildfires, according to The Hill:
“You have to look at climate change over a period of years, not just one summer,” Napolitano said. “You could always have one abnormal summer. But when you see one after another after another then you can see, yeah, there’s a pattern here.”
Did Napolitano read the U.S. Government Accountability Office report on wildfires? After all, she was govenor of Arizona, so you'd think that report would catch her eye.
The report sheds light on land held for the people by the federal government: “Over half of the land in the Arizona border region is managed by the federal government--primarily by the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service and four agencies within the Department of the Interior.”
Fact is, the government doesn’t have the resources to manage these lands or to investigate fires on federal lands, an unforeseen consequence of the central government grabbing up hundreds of millions of acres.
GAO prepared the report in November, 2011. The report focused on the Arizona wildfires. I’ve cherry-picked some highlights:
─GAO has previously reported that illegal border crossers have been suspected of igniting wildland fires.
─From 2006 through 2010, at least 2,467 wildland fires occurred in the Arizona border region; 2,126, or about 86 percent, were caused by human activity…About 63 percent or 1,553 of the 2,467 fires were ignited on federally managed land or tribal land.
─The total number of fires ignited by illegal border crossers on federal lands in the Arizona border region is not fully known, in part because federal land management agencies have not conducted investigations of all human-caused wildland fires that occurred on these lands, as called for by agency policy, and the agencies do not have a strategy for selecting fires they do investigate.
─Of the 422 human-caused wildland fires that occurred on Forest Service, Interior, or tribal lands and burned at least 1 acre from 2006 through 2010, only 77 were investigated. According to land management agency officials, the lack of trained fire investigators was the primary reason for the limited number of investigations. Of the investigations conducted, 30 identified illegal border crossers as a suspected source of ignition.
─The presence of illegal border crossers has complicated fire suppression activities in the Arizona border region. According to agency officials, the presence of illegal border crossers has increased concerns about firefighter safety and, in some instances, has required firefighters to change or limit the tactics they use in suppressing fires. For example, the presence of illegal border crossers has limited firefighting activities at night and complicated the use of aerial firefighting methods.
Illegal pot grows and harvesting of rare plant species for the black market are but two challenges the government isn’t meeting. There’s also human trafficking and smuggling. The U.S. open border policy directly facilitates those enterprises. Furthermore, when Congress takes more land for the federal government, if the land is deemed a wilderness area, law enforcement capabilities will be reduced.
Napolitano is missing the forest for the trees on wildfires and what she calls climate change. What’s happening is a drastic landscape change, both geographically and culturally, that she and her boss’s administration are enabling with no thought given to the economic, environmental and social consequences.
Napolitano made her remarks at a presser in Colorado Springs. Too bad she didn’t have the report in hand at the time.
The Colorado wildfire is being investigated, but conditions have hampered officers.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/July 6, 2012)
Related at The US Report
*Hat tip to immigration blogger Dave Gibson for calling attention to the GAO report early on.