Wildfire hazard mitigation – Who doesn’t get it

by Cate Moore on August 12, 2014

The Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District recently released a letter proposing “cost recovery fees” for burn permits.

Burning is one of the most cost-effective and efficient methods of reducing overgrown vegetation and is also environmentally friendly.  Many of our native species depend on fire to germinate seeds and stimulate growth.  It can also reduce the levels of invasive exotics, pathogens and insect pests.  Removing excess vegetation reduces the risks of uncontrolled wildfire and the damage that happens when it does occur. It can improve the ground water supplies that feed our streams.  Burning also generates smoke.

Smoke is the only aspect of fire that is on the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District’s radar, and they aren’t even weighing the relative impacts of wildfire smoke versus prescribed fire smoke.  Instead of working to expedite planned burn projects, they are slapping fees on them.  If you don’t already have a burn permit, the Air District proposes the following:

Backyard burn$40
Agricultural Waste burn (pile burn)$20

Smoke Permits:

Stack burns$100
Prescribed < 100 acres$200
Prescribed 100-250 acres$985
Prescribed 250-1000 acres$1,580
Prescribed > 1000 acres$2,360

CCFA has been attending the public meetings discussing the fee.  Public sentiment is running strongly against the fees.  CCFA also submitted the following letter stating our position:


 

July 10, 2014

to: David Craft
Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District
24580 Silver Cloud Court
Monterey, CA 93940

Re: Concerns Regarding Proposed Cost Recovery Fees for Burn Permits

Dear Mr. Craft,

The Central Coast Forest Association (CCFA) is an organization comprised of forest landowners, resource professionals and others concerned with forest issues and land use policy in the Central Coast region of California.

We oppose these proposed fees because we believe they are counterproductive to the District’s mission.

In our view, the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District has the mission to protect the health and safety of the people and environment of the Monterey Bay Area.  California, including the Monterey Bay Area, is burdened with an increasing wildfire hazard.  Wildfires cause environmental damage and adverse impacts to public health and safety.  When wildfires burn, there is:

  • No control of the time, date or location of burn
  • No controls on the size of the burn
  • No control of the length of the burn
  • No control of the intensity of the burn.
  • No control of the amount of smoke or its pathway

In contrast, prescribed burning provides the following benefits:

  • Burning only in favorable weather conditions
  • Burning when fire control personnel are available
  • Pre-planned burn sizes and prepared sites
  • Burn intensity control to achieve specific environmental improvements

It is in the best interest of the public and the environment to encourage these prescribed burns whenever possible.  It should be a District goal to encourage burns.  One of the best ways to achieve this is by keeping costs and paperwork burdens low.

The Proposed Cost-Recovery Fee structure does the opposite.  The costs laid out in the fee table are cost-prohibitive for landowners and will serve to discourage the burning we need to do.  We have the following questions concerning the proposed fees:

  • What additional services are we getting for these higher fees?  The open burn program has been in place for years and the bills have been paid.  For higher fees, we should expect an increase in District-provided services.
  • Why isn’t this being financed by Cap-and-Trade money?  Prescribed burns will produce a net reduction in carbon dioxide releases over uncontrolled wildfires and will make our environment better able to adjust to climate change.

Sincerely,

Ron DeBenedetti

Member, CCFA Board of Directors

 

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