The Center for Biological Diversity once had offices in Idyllwild. This firm of attorneys was formed to file lawsuits following the passage of the Endangered Species Act. They hire young environmentalists who are fired up to believe fires cause species endangerment. These people support the efforts of the CBD and other law firms that result in massive earnings for these firms.
Our forests had been thinned by natural fire for thousands of years by the time Europeans set foot here. When fire did not occur for some years, Native Americans burned to keep the forests healthy. The tree density maintained habitat for birds, animals, plants and trees. The Indians actually taught settlers how to do this until forbidden by politicos who never left the Eastern cities. And the practice has continued.
It is difficult for people to notice density changes unless they see photos of an area taken generations back.
Although I don’t think Richard Halsey ever worked for the CBD, he is one of those environmental graduates who had been fired up by the wrong understandings of forest events. He became a teacher and formed the Chaparral Institute as an assist in teaching his students; a noble effort.
I read Halsey’s letter with sadness, but not with surprise. If we look carefully at Halsey’s letter, it reads as if he were a politician. Dr. Minnich has devoted his life to understanding the role everything plays in the forest, and he understands the needs.
We were told that the native historic density (400 years ago) of our forest was 40 trees per acre. This means that each tree had an average of a full crowns’-width between crowns, or an average of 10 meters (33 feet) between trunks. This density allows the sun to lay on the ground for from two to six hours each day to germinate seeds and provide new growth for critters. Walk anywhere in our forest today, except in the heart of Garner Valley, and you will find from perhaps 800 to more than 2,000 trees per acre and very poor habitat. We have perhaps a 10th of the deer a healthy forest would have. And bear? Forget it.
Halsey is an expert with chaparral, but he is not up to speed with forests.