After the horrific Woolsey and Campfires ravaged California, killing more than 80 people and leaving thousands without a home, President Donald Trump argued that better forest management could have prevented the devastation.
His comments prompted angry responses from California Gov. Jerry Brown, who slammed the president for not mentioning climate change as a factor.
But despite his criticism, the president’s argument was not always bemoaned by Brown, who once proposed allowing landowners to thin the forest and build temporary roads to prevent wildfires from spreading.
At the time, members of the timber industry supported Brown’s idea, saying that if they were allowed to cut down trees on their own, they would have extra incentives to help avoid major fires — and the burden wouldn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of the state. Unfortunately, environmentalist groups decried the plan, and Brown didn’t push it further.
Still, Trump was the one who got all the hate from both the media and environmentalists, while few, if any, pointed out to the fact that Brown actually agreed with the president at some point.
Of course, Trump’s argument is partially correct. After all, forest management could have helped to prevent or at least lessen the effects of these wildfires. But when it comes to proper land care, nothing beats the private sector.
After all, private landowners have more than a few incentives to prevent fires altogether, and regular control of potentially dangerous shrubs and other fire-fueling materials such as deadwood is part of that.
A great example of how much better private owners are better at controlling and preventing fires can be found in the very South, where private land ownership is widespread as opposed to the West, where the government owns most of the land.
Self-Interest Could Have Prevented California’s Wildfires
As libertarianism teaches us, there are no rights but property rights. Whether you’re talking about self-ownership or wildfire preventions, a piece of land, like any other property, will always be better cared for if someone owns it.
When self-interest is at play, property owners will take actions that preserve the land and, as a result, help to preserve and protect neighboring land as well.
If Brown or Trump truly cared about California’s residents, their property, and their lives, they would be advocating for a change in policy that would increase the number of private landowners in the West, not putting more managing responsibilities in the hands of the state.