5. Misconceptions leading to negative public attitudes
Misconceptions about chaparral have the potential of being the most dangerous because they lead to irrational public policy that promotes destructive land management practices such as broadscale destruction of native shrublands through prescribed burning, grinding, and the spraying of herbicides.
Correcting misconceptions is challenging because they often support million-dollar clearance projects as well as careers.
After more than 15 years of battling misconceptions about the chaparral, there are some promising developments. Rejecting their traditional view of chaparral as something that just gets in the way, the US Forest Service has recognized the threat of increasing fire frequencies on chaparral in their Leadership Intent policy document for California. They explain,
"There is an additional crisis taking place in our Southern California Forests as an unprecedented number of human-caused fires have increased fire frequency to the extent that fire-adapted chaparral can no longer survive and is being replaced with non-native annual grasses at an alarming rate. To counter these trends, forest managers will need to significantly increase the pace and scale of the Region’s restoration work."
The battle continues, however, to stop other government agencies and private corporations from stoking fear about fire and preying on people's fear of Nature.
Major Attacks on Chaparral
After the 2003 Cedar Fire, we were the only voice countering the political attacks against Cal Fire. Local radio host Roger Hedgecock concocted falsehoods about Cal Fire's response to the fire. San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob took to the airwaves and unfairly criticized the agency. Residents threw rocks at Cal Fire engines. Unfortunately, since that time, clearance contractors and the timber industry, along with embedded bureaucrats within Cal Fire are attempting to take the San Diego County slash and burn program to a whole new level - the clearance of 250,000 acres of habitat per year. We have been working to change this proposal for more than a decade. Like San Diego County, they have ignored the science. As a consequence, we are back in the courtroom. The full story can be found on our Cal Fire Slash and Burn page.Loss in Cuyamaca
While we were fighting San Diego County, California State Parks took advantage of our occupation with the county by issuing an illegal, emergency exemption for their project to clear thousands of acres of fragile, post fire pyrogenic habitat from Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We were unable to stop them since we found out about their attack past the legal deadline to object. That story can be found on our Loss in Cuyamaca page.
San Diego County Slash and Burn
The California Chaparral Institute was born to build a science-based, united front against San Diego County's effort to clear 300 square miles of native habitat in response to the 2003 Cedar Fire. We felt that if we offered the science, the county government and Board of Supervisors would craft policy accordingly. That was not to be. So, we formed our non-profit and took the county to court. We won and the chaparral was saved, at least from one major attack. The entire history of our victory can be found on our San Diego County Slash and Burn page.
For additional information on all of our efforts to protect the chaparral, please see our Actions page.