California and Australia share a common enemy: overzealous environmental regulation. In both places, the unintended consequences of a radical environmentalist agenda has been massive wildfires.
California suffered from two horrible fire seasons in the last three years, one of which burned down an entire town. Australia has been battling fires for months. More than 135 fires are still burning currently. So far, the fires have scorched 12 million acres, killed 25 people, caused 240,000 Australians to evacuate their homes, burned alive an estimated half a billion animals, and caused $3.4 billion worth of damage.
The big question isn’t necessarily how these wildfires started. In both cases, most of the fires were likely man-made, whether through downed electrical lines in California or arsonists in Australia. The real question, however, is what factors have contributed to making these fires into “mega catastrophes,” or fires that cause over a billion dollars of damage?
...Western Native Americans knew how to prevent wildfires. They employed a practice known as controlled or prescribed burns. The California Environmental Protection Agency says, “[P]rescribed burning is the intentional use of fire to reduce wildfire hazards, clear downed trees, control plant diseases, improve rangeland and wildlife habitats, and restore natural ecosystems.”
As researcher Charles E. Kay argued in a paper on the topic, not only were low-intensity fires a norm in Western forests prior to European settlements, but it has now been discovered that native people purposely set those fires.
The same thing has been discovered in Australia. In his book “The Biggest Estate on Earth: How the Aborigines Made Australia,” historian Bill Gammage wrote that the Aborigines’ strategy of land management “was active, not passive.” Of their management style, Gammage wrote, “The chief ally was fire.” He argues their burning method was not random or haphazard, but planned and predictable. Fires needed to be spaced appropriately and planned with particular terrain and climate in mind.