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Jefferson Weaver: Spotted owls and forests

For the record, I like owls. I also like forests.

I have nothing against homeless people, and I truly think more could be done to help them — but I also think more folks could, with prayer and moral certitude, improve their current conditions if they truly tried. A lot of people become comfortable with feeding at the public trough, and like hogs, actually come to embrace and enjoy the state of filth that laziness, bad luck, drugs or alcohol can bring to some. I’ve known more than you might realize, and tried desperately, even aggressively, to help some of them. Some responded, and turned out well. Others didn’t.

While there are some folks I do not like, there are none I truly hate. It’s part faith, part the way I was raised. I might loathe things someone does, but I don’t hate the person.

I have nothing against electric cars, except that I see them as hypocritical, since most electric cars are charged using electricity produced by petroleum products, this actually doubling the amount or carbon emissions that they’re supposed to reduce. I invite anyone to prove me wrong, and I’ll help you go into witness protection for speaking such heresy in this world of emotion-fuelled pseudoscience.

I’m a hunter and a trapper, yet I respect those folks who don’t eat meat, harvest fur, or wear leather. That’s their right to choose, one of those building blocks of a free society. I’m a member of several groups that work through the legal and political system to preserve our rights to hunt, fish, trap and own firearms, but others can use that democratic process in the manner prescribed for their own benefit as well.

All results have consequences.

And consequences are the spark, if you will, for this rather wandering diatribe.

Consider the state of California, which for reasons I am still not sure of, remains a part of the United States. I strove to make such a crosscountry exploration myself as a teenager, to the point of trying to make a down payment on a school bus to modify into a camper (I never succeeded).

My father and his brother drove to San Francisco when the second round of the Great Depression hit in the mid-30s; Uncle James had been hired for a radio job, and Papa was looking for something apart from the family hardware business. Thankfully, the Old Man still drank back then. He over-celebrated being hired as a roustabout on a steamer heading for China the next morning, and missed his ship – which was bombed as the Japanese attacked Shangahi.

What does this have to do with owls and trapping?

Consider the spotted owl. A political fight between pro-logging interests and treehuggers brought the spotted owl into the spotlight, if you’ll pardon the pun. The treehuggers said the owls were being killed by loggers who were wiping out their habitat. That led to strong restrictions on logging, which effectively killed timber management in the Bear Republic.

Without timber management, including prescribed burns, forests revert to their natural state. That’s a good thing – until people move into those woods. Then suddenly thousands upon thousands of folks are discovering that in dry, windy seasons, nature is going to manage timberlands, and fire is nature’s tool.

Very few people like a truly natural groundcover, preferring instead to force the formerly forested floor to grow lawns that require non-native topsoils and extra water. God didn’t make the western forests to grow grassy lawns any more than He designed the longleaf savannahs to grow St. Augustine or rye. So with overbuilding, reengineering the landscape and not making allowances for nature’s own management methods, the door is open for erosion, uncontrollable wildfires and sterile earth that starves native trees and vegetation. Messing up the landscape is likely killing more spotted owls than all the chainsaws and pulp mills ever made.

When my dad was in California, circa 1936, he was technically homeless for a while. On his trip home, he spent a few nights in hobo camps and bus stations. The difference then from now was that my father wanted work.

Like a possum raiding the cat food pans on the front porch, when Papa saw there was no chance of earning an “eating wage”, as it used to be called, he moved on and went home. Nowadays being homeless in California appears to have been raised to an artform, albeit an artform written in sewage, trash and used needles causing health hazards on some city streets, and people doing far worse things in public than any possum has ever done on my front porch.

The Bear Republic once had a strong population of hunters and trappers, but as things have consistently gone into a spiral out there, hunting, trapping and firearm ownership are slowly but surely being choked to death. As such, predator populations have soared, leading to the annual news reports of children being attacked by coyotes in town. Diseases rage through the state’s deer herd due to overpopulation. Beavers are jamming wastewater systems, but due to a lack of trapping, they’re left unchecked. Wild hogs are expanding there even faster than here in the east, thus causing more destruction of forests.

California’s tougher gun laws have done absolutely nothing to prevent further criminal violence, but instead have helped make the population of law-abiding citizens more vulnerable to two-legged predators who never had plans to obey any laws, anyway. Indeed, more gun laws do little more than embolden criminals, since they stand a good chance of being released early and becoming rich through a lawsuit against police if they are caught – and their victims are more likely to be helpless.

The governor of California and other officials out that way have been quick to blame the power companies for the wildfires, and in an attempt to prevent further fires, they came up with a classically California solution – sue the utilities, and shut off the power when conditions are too dry. I had to shake my head at the image shown in the media last week of the burned shell of an electric car that ran out of power and stranded its driver who was fleeing a wildfire. The owner of the car escaped, thankfully. It seems to me if you’re going to encourage people to buy electric cars, you might want to keep the electricity on so they can charge their cars and escape a wildfire.

I don’t have room to comment on all the problems California seems to create for itself, from the killing of unborn children to protecting illegal immigrants, arresting people for gathering rainwater or requiring sex education for children starting before they’re completely potty trained.

Yes, I know there are some good, common sense folks left in California – and I hope they remember to turn the lights out and grab the last spotted owl as they leave.

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