Poor Planning Decisions Exacerbate Wildfires—Should Locals be Held Accountable?
"According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, across 13 Western states there are more than 1.2 million homes -- with a combined value of about $190 billion -- that are at high or very high risk of wildfires," reports Liam Moriarty.
The Department of Interior estimates that it will spend more than $1.8 billion fighting fires this year, but "Rachel Cleetus, an economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says that doesn’t even count the costs of other fire impacts." Additional costs, according to Cleetus, "include damage to property, pollution of watersheds, loss of livelihoods, impacts on public health and an increase in the risk of post-fire flooding."
The threat and cost of wildfires has been exacerbated by what Cleetus describes as a "misalignment of incentives."
"A lot of the firefighting money is coming from federal sources like the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service," says Cleetus in the article, "whereas a lot of decisions around development are being made at the local level through local zoning regulations, for example, where the folks who make those decisions are not paying for the firefighting cost."