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Interview: Wildfire scientist says LaMalfa’s recently introduced wildfire suppression legislation takes the wrong approach

The latest North State and California news on our airwaves for Monday, March 14.

Editor's note: Today’s Headlines audio solely contains an interview with wildfire scientist Zeke Lunder. All other news from today can be read below.  

Interview: LaMalfa’s wildfire suppression legislation would be ‘impossible’ to implement, bad for forests, wildfire scientist says

Earlier this month, Northern California Rep. Doug LaMalfa, along with Rep. Tom McClintock, introduced legislation that would require the U.S. forest service to immediately suppress wildfires on national forest system lands.

In a press release, LaMalfa said the forest service has been “monitoring” wildfires, and this policy to “‘watch and wait’ has allowed multiple catastrophic fires to unnecessarily escalate and devastate our wildlands and rural towns.”

But wildfire scientist, Zeke Lunder, disagrees. He recently wrote on Twitter: “Not only is putting out every fire impossible, it has also proven to be the worst possible thing for the health of our forests.”

NSPR’s Sarah Bohannon recently spoke with Lunder, first asking him to expand on that comment. Listen to the interview in today’s Headlines. 

— Sarah Bohannon, NSPR

If you’re driving to Table Mountain, watch where you park your car

The spring bloom of wildflowers at Table Mountain in Oroville attracts a large group of sightseers each year. That’s causing parking headaches for the county.

On Tuesday, the Butte County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance placing a parking ban on the paved portions of Cherokee Road near the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve.

Joshua Pack, the county’s public works director, said the annual crowd of visitors and their parked cars is causing dangerous conditions on the narrow two-lane road.

“This is really to eliminate that issue with crowding of the road, which impacts emergency vehicle access, which impacts the ability of vehicles to pass on each side,” Pack said.

Pack added that parking along unpaved portions of Cherokee Road is still allowed. Signs will alert visitors to the rules and cars in violation may be towed.

— Andre Byik, NSPR

Weather Service climate report shows record rain, dry spell; state still in drought

The 2022 Winter Climate and Drought report just issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the state went from record wet to record dry.

January through February were the driest on record for many parts of Northern California, according to NOAA. Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto each saw less than five-one-hundredths of an inch of rain during those two months. But December set records in the other direction, with rainfall totals from 125% to 200% of normal. In the higher elevations, that meant snow.

For the period from Oct. 1 to Feb. 28, Blue Canyon saw 106% of average precipitation. Higher than normal temperatures especially in February accelerated snowmelt, and the Weather Service said most of Northern California is in the "Severe Drought" category.

— CapRadio Staff

Pumping groundwater now could lead to less for farmers in the future

As California continues its third consecutive dry year, the lack of rainfall is expected to hit many farmers hard.

Jay Lund, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering UC Davis, said many California farmers are being forced to rely on dwindling groundwater reserves have been overdrafted for many years in some areas.

“There’s now state policy to reduce that,” Lund said. “So this additional pumping that the farmers are doing during these recent drought years is all going to have to be repaid over the next 20 years to comply with [the] Sustainable Groundwater Management Act."

Lund said surface water could be used to recharge some aquifers, but overdrafted areas will likely need to pump less groundwater in the future.

In terms of conditions, Lund said Northern California saw some moisture restored in December, but the area is still below average in terms of precipitation. He expects another dry year and said he doesn’t think the region will experience as much groundwater replenishment as had been anticipated.

— Alec Stutson, NSPR 

Stories from NPR partner stations are edited by NSPR Staff for digital presentation and credited as requested.

In other news

  • One person dead in Siskiyou County officer-involved shooting: “Siskiyou County law enforcement authorities are investigating an officer-involved shooting that left one person dead outside of Mount Shasta on Friday night. The shooting took place about 9:53 p.m. Friday, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office said.” — Redding Record Searchlight 
  • Local politicians support bill to redefine mental health conservatorship criteria: “Local leaders met Friday morning at the Fred Davis Municipal Center to voice support for Assembly Bill 2020, introduced to the state legislature by Assembly Minority Leader James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) aimed to increase opportunity of conservatorship treatment for people with mental illness by expanding the definition of “gravely disabled.” — Chico Enterprise Record
  • Shelter in the spotlight: “Still empty, the 177 Pallet shelter units at the Chico Emergency Non-Congregate Housing Site are perfectly square and stark white … questions about the site’s operation have many people wondering if the final picture will be a masterpiece, a mess or something in between.” — Chico News & Review  
  • LaMalfa visits southern border: “Yesterday, Congressman Doug LaMalfa joined a group of Republican members of Congress on an official trip to view the southern border in Arizona. During this trip, members received an operational briefing from the U.S. Border Patrol Station in Yuma and toured their Centralized Processing Center.” — Lassen County Times 
  • Sutter County GOP endorses candidates for June 7 primary: “On Thursday night, the Sutter County Republican Central Committee heard presentations from area candidates running in the upcoming June 7 primary and officially endorsed a handful of those that spoke and some who weren’t in attendance.” — The Appeal Democrat 

In case you missed it

Headlines is published every weekday morning at 8:30 a.m. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and NPR One. Theme song Borough is courtesy of Blue Dot Sessions.

Sarah is an award-winning host, reporter, producer and editor. She’s worked at North State Public Radio since 2015 and is currently the station’s Assistant Program Director. She’s responsible for the “sound of the station" and works to create the richest public radio experience possible for NSPR listeners.
A graduate of California State University, Chico, Andre Byik is an award-winning journalist who has reported in Northern California since 2012. He joined North State Public Radio in 2020, following roles at the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review.
Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.
Adia White is a broadcast journalist and producer with nearly 10 years of experience. Her work has appeared on WNYC, This American Life, Capital Public Radio and other local and national programs. She started at North State Public Radio as a freelance reporter in 2017 before leaving for a stint at Northern California Public Media in Santa Rosa.