Congressman McClintock is well-known for trying to stop Federal funding of CA high-speed rail. Even though it would bring modern rail service into his district, and employ thousands of constituents.
His opposition to Federal spending in his district goes way beyond transportation projects though. As one of the most right-wing members of Congress, he put a halt to a variety of programs that would benefit his constituents. It has made him popular with Tea Party types — until this summer when it all blew up. Literally:
The colossal Rim Fire (pictured above) not only damaged the local ecosystem, it devastated the Yosemite tourist economy. Moreover, it was a catastrophe that never should have happened:
A cluster of controlled fire and tree-thinning projects approved by forestry officials but never funded might have slowed the progress of the massive Rim Fire in California, a wide range of critics said this weekend.
The massive blaze at the edge of Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains has scorched an area larger than many U.S. cities – with some of that land in the very location pinpointed by the U.S. Forest service for eight projects aimed at clearing and burning brush and small trees that help fuel wildfire.
The projects, which were approved by the U.S. Forest Service but never funded by Congress, would have thinned the woods in about 25 square miles (65 square km) in the Groveland District of the Stanislaus National Forest, much of which was incinerated by the Rim Fire. About 9,000 acres (3,642 hectares) were suitable to be deliberately burned as fire prevention buffer zones in 2012, the Forest Service said in a document provided to Reuters.
Thanks to Sequestration and austerity, the Forest Service was unable to do its usual brush clearing. Who would have predicted this would result in a giant forest fire? Amazingly, McClintock is unapologetic:
There is also skepticism over the relative importance of planned burning among some lawmakers, including Congressman Tom McClintock, a third-term conservative Republican in whose district the Rim Fire has burned. More dire than a backlog of Forest Service controlled burns, McClintock says, is the precipitous, 25-year decline in logging of bigger, money-making trees on public lands. “If we were harvesting the same amount of timber we once did, we’d have fewer fires but also a revenue stream for the treatment of many thousands of acres (hectares) that we’re not treating today,” he said.
In other words, he wants a free-market solution to a government problem. Good luck with that. The reason for the decline in logging is because of the decline in the market price for timber.
But it gets worse. No sooner is the fire put out and the tourists come back, then McClintock votes to shutdown the government! With the park closed again, the economy takes another hit. For some business owners, it is too much:
And so last week, when the government closure ended, when busloads of foreign tourists resumed their stops in Groveland on pilgrimages to America’s natural treasure, Harris stood outside her deli, with its “Going Out of Business Sale” sign, and sobbed. She has sold off her sandwich counter and ice cream display and will close at the end of the month.
The Visitor Bureau estimates more than $15 million lost just in hotel bookings. We may never know the full extent of the economic damage, as many workers are seasonal or part-time. Hopefully, McClintock won’t try to cut their unemployment benefits.