Environmental Damages Quantified

Consultants and paid experts are now working to evaluate the environmental damages that the Butte fire caused. Some of the aspects of the loss they are looking into:

Cost of Clean Up: Wholly apart for reasons of aesthetics, all properties must be cleaned up. An owner may not be too concerned about felled timber left on a remote corner of his or her property, but the timber is hazardous as fuel for further wildfires and bug infestation.

Cost of a Comprehensive, Long Term Weed Abatement Program: Without a weed abatement program, invasive species will take hold and destroy the area’s biodiversity.

Cost of Timber Destroyed: Timber that has been destroyed must be inventoried, either by boots-on-the-ground survey or by the study of high-resolution satellite imagery. The timber’s pre-fire market value must then be determined.

Cost of Reforestation: Plans for reforesting the properties must include provisions for caring for the newly planted vegetation until the vegetation becomes self-sustaining. Plans must take into account whether the property was commercial or residential.

Cost of replacing Heritage or Landscaping Trees: Trees that provided shade, privacy, or had special aesthetic value must be identified and valued on an individual basis.

Erosion Control Plans: Engineers need to locate the areas most subject to the risk of erosion, develop an individualized plan for mitigation of each such risk, and then determine the associated costs. They will also look at structures and roads.

The work is ongoing. The experts won’t be able to draw conclusions concerning whether certain fire-damaged trees will survive and whether certain properties are at risk of damage from erosion until late spring, at the earliest.