California's current drought and last year's devastating Rim Fire were common topics of discussion Thursday during a "water-forestry" forum hosted by the Calaveras County Water District.
Mother Lode lawmaker Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, arrived towards the beginning of the meeting to advocate for more water storage in the state.
"More water is better than less water," he said.
The objective of the forum was to discuss how forest-management practices can result in watershed improvements.
Thursday's discussion was especially relevant, many said, due to the state's current drought conditions and last year's massive Rim Fire, which burned about 257,000 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.
"The Rim Fire taught us that current forest-management practices are not working," said CCWD Director Jeff Davidson.
McClintock then spoke, criticizing what he called the "radical environmental left" who have prevented new dams and water storage in the state. He said there are those who want to "tear down dams" and those who want a "new era of dam construction."
"We're really at a crossroads with water policy," he told the audience of about 80.
After the meeting, John Buckley, executive director of Twain Harte-based Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, said it was "extremely unfortunate the Congressman arrived late and spoke so aggressively in attacking anyone who might not support his views and then left immediately."
Buckley added that, "Everyone else seemed truly open to consensus."
"Overall, this was a very productive discussion of a complex challenge," he said.
The workshop-style meeting, held at the San Andreas Town Hall, was attended by community leaders from throughout the foothills. A diverse panel of speakers included researchers, conservation groups, the U.S. Forest Service and a representative from Sierra Pacific Industries.
See full story in Friday's Union Democrat.