What will work to mitigate California's wildfires?

Regarding your Oct. 29 editorial "Building Homes in Hot Spots": The "Healthy Forests Initiative" was said to be possibly beneficial in the case of the California fires. If you look closely, the name of the initiative sounds good, but it is really a way to open up national forests to more logging. This allows companies to get practically free timber, and make a handsome profit. It would not protect areas that are burning in California, since much of the growth there is currently dead wood, and useless to the timber industry.

What will work is realizing that nonflammable materials must be used in houses near forested lands, development in forested areas must be restricted, and reasonable fire-resistant building codes must be enforced for the conditions that exist in southern California.
Tim Longo
Fairfield, Conn.

Regarding your Oct 27 article "California's fire policies feel heat": One need only look at the headlines for proof of an ineffective fire-control plan for California and much of the US. The "fire-control plan" is, in effect, the cause of these catastrophic and uncontrollable burns. Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem, and a policy of total fire prevention has created these huge swaths of highly combustible areas just waiting for the large-scale fires we've witnessed time and again.

Fire mosaics done of southern California and northern Baja show how natural burns on a continuous cycle throughout Baja have resulted in few, if any, uncontrollable fires there. Small fires burn often among the coastal chaparral and inland valleys of Baja - the result being a naturally balanced and verdant landscape. Fire also plays a major role in the health of the ecosystem with regard to the health of many, if not all, native flora and fauna. It's time for us to realize that there is no such thing as fire prevention.
Karl N. Rugen
Del Mar, Calif.

Fannie, Freddie, and financial health

Regarding your Oct. 28 editorial "Reining in Fannie and Freddie": Your call for the Treasury Department to approve new lines of business for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and abolish their status as government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) not only ignores the intent of decades of policymakers, but also threatens the economic recovery process that is now under way.

For the past two years, the housing market has turned in a heroic performance, keeping the economy afloat. It's clear that the presence of the GSEs in the secondary markets has lowered the cost of home- mortgage credit and allowed Fannie and Freddie to develop new programs and spur innovative solutions that expand housing opportunity for millions of homeowners and renters.

While all parties appear to agree on the need to create a strong, independent regulator within the Treasury Department to oversee the financial safety and soundness of the GSEs, it is not necessary for the Treasury to regulate the charter of these institutions to ensure their financial health. Indeed, housing could be weakened as a national priority, and the development of new, innovative housing-affordability programs would be threatened if program authority is shifted from housing advocates at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to financial regulators at the Treasury, an agency with almost no experience in housing policy and programs.

Eliminating Fannie and Freddie's GSE status would raise mortgage interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point or more, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. While this would aid GSE competitors, it would surely tilt the field against consumers, increasing housing costs for tens of millions of American families.
Jerry Howard
Executive Vice President and CEO, National Association of Home Builders

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