Fireworks doused

With wildfires burning in many areas of California, several places in the state have canceled their scheduled Fourth of July fireworks celebrations.

But the folks in Gualala, Calif. — a coastal town north of San Francisco — won’t be shooting off any pyrotechnics today, and it has nothing to do with the potential fire danger.

Last month, Gualala officials were informed by the California Coastal Commission that they would be prohibited from following through with their planned fireworks display, in honor of both July Fourth and the town’s 150th anniversary.

The problem? The celebration might bother birds on offshore rocks.

Not endangered birds, mind you. But seagulls and cormorants.

“We’re basically being accused of scaring a common bird,” one resident of Gualala told the San Francisco Chronicle.

But coastal commission authorities are unrepentant. Peter Douglas, executive director of the board, which regulates development along the California coast, said studies showed that last year’s Fourth of July fireworks in Gualala led birds to abandon their nests.

“Our job under the coastal act is to protect marine resources,” he said, “and that’s what is affected here.”

Get past all the posturing, however, and you have another case of a bureaucracy scorned seeking to extract its revenge. Turns out Mr. Douglas and his commission tried to strong arm Gualala officials into getting a permit for their display last year — and were told to go pound sand.

Lo and behold, Gualala now finds itself in the commission’s cross hairs.

“To tell us that, out of all the fireworks displays in California, there are no others with nesting seabirds within range, you’ve got to be kidding,” Marshall Sayegh, the Gualala festival’s spokesman, told the Chronicle.

Perhaps instead of shooting off the fireworks, the good people of Gualala should take the occasion to educate their schoolchildren about the dangers of an out-of-control government bureaucracy, with potential emphasis on the Declaration of Independence’s passage about King George III having “erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”

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