|California's Camp Fire, November 2018|
Before the US annexation of California in 1848, the region’s Spanish and Mexican governments supervised a geographically-adapted legal system emphasizing communal water rights and public allocation of minerals, land, and coastal areas. While many post-takeover judges considered Hispanic legal principles, the overall trend was to reject these in favor of common law. The prior anti-developmental tradition was in most cases distorted, overridden, or procedurally blocked, and the jurisprudence replacing it facilitated resource degradation that has been only partially reversed by California’s modern environmental policy. As one example, the stark contrast between fire zone rules in Mexico’s Baja California and in US Southern California, and the resulting far more destructive conflagrations in the latter, demonstrate the advantages of the more managed, sustainable Hispanic approach.