Beyond the Trumpstorm: How California Is Ramping Up Forest Management

Beyond the Trumpstorm: How California Is Ramping Up Forest Management

Current California Governor Jerry Brown

It’s interesting that the many outlets that reported on the President’s tweet seemed to question the relevance of forest management- and didn’t seem to check on what California is actually doing with regard to forest management. Maybe emotional critiques are click-worthy and facts, not so much. It didn’t take me long to access the below information on what California is doing from local media outlets.

We find that Trump was wrong, California is ramping it up forest management-wise and (2) if forest management is irrelevant (or an R plot) why is the California state legislature and governor (all D’s) doing so much? Of course, where there are no trees, forest management isn’t relevant. But plenty of California has trees.

So what has the State Legislature passed? Here’s a detailed story by Guy Kuvner of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Kudos to him for digging into the details! There’s also a nice summary of all the new wildfire legislation.

Wara (Stanford professor), who was called as a witness at the committee’s first hearing, said it was “almost a no-brainer” that California had to spend more money on “vegetation management,” the term that refers to controlled burns, thinning forests and other means of reducing the fuel available to fires. He recalled that Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott was asked at a hearing how much it would cost to make the wildlands safe. Pimlott couldn’t say.

“It’s such a big problem they never even thought they would conceivably have the resources to address it,” Wara said.

Assemblyman Jim Wood, a Santa Rosa Democrat who served on the committee, risked some political capital by stating he would not vote for the committee’s centerpiece bill without guaranteed annual funding for vegetation management, which he said should be $300 million a year.

That bill, SB 901, ultimately included just one new appropriation — $200 million a year for five years, or $1 billion — for vegetation management.

Wood, who also wrote five other fire-related bills, said he and Brian Dahle, the Assembly Republican leader from Lassen County, had been pushing a fire prevention plan for four years and the hazardous summer provided the right time to sell it.

“People have heard us, they’ve seen the catastrophic fires,” Wood said. “It was the perfect opportunity to make a big step toward protection in the future.”

“Jim Wood really lit a fire under the committee and the administration to get this done,” Dodd said.

“That was an accomplishment,” Wara said.

Cal Fire had dispensed $243 million in grants to local fire agencies and nonprofit organizations for controlled burns, forest thinning and other fire prevention programs over the past five years, according to Porter, the agency’s region chief.

“We’re super excited,” he said, referring to the $1 billion funding stream. “It’s an amazing investment the state is making in a proactive approach to controlling large, damaging fires.”

Wood’s other bills include AB 2551, which authorizes Cal Fire to collaborate with private landowners on prescribed burns, and AB 1919, which makes it a misdemeanor for a landlord to boost rent more than 10 percent in the wake of a disastrous wildfire.

Then there’s the Governor’s executive order, which specifically deals with streamlining the regulations for private landowners. This story is from CBS local San Francisco here.

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order on Thursday that aims to reduce the dangers of wildfires following some of the deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history.

The order calls for accelerating forest management procedures such as cutting back dense stands of trees and setting controlled fires to burn out thick brush. Brown wants to double the forest area managed by such practices to 500,000 acres (781 square miles) within five years.

Brown’s order also calls for streamlining the process of allowing private landowners to thin trees and encouraging the building industry to use more innovative wood products.

His office said a Forest Management Task Force will be convened in coming weeks to help implement the order.

The governor’s May budget revision, due for release on Friday, includes $96 million to support his order. That’s in addition to $160 million Brown already proposed for fire protection and forest work in the upcoming fiscal year.

Californians, please comment on what you’ve seen as the results of this new bill.


via A New Century of Forest Planning

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