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State and federal funds announced to address California wildfires

Posted at 12:17 AM, Jan 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-22 03:17:53-05

Officials say 2021 was one of the worst fire seasons in CA history, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state lost 7 million acres to wildfires just in the last two years. Kern County saw its share of those wildfires–most notably the french fire that burned almost 30,0000 acres.

“But it’s the fear of loss beyond just those acres–it’s the fear of losing traditions, lifestyles, people,” the Governor said. “Just think of last year, Whiskey Flats, wiped off the map–a town that disappeared because of wildfires.”

Seven million acres–32 civilian lives–over 14,000 homes. All lost to the flames of California wildfires in the last couple years, according to Officials. State and national leaders including Governor Newsom and Vice president Kamala Harris joined the National Forest Service Friday to discuss their plans for addressing the upcoming wildfire season.

“This epidemic of wildfires is relatively new in that there have always been wildfires in one form or another,” Vice President Harris said. “But the frequency and the intensity and the ubiquity of wildfires just in the last couple years, as the governor talked about, is extraordinary and requires our federal government to see what is happening and act in real time."

The U.S. plans to address 20 million acres of national forest lands in the next decade and treat more than 30 million acres of all the federal, tribal, and state lands. Thursday, Senator Alex Padilla mentioned the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill put 5 billion dollars toward land management and 3.4 billion toward wildfire risk reduction.

That’s not all: $600 million will also come down the pipe to ca from the u.s. department of agriculture for restoration and recovery efforts. The work is being done on the state level too, according to Governor Newsom.

“$37.6 billion, we are committed to investing to address the issues of climate change,” Newsom said. “There are not many nations in the world making those kinds of investments, unprecedented investments.”

As the governor announced earlier this month–2.7 billion dollars have been allocated in the governor’s budget proposal for the state’s next fiscal year–1.2 billion more than last year. But when it comes to land management… assemblymember Vince Fong thinks that number should be bigger.

“For the past 10 to 15 years, the state of California has not invested enough to remove the dead and dying trees in our forest, and that’s why we’re seeing the wildfires getting bigger and bigger, because the fields have continued to grow,” Asssemblymember Fong said.

Now California has a goal to treat 500,000 acres per year by 2025. Assemblymember Fong’s Assembly Bill 522- plans to play into reaching that goal, if passed.

The bill, which passed in the fiscal committee yesterday, would extend the forest fire prevention pilot project exemption into 2026, instead of having it expire two years from now. It's meant to streamline the process for private landowners to continue managing vegetation and debris that become further ammunition for those wildfires.  

“Time is of the essence. We need to encourage private landowners to remove these fuels. So that we can prevent the threat of hazardous wildfires,” Fong said. “The largest amount of acres being treated in CA are being done on private land.”