The $227 billion budget Governor Gavin Newsom proposed on Friday and his Forest Management Task Force has provided a strategy to combat wildfires many have been suggesting for a long-time: A combination of prescribed burning and forest thinning.
As expected Newsom's budget address wildfires after a record year for wildfires in the state in 2020. Newsom's administration is working on a proposal to be ready by the spring to strengthen the Governor's Office of Emergency Services' ability to respond to emergencies and support recovery efforts, especially in vulnerable communities.
Newsom's proposed budget does call for an additional $143 million to support 30 new fire crews and $48 million to phase in Black Hawk helicopters and large air tankers.
Newsom's Forest Management Task Force has also come up with a Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan it unveiled on Friday. The plan can be found here: https://fmtf.fire.ca.gov/media/cjwfpckz/californiawildfireandforestresilienceactionplan.pdf
The Action Plan includes nearly 100 specific actions across state agencies to improve forest health and protect communities from fire. The plan states “we recognize low-intensity fire can be a positive force,” referring to prescribed burns.
The plan includes a plan to restore 1 million acres of forest by 2025. To achieve this, the plan calls for CAL FIRE and other state agencies to expand their ability to provide fuel treatments for 500,000 acres annually by 2025. The plan also counts on the U.S. Forest Service to double its current forest treatment levels also to 500,000 acres by 2025.
The goal of the plan is also for CAL FIRE to provide prescribed burns for 100,000 acres by 2025 on high-risk lands. The plan calls for the forest service, CAL FIRE and tribal governments to establish a Prescribed Fire Training Center.
The plan also calls for the forest service to develop a restoration strategy for land impacted by wildfires.
The plan, though also calls for more forest thinning as well. It states the goal is to “scale up forest thinning and prescribed fire efforts.”
A coalition of California environmental groups praised the plan on Friday.
“Our groups are encouraged to see this commitment to address forest health, and reduce the risk that extreme wildfires pose to our communities, air quality, wildlife and water supplies,” the coalition stated. “We will need sustained funding in future years to build the workforce, capacity, and momentum necessary to meet this enormous challenge.
“This Action Plan and proposed funding reflect California’s dedication to restoring our forests in the face of rapid climate change.”
The coalition also stated whatever funding the state provides in preventing and mitigating wildfires, the federal government needs to match that funding.
The coalition also stated what many have stated and that is the public and private sector need to work together or as the coalition put it an “all lands” approach. The action plan does addresses that.
“Both state and federal agencies must work closely with private landowners, tribes, and groups like ours to restore, conserve and enhance forests and wildlands across entire watersheds,” the coalition stated. “The challenges of extreme wildfires and climate change require an all lands approach.”
The coalition is calling for “thoughtful forest thinning.”
Organizations include Pacific Forest Trust, Sierra Forest Legacy, Defenders of Wildlife, California Wilderness Coalition, California Native Plant Society and The Nature Conservancy.