OROVILLE EAST, CA (STL.News) Governor Gavin Newsom Ahead of peak fire season, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed a $536 million wildfire package enabling the state to take urgent action on projects that support wildfire suppression, improve forest health and build resilience in communities to help protect residents and property from catastrophic wildfires in diverse landscapes across the state. The Governor signed SB 85 alongside legislative leaders at a fuels management project in the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area that helped protect a Butte County community from last year’s North Complex Fire.
The legislative package builds on Governor Newsom’s early action funding for wildfire resilience proposed in his 2021-2022 state budget. It funds projects to restore the ecological health of forests and watersheds, fuel breaks around vulnerable communities, statewide fire prevention grants targeting projects to advance community hardening, and improvements to defensible space to mitigate wildfire damage. This early action plan is part of the Governor’s overall proposed $1 billion investment in forest health and community fire resilience.
“California is taking bold, early action to protect our high-risk communities from the upcoming wildfire season before it starts,” said Governor Newsom. “This crucial funding will go towards efforts including fuel breaks, forest health projects and home hardening. I thank the members of the Legislature for their partnership as we do more than ever before to build wildfire and forest resilience across the state.”
The Administration is spearheading sustainable approaches to thinning California’s vulnerable landscapes, half of which will be funded under the early action legislation. One of these approaches is to develop a comprehensive framework to expand the wood products market in California to create economic opportunities for the use of forest materials that store carbon, reduce emissions and contribute to sustainable local economies. Furthermore, the state’s iBank will partner with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and other agencies to advance forest- and agricultural-related applications to the Climate Catalyst Fund. The fund will provide loans, loan guarantees and other credit support to encourage the development of businesses that utilize wood and forest biomass; encourage private-sector innovations in technology, business models, infrastructure and supply chains in woody biomass markets; and promote optimization of state grant funds in the sector.
The Oroville East site is a joint project by CAL FIRE, the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Parks and Recreation to thin vegetation around the park, which helped slow the North Complex Fire and prevent it from spreading into the community of Kelly Ridge.
“As the Senate passed the wildfire prevention and resiliency package yesterday, members spoke about the many fires that have torn through their districts. From the coast to inland, north to south, Paradise to San Diego, each of us have watched our communities burn, evacuate, and work to rebuild far too many times,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). “Together, we are just 40 people, but each of us represent the millions of Californians who said goodbye to homes, loved ones, and livelihoods. This bill will help protect those who have lost so much to wildfires and prevent fresh pain from being inflicted across the state. This is an investment in Californians, and it will not be the last. I appreciate the dedication my colleagues, particularly Senators Bob Wieckowski, Susan Rubio, and Mike McGuire, have shown to this critical issue.”
“This wildfire prevention package is a big deal, but it’s not enough. We are not out of the woods on this issue, and we need to act like the woods are in flames. I’m grateful that the Administration and the senate see it the same way,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). “Thank you to my colleagues, in particular Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Phil Ting, Luz Rivas, Laura Friedman, Jim Wood, and Cecilia Aguiar-Curry for their hard work on this important issue.”
Governor Newsom last week announced that he is expanding and refocusing the Forest Management Task Force to deliver on key commitments in the Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan issued in January, including the $1 billion in investments. The Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force of federal, local and tribal leaders builds on the state’s collaborative effort to improve the health of forests and reduce wildfire risk to communities.
In March, Governor Newsom authorized $80.74 million in emergency funds for 1,399 additional firefighters with CAL FIRE to bolster fuels management and wildfire response efforts.
More information on the progress to date by the Newsom Administration and the Legislature to address California’s forest health and wildfire crisis can be found here.