The first phase of RCRC’s 2021 Fire Prevention and Response Package has been introduced in the Legislature, with a number of sponsored bills designed to work together to help increase the pace and scale of forest management, restoration, and wildfire prevention in California.
RCRC member counties contain much of California’s forested lands, including more than 70 percent of the State’s national forest lands. While rural communities have historically borne the majority of destruction caused by high severity wildfires, wildfire risk has now become a statewide public safety concern impacting all regions of the state as identified high fire risk areas rapidly increase due to overgrown vegetation in forests and wildlands, climate change and impacts of renewed drought conditions in California. Wildfires are also a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and compromise the quality and quantity of much of the State’s water supply. The health and resilience of our forests and wildlands impacts every Californian.
In response to the annual uptick in recent years in the acreage and severity of catastrophic wildfires across California, RCRC is proposing a comprehensive Fire Prevention and Response Package to address a number of program areas that are vital to improving the health of the state’s forests and wildlands while also helping safeguard communities in high fire risk areas from the impacts of catastrophic wildfires. The first phase of the package has been introduced, and focuses on ensuring the state works with federal land managers to meet its forest management commitments while streamlining onerous permitting requirements for community wildfire mitigation efforts. Bills in the package include:
- Assembly Bill 1431 (Frazier) – Codifies the numerous goals and commitments for fuels treatment and vegetation management by the state as established in the 2018 Forest Carbon Plan, and requires an annual progress report to the Legislature;
- Assembly Bill 1154 (Patterson) – Exempts from CEQA egress route projects undertaken by a public agency that are recommended by the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection for community fire safety mitigation; and,
- Assembly Bill 1458 (Frazier) – Exempts projects approved by a state or local agency to mitigate the threat of wildfire from lake and streambed alteration permitting requirements.
The second phase of RCRC’s package will focus on funding for forest management, woody byproduct utilization and forest workforce development, addressing the gross underreporting of pollution from wildfire smoke in the state, as well as helping low-income residents in high fire risk areas harden their homes against the devastating impacts of catastrophic wildfires.