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No Simple Solution for CA Fires
With nearly 40 million people living in California and development spreading into once-wild regions, some of the state's best tools toward preventing wildfires can't be widely used.
CHICO, Calif. (AP) — With nearly 40 million people living in California and development spreading into once-wild regions, some of the state's best tools toward preventing wildfires can't be widely used. Still, there is growing agreement that the state must step up its use of forest management through prescribed burns and vegetation removal in an attempt to lessen the impact of wildfires . In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on wildfires, designed to expedite forest-thinning projects and other programs. In May 2018, former Gov. Jerry Brown called for doubling the amount of forest land treated each year in California by 2023. The state significantly increased the money it was spending on those efforts, with the Legislature earmarking $1 billion over five years in funds generated by the state's carbon trading program. The Trump administration has also vowed to manage forests more aggressively.
Cal Fire and the state Board of Forestry estimate 23 million acres in the state's responsibility area could benefit from fuel reduction. And those treatments aren't one-time efforts: they must be repeated every few years to be effective.
Among the biggest complications in forest management are California's strict environmental regulations. Forest treatment projects must obtain approvals under the California Environmental Quality Act. Butte County Fire Safe Council Executive Director Calli-Jane DeAnda said the environmental review process typically uses up 10 to 15 percent of grant funds local fire agencies receive for forest management projects. The reviews can take years.