President Donald Trump and his administration have long advocated for better forest management to prevent the deadly wildfires that plague the western United States year after year but environmentalists have made it a mission to block these efforts.
But now the United States Forest Service and Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom have reached agreement on a $1 billion plan to clear vegetation that fuels fires on one million acres annually by 2025, with a plan on how to do that in place in 2021. The plan also includes restoring wetlands.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the partnership:
The plan, called Shared Stewardship of California’s Forest and Rangelands, is the first major attempt by the state and federal governments to jointly improve public safety on the 33 million acres of forested land in the state. It addresses many of the fire safety problems facing California, including a lack of funding, poor collaboration between agencies and the need to better protect vulnerable communities — issues that fire scientists and forest ecologists have long flagged.
The initiative, signed by Newsom and Forest Service Chief Victoria Christiansen, emphasizes science-based forestry and rangeland management that would both improve the ecosystem and make money.
“It’s a great idea. It’s ambitious, but I think that’s a good thing,” Scott Stephens, professor of fire science and the chairman of the division of ecosystem science at U.C. Berkeley, said in the Chronicle report. “It goes to the question of how do you change the fundamentals of fire safety — where do we live, how do we prepare for fire and take precautions.”
The plan hopes to change these grim statistics:
- In 2017 and 2018 fires killed 135 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.
- More than 5.3 million acres have been charred in California over the past five year.
- The SCU Lightning Complex, which began on Aug. 18 in the East Bay, and the LNU Lightning Complex, which started one day earlier in the North Bay, are now the second- and third-largest fires in California history, respectively.
The Chronicle reported that the plan calls for state and federal government to reduce wildfire risk on 500,000 acres of forest and wilderness every year, including removing debris and using control burns.
“The U.S. Forest Service manages more than 20 million acres across 18 national forests in California and nearly 58% of the state’s 33 million acres of forest,” the Chronicle reported. “That’s compared to nearly 14 million acres of private and state-owned forest lands.”
The plan also calls for “ecologically sustainable timber harvesting.”
Neither the Chronicle report nor the U.S. Forest Service have said how the plan will be funded.
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