Senate Applauds Agreement on Wildfire Prevention and Resiliency
SACRAMENTO – Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), Senate Budget Committee Chair Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Senate Budget Subcommittee Chair Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), and the Senate’s Wildfire Working Group are praising an agreement between the Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom that invests nearly a half-billion dollars into California’s wildfire prevention and resiliency efforts.
The $536 million package, which is consistent with the Senate’s “Blueprint for a Fire Safe California” released last month, will provide short- and long-term funding for wildfire, climate, watershed, and forest health, as well as implement modern-day vegetation, forest management, and community hardening plans, and train and deploy a fire resiliency workforce.
“For every dollar we spend on wildfire prevention, our state saves $6 to $7 in damage. But it’s not just about saving money – this is about saving Californians’ lives, their homes, and their livelihoods,” Pro Tem Atkins said. “We’ve already had a wildfire break out in the San Gabriel mountains this month, and we’re heading into a summer of hot, dry weather with another drought upon us. This is an investment that is needed now more than ever, and I appreciate my colleagues’ hard work on this effort, as well as the partnership of Speaker Rendon and Governor Newsom.”
The package includes multi-year funding on projects with both wildfire and drought resilience benefits, and Senate priorities such as CalFire grants for small landowners, funding for home hardening, urban greening and forestry, and funding for immediate, shovel-ready projects by conservancies from the Sierras to the Lower LA River and San Diego.
Senator Skinner, who chairs the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review, said the package is critical to preventing future wildfire devastation.
“Drought and wildfires are a persistent challenge,” Sen. Skinner said. “This $536 million agreement with funding to reduce fuel loads, conduct prescribed burns, support home hardening, and create defensible space will help California prepare for yet another dangerous wildfire season, and I’m very pleased it contains provisions to help prevent urban wildfires like the East Bay Hills Firestorm that tore through my district in 1991.”
Senator Wieckowski, Chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy, said the package not only protects Californians, but creates jobs.
“This early wildfire action package strongly aligns with the proposal approved by the Senate Budget subcommittee on March 2. It provides a multi-benefit approach that promotes resilient wildlands and wildfire prevention measures not only for our forests, but also our parks, conservancies and Fish and Wildlife managed lands across the state,” Sen. Wieckowski said. “The package invests in regional projects, but also zeroes down to the individual home level through home hardening and defensible space inspections. Providing over half-a-billion dollars for urgent wildfire prevention will also benefit our economy by increasing jobs throughout California.”
Here is what the Senate’s Wildfire Working Group says about the agreement:
Wildfire Working Group Co-Chair Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park): “We have secured an environmental victory for the San Gabriel Valley and all Californians. As Co-Chair of the Senate Leadership team on Wildfires and Climate Change Resiliency, I am proud of the work we did to get ahead of wildfire season. This unprecedented, early deployment of resources will protect our most vulnerable residents, minimize loss of life and property, while investing in forest health, watershed protection and other vital environmental restoration projects. And as Chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, I also know this plan will help homeowners struggling to secure available and affordable insurance coverage.”
Wildfire Working Group Co-Chair Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg): “California is experiencing a never-ending crisis every summer and fall, losing tens of thousands of homes over the last decade and millions of acres of land burned over by mega fires. The Legislature and Governor are moving with speed to pass the largest early budget action in state history investing in wildfire prevention and response. We know this half-of a-billion dollar investment will help make communities safer. And, there’s more work to come with a second round of funding this summer and a bold legislative package from the Senate that will focus on keeping California fire safe. We’re grateful to Pro Tem Atkins and Governor Newsom for their leadership on this critical issue, there’s much more work to come!”
Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica): “This is a promising first step, representing a down payment for what must be greater investments going forward. Each year, we are confronted with painful reminders of just how severe our wildfire crisis has become, with darkened red skies and months of hazardous air quality. I am very glad to see money going out now to hopefully get in front of this year’s fires, but we also need longer term investments to adequately address this worsening crisis.”
Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa): “Wildfire prevention and response is a top priority in California, especially with drier conditions expected from this year’s drought. This plan makes sound investments in what we need to safeguard life and property. I applaud my fellow lawmakers for taking this proactive step toward avoiding the devastation we’ve seen over the past five years.”
Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara): “I am pleased we are making early investments, taking the initiative, and planning wildfire prevention and resiliency. California had a dry winter with rain and snow levels well below average, creating circumstances for yet another devastating wildfire year. We must take early budget actions to keep families safe and allow for a better recovery.”
The early action budget item will be amended into a budget bill and taken up by the Legislature in coming days.
Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.senate.ca.gov/Atkins