February 2021 California Cattleman

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Governor’s Proposed Budget Includes $1 Billion to Tackle Wildfire by CCA Vice President of Government Affairs Kirk Wilbur The 2020 California fire season saw nearly 4.3 million acres of the state burned across more than 9,000 incidents. With the devastation hitting ranchers and the rural communities they call home in virtually every region of the state, CCA staff and officers are laser-focused this year on improving California’s policies regarding wildfire prevention and resilience. Of course, sound wildfire policy cannot be effectuated without adequate funding. To ensure adequate funding is made available for wildfire resilience efforts, CCA has in recent months joined with a broad coalition of stakeholders informally known as the “Resilient Forests Coalition” to urge the Administration and Legislature to appropriately prioritize wildfire in the state’s budget. In mid-November, our coalition called on the Governor to make a supplemental appropriation of $500 million in the current fiscal year (FY 2020-21) to “provide the state with critical funding to act immediately to reduce risk of wildfire in California.” That request included $50 million “to expand the use of prescribed fire to be much more proactive about burning under conditions of our choosing, rather than wildfires burning largely on the hottest, driest, and windiest days of the year.” Our coalition followed up with a mid-December letter asking the Governor to include $1.5 billion “for landscape health, wildfire risk reduction, and other critical community wildfire preparedness activities” in his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22. Both letters were aimed at ensuring wildfire resilience and prevention would be top-of-mind as the administration prepared its proposed budget for an early-January release. Targeted outreach to administration officials and media coverage amplified our requests. On Jan. 8, Governor Newsom released the details of his proposed budget. And while the budget falls short of the full appropriation requested by CCA in late 2020, Governor Newsom has proposed significant investments totaling $1 billion for his “Wildfire and Forest Resilience Expenditure Plan,” including $323 million in supplemental appropriations for the current fiscal year to ensure immediate action to reduce wildfire risk to the state. California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot called the $1 billion proposal “a quantum increase in wildfire resilience investment,” saying it represented “somewhat of a paradigm shift” for the state, which typically allocates significant funds for wildfire response but has historically under-invested in wildfire prevention. Specifically, the budget provides $512 million in funding for resilient forests and landscapes, including $142 12 California Cattleman February 2021

million to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Parks and State Lands Commission for stewardship of state-owned lands. The budget also proposes allocating $335 million for wildfire fuel breaks, including $50 million for CalFIRE and $20 million to the California Conservation Corps for the completion of “at least 45 to 60 strategic fuel breaks projects each year over the next several years.” Rounding out the proposed budget’s broad wildfire and forest resilience priorities are $113 million to protect firevulnerable communities (a total which includes $75 million in federal funds); $76 million to boost job and economic opportunities through forest management job training, California Conservation Corps workforce programs and the state’s new Climate Catalyst Revolving Loan Fund; and $39 million to incorporate best-available science into predictive models and resilience investments. Also noteworthy, the budget includes statutory changes which would make $200 million available annually to CalFIRE through the state’s Cap-and-Trade Program for forest health and fire prevention programs for an additional five years (current statutory authority for such funding is set to ‘sunset’ in Fiscal Year 2023-24). In the hours after the governor’s proposed budget was released, CCA issued a statement lauding the budget’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Expenditure Plan, stating in part that “We applaud the Governor’s…financial commitment toward building resilient forests,” but that “These funds must be accompanied by legislative and regulatory reforms that encourage smarter forest and rangeland management practices that provide multiple benefits to wildlife, water quality and security, as well as climate mitigation and resilience.” CCA is hyper-focused on advocating for those “legislative and regulatory reforms” throughout the 202122 Legislative Session, which convened on January 11. CCA is particularly focused this year on legislative proposals which increase the utilization of prescribed fire (including reforming liability laws which disincentivize prescribed burns), encourage grazing as a fine-fuels treatment on state-owned lands and enable ranchers to better protect their animals in the midst of wildfire emergencies. As of press time, the California Legislature had only been in session five days (though already 518 bills— including at least 11 wildfire-related bills—have been introduced). CCA will continue to keep you apprised of developments on the budget and legislation throughout the coming months.

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