The state legislature wrapped up its session on August 31, negotiating between both houses and with the administration to build on and refine the budget main bill and “budget junior” bill passed in June with additional budget junior and trailer bills following in August. The broad language in the June bills left many details to be determined and negotiated in the final month and days of the session, particularly around a $21 billion climate and energy package. There were high-profile items in this package and corresponding bills to assure California’s energy security through funding and operation of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, setting ambitious goals to move the state to 100% clean energy, and developing strategies for carbon removal and capture. Also included in the budget trailer bills was funding for climate and wildfire resilience, much of which will be distributed by various state agencies and departments through grants to local government agencies and nonprofits. These grant programs have a big impact on the Sierra Nevada region, funding projects that promote forest health, watershed protection, and community safety.
The Newsom administration and legislative leaders deserve much credit and applause for allocating substantial resources to important state initiatives such as 30×30, which will conserve 30 percent of the state’s lands and waters by 2030 in order to protect biodiversity and promote nature-based solutions to combating climate change. Regional land trusts could likely benefit from significant funding set aside for land acquisition and habitat restoration.
While we celebrate these historic investments, Sierra Business Council remains concerned about the level of funding for wildfire resilience, which stalled at some $600 million this year, about half the amount that was included in last year’s budget. Another budget nuance to watch is the fact that many natural-resources-related budget line items –including wildfire – contain multi-year funding commitments that are not guaranteed and must be recommitted in future budgets. SBC will continue to advocate for sustained, sufficient state funding for wildfire.
Here are a few budget highlights:
- Approximately $150 billion across multiple agencies and departments for 30×30 and nature-based solutions
- Over $100 million to CAL FIRE for fire prevention grants and local assistance programs
- $95 million to the Wildlife Conservation Board for grants for the Cascades and High Sierra Upper Watersheds Program
- $35 million for the Recreational Trails and Greenways Program
- $26 million to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy
- $22 million to the Tahoe Conservancy
- $20 million to the Department of Conservation for the statewide Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program
- $2 million to the Office of Planning and Research for forestry sector market development
- Extension (through January 1, 2028) of the CEQA exemption related to prescribed fire, thinning, and fuel reduction projects on federal lands to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire