Call to Action: Why We Need Immediate Government Funding for the 2021 Fire Season

Emily Blackmer

Emily Blackmer

Economic Development and Natural Resource Project Manager

Brittany Benesi

Brittany Benesi

Government & Community Affairs Director

As you know, California witnessed its worst wildfire season on record in 2020. Over 4 million acres burned, costing us more than 10,000 homes and buildings and at least 33 lives (not to mention the long-term negative health impacts of the dense smoke experienced across the state). Wildfire is a natural part of California’s landscape, but today’s wildfires are out of balance due to a century of fire suppression and misguided forest management. As climate change accelerates the risk of extreme wildfire, 2020 could be the start of our new normal. In 2021, we have an opportunity to keep that from happening. If we take action now, we can help protect our communities and restore the health of our forests.

In response to these pressing concerns, Sierra Business Council has been urging California’s state government to lead the way by investing in increasing the resilience of both communities and our natural landscapes. The governor’s office responded in January, proposing a budget that includes $1 billion for forest health and community protection programs. While $1 billion won’t solve all our problems, it’s a significant step in the right direction.

Most importantly for the upcoming 2021 fire season, both the governor’s budget and the Senate have proposed significant amounts of early-action funding ($323 million and $554 million, respectively). If approved, early-action dollars can be spent immediately — before the next fire season. (The rest of the funding will have to wait until the new fiscal year, which begins in July.) 

While negotiations are underway regarding the two proposals, time is of the essence. There are shovel-ready wildfire, community protection, and landscape resilience projects simply waiting for funding. However, each day that passes without passage of the early-action package is another day that those dollars aren’t being put to use. Unless the government reaches a deal, and soon, these funds won’t be available to help us prepare for the upcoming fire season.

We need your support to help get this funding passed. We urge you to contact your State Senator and State Assemblymember to let them know how important it is to approve early-action funding as soon as possible.

We’ve included instructions on how to find your legislator, a sample script for what to say during your call, and a sample email if you prefer to contact your representative via email.

Together, we can ensure the investment that’s needed for a more resilient future.

Sample email content:

Hi Representative ______,

My name is Jill Sanford. I live in your district, and I am calling because we need IMMEDIATE funding for wildfire preparedness in California.

After severe wildfires in California killed hundreds of people, destroyed thousands of properties, and worsened air pollution across the state, I’m urging you to quickly address this crisis. Wildfire is a natural part of California’s landscape, but today’s wildfires are out of balance due to a century of fire suppression, misguided forest management, and climate change.
The State Legislature has not yet approved funding for wildfire preparedness and forest resilience despite broad support from business and environmental organizations. With the 2021 wildfire season approaching us, our communities can’t wait any longer. There is so much that needs to be done well before then.

We need the California State Legislature to come together and fund proven measures that restore forest health and protect our communities before the upcoming wildfire season.

I appreciate your time and thank you for acting quickly.

Sample Phone Script:

Hi Representative ______,

My name is Jill, I live in your district, and I am calling because we need IMMEDIATE funding for wildfire preparedness in California.

As you know, California’s wildfires pose an urgent threat to our state. Fires have killed hundreds of people, destroyed thousands of properties, and contributed to rising air pollution. We need to take immediate action to address this crisis.

California’s forests and communities need funding now for wildfire preparations for the 2021 wildfire season.

I’m calling for the Legislature to come together and fund forest health and home hardening that will protect our communities before the upcoming wildfire season.

I appreciate your time and thank you for putting our communities first.

Read More Recent Blogs

A Walk Through the Sierra

This past January, I got a text from my trail family asking if I was interested in going on a backpacking trip for 12 days in the Southern Sierra in August. Without hesitation, I said yes. Little did I know how this trip would impact my life, let alone bring perspective to the Sierra Nevada Climate Vulnerability Assessment project I had just joined.

Business Power Shut Offs

The 2021 fire season has already begun, and with record-breaking scope and damage. As a protective measure to minimize wildfire risk, utility companies that power the Sierra Nevada will be periodically shutting off power to regions and communities experiencing high wind, lightning storms, and other severe weather. NV Energy just announced its first planned outage for the season, starting at 4am on Sunday. Are you ready? 

More by this author

Think Global, Shop (and Invest) Local

As we gear up for the holidays, we’ve been hearing a familiar refrain: Shop Local. The value of supporting local businesses is well established: money spent locally supports a friend or neighbor’s job, charities and youth activities, and thriving downtown districts. The same is true for supporting local non-profits; your investment will be returned directly to the community. But this year, shopping local — let’s call it spending local — means even more.

A Seamless Fit

When I decided to attend graduate school to study natural resource policy, I didn’t exactly foresee graduating in the midst of a global pandemic. Instead, I imagined harnessing my freshly-gained knowledge to dive straight into a new career where I would build and advocate for resilient ecosystems and communities in the Mountain West.