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.