Wildfire Mitigation: Ready, Set … Wait?!?

Many people welcome the rainstorms that occasionally blow through the Sierra in summer.  While these downpours can temporarily green up yards and gardens, late-season showers like these also boost the growth of weeds and underbrush.  This additional plant growth then dries and turns combustible in a matter of weeks, adding to the fuel that can feed out-of-control summer wildfires. KerrisBlogPostImage

As we are entering the peak of a hot, windy fire season in the Sierra, it’s shocking to note that the State has eliminated money from its budget that was slated to help reduce the risk of wildfire and the greenhouse gas emissions that come with it.  That source was the California Air Resources Board’s “cap and trade” program, in which specific industries pay for the climate pollution they create via, for example, CO2 emissions.  Unfortunately, the Governor chose to “loan” the first two years of cap and trade money – expected to total $500 million – to the State’s General Fund to help balance the budget.   

Sierra Business Council supports the intent of the cap and trade program – to fund projects that help achieve the state’s landmark climate change goals outlined in AB 32, the Global Warming Solution Act.  SBC has signed on to a number of letters to the Governor asking for swift repayment of the “loan” so that the cap and trade money can be spent – as the voters intended – on projects that reduce climate pollution.

We know that this year’s fire season started early and threatens to be severe, with 22,500 acres already scorched from the Aspen and Power fires in Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests.  During California’s annual Wildfire Awareness Week (May 5-11), Governor Brown blamed climate change for more “intense” weather events that will cost “a lot of money and lives.”  The Governor’s own CalFIRE Director, Ken Pimlott, cautioned that “[i]t’s time to prepare your home for wildfires.  The time was actually yesterday [emphasis added].”

 The irony is not lost on me that this year’s Wildfire Awareness Week theme was Ready, Set, Go.  Yet the Governor chose to divert $500 million that was set and ready to go ready to reduce fire danger, support clean energy and improve transportation – all projects that would decrease harmful pollution and improve our communities, our economy and our climate. 

The state needs to act immediately, as the Governor and others have chided us to do.  As the CalFIRE Director put it: the time to act is not now  …  it was yesterday

If you believe, as I do, that we need that cap and trade money back in the budget to fund these kinds of projects, please let your State legislators know.  Click here to find and contact the people who represent you in the State Assembly and Senate.