Padilla, Pelosi, Lofgren Lead Letter Urging USDA to Prioritize California Wildfire Efforts in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), and U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Chair of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation (CDCD), led California Members of Congress in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that the federal government prioritize wildfire mitigation projects in California as the Forest Service allocates funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to implement its new 10-year strategy to combat wildfires.
“Given the significant need demonstrated by increasingly devastating fire seasons, the fact that 57 percent of forested land in California is owned by the federal government, and the disproportionate share of high-risk firesheds in the State, we urge you to ensure that projects in California are prioritized to protect the most individuals, communities, and critical infrastructure,” the members wrote.
In addition to Senator Padilla, Speaker Pelosi, and Congresswoman Lofgren, the letter was signed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the entire CDCD.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service’s recently released strategy report identified that a majority of western high-risk firesheds—large forested landscapes with a high likelihood that an ignition could expose homes, communities, and infrastructure to wildfire—are located in California.
California has seen the seven largest fires in state history in just the last four years. Collectively, these devastating fires have burned over 2.5 million acres of land and destroyed or damaged over 30,000 structures. In severe cases, wildfires have been responsible for the destruction of entire California communities.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
As the Forest Service distributes wildfire prevention funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, P.L. 117-58) in accordance with its new ten-year strategy, “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests,” we urge you to ensure that California receives its fair share of funding, given that the new strategy identified the majority of high-risk firesheds as being located in the State.
In just the last four years, California communities have suffered from seven of the largest fires in state history. These fires, including the August Complex fire, Dixie fire, Monument fire, Caldor fire, and Beckwourth complex fire, collectively burned over 2.5 million acres and destroyed or damaged over 30,000 structures. Entire communities, such as Paradise and Grizzly Flats, were destroyed. While this crisis is being felt across the Western United States, no other state is experiencing the same level of destruction year-after-year as California.
We applaud USDA and the U.S. Forest Service for their invaluable partnership with California. The new ten-year strategy is a giant leap forward in ensuring the federal government’s response finally scales up to meet the crisis facing California and other western states. We especially appreciate the plan’s stated goal of prioritizing areas of high wildfire risk through the identification of the highest risk firesheds – large, forested landscapes with a high likelihood that an ignition could expose homes, communities, infrastructure, and natural resources to wildfire.
Thanks to President Biden’s and your leadership, IIJA will give the U.S. Forest Service the resources necessary to begin meeting the critical goal of treating 50 million additional acres over the next decade. Given the significant need demonstrated by increasingly devastating fire seasons, the fact that 57 percent of forested land in California is owned by the federal government, and the disproportionate share of high-risk firesheds in the State, we urge you to ensure that projects in California are prioritized to protect the most individuals, communities, and critical infrastructure. We also look forward to working with you to ensure that future legislative packages and annual spending bills provide additional investments for USDA and the U.S. Forest Service to meet the appropriately ambitious goals outlined in the plan.