VIDEO: Padilla Secures Commitment from Biden Budget Director on Critical Funding for Forest Restoration, Wildfire Resources in CA
Acting Budget Director commits to expediting C-130 air tankers to CA, increasing resources for state’s wildfire mitigation efforts
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) pressed Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Shalanda D. Young to commit to ensuring California receives the resources it needs to reduce wildfire risk in the state during a hearing on the President’s 2022 budget proposal. Padilla laid out the critical need for funding to combat and reduce wildfire risk in California.
Padilla also asked Young to specifically address the ongoing delays in transferring former Coast Guard C-130 air tankers to the State of California to help fight wildfires. Young agreed to work with Padilla to expedite this issue.
Key Padilla-Young exchange can be found below:
PADILLA: California’s most recent wildfire season was the worst on record, with more than 4.2 million acres burned.
And we know that without bold action to combat climate change and to improve the resiliency of high-risk areas, we’ll continue to see more severe and frequent wildfires.
It’s important to recognize that 50 percent of forest land in California is owned by the federal government, so wildland fire management in California is indeed a federal issue.
Unfortunately, we have seen decades of underinvestment by the federal government, so I’m pleased to see that the U.S. Forest Service’s budget request proposes a $400 million climate funding allocation to accelerate the restoration of degraded forests and rangelands.
In total, the U.S. Forest Service proposes an increase of $170 million for wildland fire management and $80 million for its Wildfire Suppression Operations Fund.
Director Young, simple yes/no question, will you commit to working with Congress and the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the Forest Service’s Region 5 receives the additional staffing and resources it needs to address the hazardous fuels backlog and reduce risk in California?
YOUNG: Yes, sir.
PADILLA: Alright. Next, I want to call your attention specifically to ongoing delays in transferring critical wildfire airtankers from the Air Force to Cal Fire for fire suppression efforts.
The Air Force was directed by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to modify seven Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft with state-of-the-art wildfire suppression equipment and transfer them to California for use by Cal Fire.
Delays in transferring these seven air tankers are especially troubling because of the crucial role that air assets play in fighting California wildfires.
So, given the severe wildfire season anticipated now and in the foreseeable future, will you commit to working with my office to expedite the Congressionally-mandated retrofit and transfer of these aircrafts?
YOUNG: We will call those agencies and work with you and see where we are.
For additional information on the hearing, click here.