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Bipartisan bill to reduce wildfire threat

By Jeff Barbosa

Forest-thinning would reduce fuel for devastating wildfires

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A bill by Assemblymen Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) would reduce the fuel available to devastating wildfires in California by improving forest thinning projects. Between 2005 and 2011, more than 832,000 acres of forest land burned in wildfires, costing the state more than $1.2 billion in fire-suppression costs.

“We have all seen the coverage of these huge fires that rage out of control, destroying wildlife habitat, polluting the air and costing a fortune to control and extinguish,” Wieckowski said. “This bill is a common sense approach to strengthen forest-thinning projects and help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions across the state.”

“This bill will assist and encourage landowners to engage in such projects to reduce the threat and intensity of wildfires throughout California,” Bigelow said. “Our legislation is a responsible solution for the environment and California’s forestry industry.”

Assembly Bill 350 would increase the diameter of trees that can be removed under the state’s Forest Fire Prevention Exemption law from 18 inches to 28 inches and from 24 to 34 inches in special circumstances.

The Legislature created the Forest Fire Prevention Exemption in response to devastating wildfires that swept across Southern California in 2003. However, over the last 10 years the program has not achieved its goal of adequate forest thinning.

Since its passage, annual thinning on private forest lands has dropped to less than a thousand acres. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that 550,000 acres of private timberland is overstocked and requires thinning.

“I look forward to working with environmentalists and industry to reduce the vast amount of greenhouse gas emissions and thinning our forestry responsibly,” Wieckowski said. “This is a bipartisan issue. Reducing greenhouse gases arising caused by forest fires is equivalent to removing millions of cars from our roads for a year.”


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