Wieckowski, Bigelow Bipartisan Bill Reduces Wildfire Threat

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By allowing more forest thinning, fuel for devastating wildfires would be reduced

Sacramento – A bill by Assemblymembers Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) would reduce the fuel available for devastating wildfires in California by improving forest thinning projects.  From 2005-2011, more than 832,000 acres of forest land burned in wildfires, costing the state over $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 that will strengthen forest thinning projects and help us cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions across the state.”

Assemblymember Bigelow said the legislation is a positive step toward reducing the harm caused by the fires.

“This bill will assist and encourage landowners to engage in forest thinning projects that 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 qualify to be cleared under the state’s Forest Fire Prevention Exemption law to 28 inches and 34 inches in special circumstances, up from the current 18 and 24 inches.

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, thinning on private forest lands has dropped to fewer than a thousand acres annually.  The U.S. Forest Service estimates that 550,000 acres of private timberland is overstocked and in need of thinning.

“I am looking forward to working with environmentalists and industry to reduce the vast amount of greenhouse gas emissions and thinning our forest land in a responsible way,” Wieckowski said.  “This is a bipartisan issue.  If we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases caused by these fires, it will be the equivalent of taking millions of cars off our roads for a year.”

Press Release attributed to the Office of Assembly member Weickowski

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