California is just six months removed from the most extensive wildfire season in its history. More than 4.2 million acres burned, resulting in loss of life and extensive property damage. Precious old-growth coast redwoods and ancient giant sequoia forests were impacted, including Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which is closed indefinitely.
Spurred by a desire to get ahead of the coming fire season, Governor Gavin Newsom and the Legislature just finalized $536 million in early action funding for wildfire preparedness. This is still far short of the $1 billion that Newsom targeted in his proposed budget, and most policymakers view this initial funding as a down payment on the forest management, wildfire prevention, and recovery that California needs. Please urge your representatives to expedite this vital funding.
Wildfires were extensive in the coast redwood and giant sequoia forests. Fire impacted about 5% of the coast redwood range (more than 81,000 acres), and 9.5% of the remaining ancient coast redwood footprint burned (11,200 acres out of the 118,000 acres standing today). Fire reached about 35% of the giant sequoia range (more than 16,500 acres), much of it in the form of severe wildfire, killing hundreds of ancient giant sequoia. A great deal of park infrastructure was damaged.
When you compare the human and economic cost of fire suppression and recovery to the costs of proactive forest management that reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire, there’s no contest. Prevention via proper forest management is the smarter, more economically and environmentally responsible choice every time.
It won’t be long before California enters its next fire season. Climate, looming drought, and historical underfunding of forest management all point to the need for decisive action now. Our forests, and our state, cannot afford another year of fire like 2020.