Wildfire Prevention Legislation Passes Key Committee

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources approved AB 697, authored by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D–Monterey Park).  This bill would establish a program in California to allow the state to help plan, manage, and implement forest restoration projects on federal lands through an expanded and formalized Good Neighbor Authority (GNA).

“Wildfires are a growing problem in California that are increasing in frequency, size, and intensity every year with many starting on forest lands and spreading to local communities,” said Assemblymember Chau. “It is, therefore, critically important for our state and federal government to partner in addressing forest health, if we are to safeguard our communities and air quality from these devastating fires.”

According to data from CAL FIRE, 2020 was the largest wildfire season in California’s modern history, with nearly 10,000 fires that burned over 4.2 million acres of land. The U.S. Forest Service owns and manages 20 million acres of national forests across California. With nearly 58% of California’s 33 million acres of forestland being federally-owned, the federal government must be a key partner in addressing our State’s forest health.

Recognizing this need, Congress included the GNA in the 2014 Farm Bill, authorizing the states and federal government to sign agreements authorizing the sharing of funds, staff and other resources across jurisdictional boundaries. Since then, the California Natural Resources Agency and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy have signed GNA agreements with the Forest Service in California, and Governor Newsom signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Forest Service to establish a joint effort to reduce wildfire risk on federal, state and private lands by sustainably treating one million acres of forest lands annually by 2025.

AB 697 builds upon these important steps to address wildfire risk and forest health.