A fire isn’t just a natural disaster, it’s a political disaster. Clear cutting from the Comstock Lode, a century of fire suppression policy, and now a lack of funding for fuel breaks and forest health turned our forests into dangerous tinderboxes just waiting to combust. We are now spending more and more money to fight and recover from catastrophic fires, while at the same time starving the programs that would reduce those costs in the first place. We need to invest aggressively in fire prevention and forest management, so we can return our forests to their natural density, remove excess fuel, and allow fire to regain its natural role in a healthy forest habitat.
As your Congresswoman, I will work to...
Fund proactive, strategic, and fiscally responsible fire prevention efforts. Leaders on the front lines of fire management know that a healthy forest is a managed forest. They understand the techniques and strategies of fire breaks, prescribed burns, and forest thinning that save homes, businesses, public spaces - entire communities - from the total devastation of an out-of-control wildfire. The problem is a lack of funding for these projects.
A simple $2,000 fire break saved one of our precious communities, Mokelumne Hill, from the 2015 Butte fire. The Butte fire cost $73 million to contain and caused an estimated $1 billion in damage in Calaveras County. If the advice of our leaders in the firefighting community had been heeded, a few hundred thousand dollars of investment in prevention could have saved lives, millions of dollars, and the homes and businesses in some of our communities that were destroyed forever. A reactive fire policy is neither fiscally conservative nor responsible.
Support selective, sustainable logging efforts. The “Smokey The Bear” wildfire suppression strategy practiced over the past century has prevented the smaller fires that would naturally clear out weak trees and underbrush - a crucial element of a healthy forest. We are left with a forest that is overgrown, cannot sustain itself, and is a virtual tinderbox just waiting for a lightning strike or a power line to fall on a windy day to turn it into a firestorm that would threaten the homes and businesses in our beautiful district.
Selective logging can help create a thinner and healthier forest, giving existing timber and new seedlings a better chance at remaining healthy, while reducing fire danger. Our community can tap into economic gains as well as a reduction in fire danger by making investments in micro-mills and creating vocational training programs, and identifying markets for wood products, thereby reinventing the business model for local logging.
Partner with ranchers to coordinate grazing where vegetation control is most needed. In order to clear out vegetation in areas where defensible fire breaks are needed, we need to work together with our ranchers and herders to rotate their herds where the undergrowth and grasses are too thick, or in recently burned areas where chaparral is coming back instead of trees.