Governor Newsom and EPA Administrator Regan Discuss Shared Commitment to Supporting Communities Recovering from Wildfires, Efforts to Tackle Climate Crisis
BOULDER CREEK, CA (STL.News) A day after the one-year anniversary of the CZU Lightning Complex, Governor Gavin Newsom, U.S. EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan and FEMA Region 9 Administrator Robert J. Fenton Jr. today discussed the state and federal wildfire recovery efforts underway at Big Basin Redwoods State Park and in communities across the state, as well as their shared commitment to bold action taking on the climate crisis that is fueling catastrophic wildfires and other devastating impacts in the Western U.S.
“We have a deep responsibility to support our communities recovering from wildfires, and that commitment doesn’t end when the world’s attention has moved on. The state will continue to work with federal partners to ensure our resilient communities have the help they need to get back on their feet and rebuild,” said Governor Newsom, who last September surveyed damage at the park with fire and emergency response officials. “Here at Big Basin, it’s clear that the existential climate crisis we face is not only a threat to our future, but to our storied history and the natural wonders that shape California as we know it. I’m grateful that California has a partner in the Biden Administration that recognizes the need to tackle this challenge with the urgency and bold action it demands.”
The CZU Lightning Complex burned 86,509 acres in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties last year, including over 97 percent of Big Basin Redwoods State Park (Big Basin), California’s oldest state park. The fire destroyed most of the park’s buildings, campgrounds, trail networks, electrical lines and other infrastructure. The Governor, Administrator Regan and Administrator Fenton surveyed the damage and joined a briefing on the ongoing recovery efforts at the park, which partially reopened to the public this May. State contractors have been clearing hazard trees, debris and toxic soils from the park, and work to replace pedestrian bridges and trail signage is underway. The California Department of Parks and Recreation is leading the planning process to reimagine the park, with input from the public and stakeholders.
Supporting communities across the state, the Governor’s 2021 state budget includes $113.5 million General Fund and $103.5 million in anticipated FEMA reimbursements – a total of $217 million – for reconstruction and restoration of wildfire damages in 2020. Of that total, $187 million is dedicated to the efforts at Big Basin. In the wake of last year’s devastating wildfires, the state has partnered with the U.S. EPA to protect public health and the environment during debris removal operations, cleaning hazardous waste from 5,864 parcels. Debris removal is complete in 19 counties and continues in another seven. Recovery efforts are already underway for communities impacted by active fires this year, including technical assistance for water systems affected by the Dixie Fire and household hazardous waste clean-up for areas impacted by the Tamarack Fire and Beckwourth Complex.
Last year, the Newsom Administration and the U.S. Forest Service announced a shared stewardship agreement under which they are working to treat one million acres of forest and wildland annually to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. The Governor earlier this year launched an expanded and refocused Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force, with federal, local and tribal leaders, to deliver on key commitments in the Governor’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan. Governor Newsom has invested $2.2 billion to build wildfire resiliency and advance emergency response as part of the California Comeback Plan, the largest such investment in state history. The funding supports additional firefighting crews, new equipment and expanded land and forest management efforts, and builds on the Governor’s previous budget investments in emergency management and executive actions to help combat catastrophic wildfires. Additionally, Governor Newsom surged CAL FIRE’s firefighting ranks in March by authorizing the early hire of 1,399 additional firefighters and last month supplemented the department’s capacities with 12 additional aircraft.
With climate-related disasters occurring at an increasing speed and scale, the Governor has advanced strategic investments to protect people and the environment. The Administration continues work with the Legislature to allocate approximately $9 billion over three years that will assist communities in preparing for climate impacts – including wildfires, extreme heat and drought – with additional funding to address environmental justice priorities impacting vulnerable areas. The California Comeback Plan includes a $3.9 billion package to hit fast-forward on our zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) goals, tackling a major contributor of emissions driving climate change. The Governor has made a historic commitment to require that sales of all new passenger vehicles be zero-emission by 2035 and aggressively decarbonize heavy-duty vehicles. The Governor today applauded the Biden Administration’s ambitious climate agenda, including the new target to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 ZEVs and the recent move to advance smart fuel efficiency and emissions standards, inspired by the California Framework Agreements signed in 2019 to serve as a path forward for clean vehicle standards nationwide in the face of Trump Administration rollbacks.