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Harder & California Delegation Lead Letter Ensuring the State Receives Fair Share of Wildfire Funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Representative Josh Harder and a bicameral coalition of California Members of Congress sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to ensure California receives its fair share of wildfire mitigation funding this year. Specifically, the letter urges the Sec. Vilsack to use funding from the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act to prioritize areas of high wildfire risk as the US Forest Service looks to complete its goal of 50 million acres treated over the next ten years.

“Wildfires and the subsequent smoke created by them are a risk to every single community in the Central Valley,” said Rep. Harder. “I was proud to help write the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act which includes historic funding for wildfire prevention last year. Now is the time those dollars made it to our state and most importantly, to our firefighters. If every year is going to be the new ‘worst fire year on record’ we have to be ready.”

Read the letter below and online here.

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

            As the Forest Service distributes wildfire prevention funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, P.L. 117-58) in accordance with its new ten-year strategy plan, “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests,” we urge you to ensure that California receives its fair share of funding, given that the new strategy plan identified the majority of high-risk firesheds as being located in the State.

In just the last four years, California communities have suffered from seven of the largest fires in state history. These fires, including the August Complex fire, Dixie fire, Monument fire, Caldor fire, and Beckwourth complex fire, collectively burned over 2.5 million acres and destroyed or damaged over 30,000 structures. Entire communities, such as Paradise and Grizzly Flats, were destroyed. While this crisis is being felt across the Western United States, no other state is experiencing the same level of destruction year-after-year as California.

We applaud USDA and the U.S. Forest Service for their invaluable partnership with California. The new ten-year strategy plan is a giant leap forward in ensuring the federal government’s response finally scales up to meet the crisis facing California and other western states. We especially appreciate the plan’s stated goal of prioritizing areas of high wildfire risk through the identification of the highest risk firesheds – large, forested landscapes with a high likelihood that an ignition could expose homes, communities, infrastructure, and natural resources to wildfire.

Thanks to President Biden’s and your leadership, IIJA will give the U.S. Forest Service the resources necessary to begin meeting the critical goal of treating 50 million acres over the next decade. Given the significant need demonstrated by increasingly devastating fire seasons, the fact that 57 percent of forested land in California is owned by the federal government, and the disproportionate share of high-risk firesheds in the State, we urge you to ensure that projects in California are prioritized to protect the most individuals, communities, and critical infrastructure. We also look forward to working with you to ensure that future legislative packages and annual spending bills provide additional investments for USDA and the U.S. Forest Service to meet the appropriately ambitious goals outlined in the plan.

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