California to waive environmental rules for fire season prep

phys.org | 3/22/2019 | Staff
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom moved Friday to bypass environmental regulations to prepare for the next wildfire season, a move he said was necessary to prevent further loss of life even as it frustrated activists in a state viewed as a national environmental leader.

"The increasing wildfire risks we face as a state mean we simply can't wait until a fire starts in order to start deploying emergency resources," Newsom said in a statement ahead of declaring a state of emergency.

California - Wildfire - Seasons - Experts - Change

California experienced two of its most destructive and deadly wildfire seasons in 2017 and 2018 and experts say climate change increases the risks. Newsom said clearing dead trees at a quick pace is essential to diminishing future threats. President Donald Trump has blamed California fires on poor forest management, though experts say climate change caused by people is more of a factor.

Newsom is taking recommendations from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, but one environmental group likened it to actions by Trump.

Gov - Newsom - Trump - Approach - Protections

"Gov. Newsom should reject the Trump approach of logging and rolling back critical environmental protections," said Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Newsom also pledged $50 million for fire preparedness in low-income communities and asked the private sector to bring forward innovative proposals.

Center - Groups - Space - Homes - Forests

The center and other environmental groups said focusing on retrofitting and creating defensible space around homes is more effective than thinning forests. Sierra Club California said clearing trees might create more danger by loosening soil that could lead to mudslides.

Newsom's order will apply only to 35 projects covering nearly 141 square miles (365 square kilometers) of land, allowing state fire officials to go around multiple state regulations. They include provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act, one of the nation's strictest state-level regulations. Administration officials would need to give the go ahead to...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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