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Federal Fire Legislation Could Help Tuolumne County

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Sonora, CA — Senator Dianne Feinstein has authored emergency wildfire legislation, and Tuolumne County leaders feel it could have a positive impact on the health of local forest areas.

Senate Bill 4431 is scheduled for a hearing in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee this Wednesday in Washington, DC. It is designed to provide federal agencies with new tools to reduce hazardous fuels, protect communities, and support forestry jobs.

Feinstein says it is a bipartisan effort, adding, “We need the ability to responsibly clear dead trees and other biomass that will otherwise feed these destructive and often deadly wildfires.”

The Tuolumne County Supervisors, at the request of board chair Sherri Brennan, will vote Tuesday on approving a letter of support for the bill. Meeting documents note that the legislation would also allow the US Forest Service to undertake three priority wildfire mitigation projects, limited in scope to 75,000 acres, and would provide funding for those projects.

County documents add, “Between the county’s Master Stewardship Agreement on behalf of the Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions (YSS) collaborative and the existence of Pacific Ultrapower for biomass utilization, a project in the Stanislaus National Forest benefitting Tuolumne County residents could be a major contender for one of the three projects.”

Supervisor Brennan was recently on a telephone call with Feinstein’s office, and she relayed more information about the bill during this past weekend’s Mother Lode Views. She noted, “There is some other language in there (bill) about being able to expedite environmental reviews on the installation of fuel breaks, especially if they are near roads, transmission lines, and water systems, which is so critical for Tuolumne County.”

Feinstein’s bill is co-authored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana. The supervisors will discuss it at Tuesday’s meeting which starts at 9am.