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Newsom Declares Wildfire Emergency, Sidesteps Environmental Rules

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Sacramento, CA — California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency to speed up forest management ahead of the next wildfire season.

On Friday Newsom signed an order allowing fire officials to bypass environmental and other regulations to removed dead trees and vegetation more quickly. It will apply to 35 projects across 90,000 acres. Newsom says the number of dead trees is increasing the state’s wildfire risk pointing to two of the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire seasons the last two years.

“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,” said Governor Newsom. “California needs sustained focus and immediate action in order to better protect our communities.”

There has been push back from some environmental groups. Kathryn Phillips of the Sierra Club says waiving environmental regulations could have unintended consequences. “For some suspension of oversight now, what’s the consequence going to be later?” she warns. “Are we going to end up having huge silt floods and mudslides?”

On his first full day on the job, as earlier reported here, Newsom issued an executive order directing CAL Fire to consult with other state agencies and departments, to recommend immediate and long-term actions to help prevent destructive wildfires. Today, he introduced the next phase related to government contracting in preparing for and assisting during disasters. Dubbed the “Innovation Procurement Sprint,” CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter explains, “It enables CAL FIRE to think outside the box and work with innovators from across the private, public and non-profit sectors to identify solutions to the challenge of detecting when a wildfire starts, and subsequently, where the fire will progress.”

Newsom is also spending $50 million on public outreach around disaster preparedness and response in disadvantaged communities.

For a report released by CAL Fire earlier this month identifying 35 priority fuel-reduction projects that can be implemented immediately, click here.