April 20, 2021

Stern’s Push for Wildfire Prevention Funding Sends Millions to Harden and Train Communities and Restore Nature-Based Fire Prevention for Southern California

SACRAMENTO – “This is just the beginning.” 

That's how Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles), the Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee and a member of the Senate Wildfire Working Group reacted to the Legislature’s passage of and the Governor’s signature on a $536 million Early Action Wildfire Budget.

The $536 million package for the first time, focuses attention on Southern California specific wildfire prevention efforts, including $12 million for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to manage the risks from public lands on neighboring communities.  Stern’s motion in the Senate Budget Subcommittee for this funding survived final negotiations and earned Governor Newsom’s signature.

“We finally succeeded in making the case to the Governor and the rest of California that our fire problems in this region are unique—that we must focus on home and community hardening, public land management, and restoring the power of native ecologies in our chaparral by removing invasive grasses.  While prescribed fire and dead tree clearance may work in the northern redwood forests, that’s not going to prevent the next Woolsey Fire.”

Stern’s office said they would be conducting outreach in the weeks ahead with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and other state and local agencies that’ll be administering the funding, looking for shovel-ready proposals around community hardening, ecologically restorative vegetation management, volunteer training, and battery backup power.

Stern also has three major wildfire resilience bills still pending in the Senate.  SB55 would limit risky new developments in high fire risk zones.  SB63 would establish a Wildfire Resilience Corps to help train community based fire prevention work.  SB45 is a $5.6 billion climate resilience bond that would double down on wildfire investments secured this week, in addition to other climate and infrastructure investments.

April 14, 2021

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Receives $12 Million in State Funds for Local Wildfire Prevention

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy announced today that it has received $12 million in the State Budget as part of Governor Newsom’s $536 million statewide Wildfire Prevention Early Budget Action Funding Plan to help improve California’s resilience to wildfires. Governor Newsom signed the legislation, SB-85, which immediately enacts funding to help the state prepare for the upcoming fire season, on Tuesday. 

The Conservancy, which has helped preserve more than 75,000 acres of local open space and habitat, was allocated $12 million in the plan to proactively reduce the risk of wildfire, strengthen wildfire resilience, increase carbon sequestration, rally against the effects of climate change, and dedicate more resources to local community infrastructure.

 “The early action funding package recognizes that fire resilience strategies must be regionally adapted to the unique ecologies and communities around the state,” said Amanda Martin, the Designee to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy of the Secretary for Natural Resources. “The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has been a leader in regional collaborative wildfire strategies and has been an anchor of the statewide Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program. These resources will allow Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to execute the projects identified under this regionally adapted fire-resilience strategy.”

 “Governor Newsom’s approach to combating the effects of climate change is transformative,” said Joseph T. Edmiston, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. “The Governor is executing a plan that will attack this threat with regional tactics. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is prepared to deploy its unique expertise to create proactive solutions to reduce local wildland fire risks.” 

High intensity wildfires in the Santa Monica Mountains and Rim of the Valley Corridor Zone have become more and more common in recent years, driven primarily by weather−most famously the Santa Ana and sundowner winds−and a seemingly endless series of devastating droughts. Santa Ana wind conditions, especially in the parched summer and fall, have produced the most destructive and extensive fires on record in the region. Brutal drought conditions prevent recovery of the native landscape and have increased susceptibility and frequency of fire fanned by the Devil winds. As population grows, the fire risk has become more pronounced and dangerous.

“The Conservancy is prepared to put extensive preventative measures and management strategies in place now before the Santa Ana winds begin,” said Edmiston. “Shovel-ready, immediate actions include the establishment of a 101 freeway fire management corridor, removing non-native fuel sources, and planting ember-resistant native oak stands. Fire patrol, arson watch, inspection, and coordinated deployment will also be critical.” Since 2020, the Conservancy has been developing the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Plan to evaluate the diverse fire capacities within the region including differences in vegetation type and assess existing forest and biophysical resources. 

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is a State Agency that was established by the Legislature in 1980. Since that time, it has helped preserve more than 75,000 acres of parkland in both wilderness and urban settings. The Conservancy’s mission is to strategically buy back, preserve, protect, restore, and enhance treasured pieces of Southern California to form and interlinking system of urban, rural, and river parks, open space, trails, and wildlife habitat that are easily accessible to the general public.