Legislature denies Gallagher proposal

·3 min read

Jul. 1—After his proposed changes to the state's allotted wildfire prevention budget was shot down by the California State Assembly earlier this week, a local legislator said he will continue to fight to make sure wildfire prevention is at the forefront of state funding.

Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) stood before the Assembly on Monday to persuade his colleagues to adopt an amendment to the budget that would have funded critical wildfire prevention by continuously appropriating $200 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for healthy forest and fire prevention projects.

"This is a very important issue and I think it is a grievous oversight that we are actually seeing a cut in a status quo budget when it comes to wildfire prevention," said Gallagher. "We are going into what could be the worst wildfire season (with) dryer conditions and heat waves ... and that's a scary prospect considering what we've been through."

According to Gallagher, the budget bill had $1 billion allocated for forestry management and wildfire prevention a couple of weeks ago but a revision cut that amount down to $258 million.

"No clear reason was given as to why these funds were cut," said Gallagher.

Gallagher said he believes the slash to wildfire funding demonstrates more inconsistencies in promises made by Gov. Gavin Newsom, from monies allocated for wildfire prevention to number of acres treated.

"We have an overgrowth of fuels in our wildlands," said Gallagher. "You don't get a hold of that without getting out there and doing the work, the thinning, the forestry management, the prescribed burns, and we've been talking like we are doing all these things, talking real big, and it's not happening ... If this is a priority we have the chance to change it."

Members of the Assembly passed a motion to lay the emergency budget amendment proposed by Gallagher "on the table" during Monday's session and the amendment was voted down.

"We are taking a step back for fuel reductions when we need to be moving forward at a much more rapid pace," said Gallagher.

Gallagher said he believes wildfire prevention practices — including vegetation management and controlled burns — are some of the most important actions the state should be spending money on at this time, especially in the wake of wildfire season, and sustained funding allotted for such efforts should be in the budget for at least the next five years.

Earlier this year, Gallagher, along with fellow assembly members Frank Bigelow, Megan Dahle, and Jim Patterson, introduced Assembly Bill 297, the Wildfire Prevention and Forest Resiliency Act of 2021, to continue funding wildfire prevention efforts.

If approved, the bill would continuously appropriate $480,000,000 and $20,000,000 to the Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention and the California Conservation Corps for fire prevention activities, but the proposal has yet to receive a committee hearing.

"This is a number one priority and I will not stop fighting for it," said Gallagher.