SACRAMENTO – In a key step toward protecting California’s most wildfire-vulnerable communities, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has completed work on 34 of 35 emergency projects identified last year to help reduce public safety risk in 200 communities at high risk of wildfires. All of the 35 projects are now working fuel breaks in case of wildfire, with the final project scheduled for completion this spring. Two of the projects successfully protected Santa Barbara residents during the wind-driven Cave Fire before Thanksgiving.
The Working Forest Management Plan (WFMP) was approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in 2013. The Board of Forestry worked approximately three (3) years to develop regulations that were adopted in 2017. Shortly after the regulations were adopted an entity called the Coastal Action Group (CAG) filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court asserting the regulations violated the Forest Practice Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and CEQA. The judge found in favor of the CAG on two issues. The case was appealed by the Board of Forestry. In addition, the Legislature amended the WFMP in 2018 to reduce the maximum size of the plan from 15,000 to 10,000 acres and addressed the need for information regarding erosion control in the plan. The Board passed amended regulations in February 2019. The Appeals Court ruled in favor of the Board on August 22 and remanded the trial court to reverse its earlier findings. A link to the Appellate decision is included below. As an aside, the first WFMP has been submitted and is under review by Cal Fire and other state agencies.