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Governor Brown proposes $50 million cuts in battle against tree mortality

Thousands of dead and dying trees in the foothills below Shaver Lake. Gov. Jerry Brown’s updated budget, released last week, cuts funds for local tree mortality efforts from $52.7 million to just $2 million. This is less than 4% of the funds allotted in January of this year.
Thousands of dead and dying trees in the foothills below Shaver Lake. Gov. Jerry Brown’s updated budget, released last week, cuts funds for local tree mortality efforts from $52.7 million to just $2 million. This is less than 4% of the funds allotted in January of this year. Fresno Bee

Critics of Gov. Jerry Brown’s revisions to the 2017-2018 state budget say he’s proposing to cut millions of dollars desperately needed to fight fires and fund tree mortality projects across the state.

Brown’s updated budget, released last week, cuts funds for local tree mortality efforts from $52.7 million to just $2 million, critics said in a prepared release. They said that is less than 4% of similar funds allotted in January of this year.

CalFire would also see a huge cut if the Governor’s budget is approved, critics said. Funding for the extended fire season, increased firefighter surge capacity, Conservation Corps fire suppression crews, and aerial assets is set to be slashed by nearly half - from $91 million to $41.7 million.

“The drought may be officially over, but the tree mortality crisis is not,” said Jim Patterson, Assemblyman (R-23rd). “Trees are still dying and the need to fund local efforts is greater than ever. Now is not the time to slash and burn these vital programs.”

Richard Bagley, President of the 168 Fire Safe Council, said the drastic cuts threaten to undermine the ongoing work within mountain communities statewide.

“Ignoring the current conditions will make the situation worse and more costly, hopefully not resulting in loss of public lives, or the lives of the firefighters dedicated to trying to protect them,” Bagley said.

Gov. Brown recently declared May 7-13 “Wildfire Awareness Week” in California. His proclamation acknowledged the continuing threat of fires and noted the 423,000 dead trees removed thanks to the work of Tree Mortality Taskforce groups around the state.

Critics were not impressed.

“The Governor is patting himself on the back for creating the Tree Mortality Taskforce while crippling their funding source,” Patterson sad. “Programs that put money in the hands of residents to clear wildfire fuel from their property should be fully funded. The health and safety of our forests, families and fire fighters depends on it.”

The proposed budget must still go through full legislative procedures in the Assembly and Senate before it can be approved and be signed by Gov. Brown.

Staff report

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