Feinstein calls on federal government to remove dead trees

Senator Dianne Feinstein called on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to increase efforts to remove dead and dying trees in California’s national forests to decrease the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

“Despite heavy rains last winter, California is still recovering from a historic and prolonged drought that killed 129 million trees across 8.9 million acres of the state,” Senator Feinstein wrote. “That number will continue to rise, particularly in national forests under the jurisdiction of your department, and contribute to increased wildfire risks, especially in or around local communities, power lines and commercial structures.”

Dear Secretary Perdue:
I write to follow up on my attached June 1, 2017 letter as well as regarding several issues related to California’s growing tree mortality crisis. In light of California’s recent catastrophic wildfires, additional steps that can be taken by your department are necessary now more than ever.

This year’s wildfire season is already one of the worst in California history, and the ongoing Thomas Wildfire in Southern California is now the largest ever. Thousands of homes, businesses, and farms have burned down, and 45 civilians and one firefighter have died this year. I toured the Northern California areas of Sonoma County and Napa County in November, and it was the worst fire disaster I have ever seen.

Despite heavy rains last winter, California is still recovering from a historic and prolonged drought that killed 129 million trees across 8.9 million acres of the state. That number will continue to rise, particularly in National Forests under the jurisdiction of your department, and contribute to increased wildfire risks, especially in or around local communities, power lines, and commercial structures.

While I continue to work with my Senate colleagues to provide a long-term fix to the Forest Service budget, I respectfully request the following (detailed in Attachment 1):
•Use existing Forest Service authorities to increase the pace and scale of hazardous dead tree removal, including existing agency authority to lift the export ban on “surplus species” or trees not commercially viable in the U.S.
•Redirect $156 million in additional funds for removal of dead trees in California.
•Provide transportation subsidies to help remove dead/dying trees from forests and send them to mills or biomass facilities.
•Incentivize biomass in rural areas to better utilize dead/dying timber.

Click here to submit a letter to the editor about this post.