Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 22, 2019

Contact: Shaye Wolf, (510) 844-7101,

Gov. Newsom Urged to Pursue Community Wildfire Protection Over Outdated Logging Practices

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Gov. Gavin Newsom today issued an emergency proclamation exempting 35 “fuel reduction” projects from environmental review. These projects include large-scale thinning of wildland forest habitat, away from homes and communities. 

“We share Gov. Newsom’s desire for urgent action on wildfires, but for decades now, harmful logging-based strategies have failed to keep Californians safe,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Cal Fire is thinning forests away from where most Californians live and far from areas with big risks of wind-driven fires. The governor should reject this doomed, destructive approach and direct funding toward proven fire-safety strategies like retrofitting homes and improving defensible space around them.”

Today’s proclamation is based on the recommendation of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). In its February report to the governor, Cal Fire recommended exempting the 35 projects from environmental review, prioritizing fuel reduction projects over proven home-based fire-safety strategies.

The science is clear that the most effective strategies to keep homes from burning are to retrofit homes with fire-resistant roofing, install guards on rain gutters to keep embers from catching roofs on fire, and put fine-mesh screens over exterior vents. Pruning vegetation in the 100 feet of defensible space surrounding homes is also important.

The Cal Fire report also focused exclusively on forests while excluding the many regions where communities are at risk from wind-driven fires in fire-prone ecosystems like chaparral, grasslands, and oak woodland. 

Recent losses of homes during wildfires in California occurred mainly in non-forest lands or heavily logged areas. The 2017 Tubbs Fire in Northern California was in oak woodland. The Thomas Fire and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California in 2018 were in largely chaparral-covered landscapes. However, these regions were not included in the wildfire risk analysis, and only forested areas were considered for prioritization.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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