Cal Fire Fails to Address the Fires that cause nearly all the destruction
Instead, Cal Fire is targeting 10 million acres of native habitat for clearance by burning, grinding, and herbicide spraying a half million acres per year
Cal Fire's Vegetation Treatment Program (VTP) Ignores the Real Risk 1. Nine out of 16,909 fires in California during 2017 and 2018 caused 95% of the damage. All nine fires occurred under extreme, wind-driven conditions. 2. Cal Fire acknowledges that the VTP will not be effective during wind-driven fires, the fires that kill the most people and destroy the most homes. The Solution: Focus on making communities themselves fire resilient rather than clearing habitat in an attempt to control Nature. How to help the state of California make the needed changes? We are taking them to court (see below).
The Program will make it impossible for independent experts and the public to question environmentally destructive projects that would normally be allowed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
What you can do
2. Please read and sign our petition.
3. Send emails as suggested in the petition.
4. Please share this page with everyone you know.
5. Stay informed by signing up for additional information via our email sign-up list in the green box below. We also encourage you become familiar with the history below of Cal Fire's effort to promote their habitat clearance program. Information regarding Governor Newsom's unfortunate promotion and funding of the VTP can be found here. UPDATES below.
Find out what Cal Fire Plans to do to Your Favorite Wild Place
Cal Fire should listen to those who understand wildfire best
- the Australians
CHANG: Now, one suggestion that's been repeated is that there should just be more controlled burns - basically, reduce the fuel sources for these fires. What do you think of that idea?
FARRELL: I think it's a very simplistic way to look at it, and it simply hasn't worked. We've seen in these really catastrophic fire weather conditions that even areas that were fuel-reduced through controlled burning, they're burning again.
Read/listen to the complete NPR interview here.
How the VTP violates state law and threatens the remaining chaparral in California
1. Clearing Mature Chaparral Anywhere in the State
2. Violating State Law Through Semantics
UPDATE 12/11/2019The Board of Forestry deferred action on the final EIR until the next meeting. Please see our final comment letter on the VTP from 12/10/2019.
UPDATE 12/4/2019The final EIR has been released and will be considered by the California Board of Forestry on December 11, 2019. It again ignores the wildfires that kill the most people and destroy the most homes.
UPDATE 8/9/2019The latest draft EIR was released June 24. The plan ignores science (again) and proposes to "treat" (clear/burn/spray) chaparral throughout the state. Beautiful, old-growth chaparral is especially targeted.Here's our detailed comment letter.
UPDATE 3/1/2019The Board of Forestry has decided to start over. The previous plan draft is being replaced with a new effort. The comment period ended March 1, 2019.The full comment letter with 3 appendices (7MB) can be downloaded here.
UPDATE 1/12/2018We have submitted our comments. You can read our letter here.
UPDATE 11/13/2017The new, official final draft has been released. Comments are due January 12, 2018.
UPDATE 6/8/2017A revised draft of the Vegetation Treatment Program was released. It was presented to the Board of Forestry on June 14. The official draft for public CEQA review will be released some time in the future. We are currently studying the new revision.
UPDATE 4/22/2016It is with a great sense of disappointment that the latest draft of the Vegetation Treatment Program did not correct many of the errors and misrepresentations contained in the last version. See above for details and our comment letter on this version.
UPDATE 10/30/15Our 2015 comment letter on the developing VTP. While we believe the current draft being developed is a vast improvement over previous attempts, it still contains significant contradictions and scientifically unsupportable statements that compromise the achievement of our common goal: protecting life, property, and the natural environment from wildland fire.
UPDATE 10/6/15A new "Notice of Preparation" (NOP) was issued for the development of a third draft of the VTP EIR. The new draft will likely be released for public comment sometime in early 2016.
UPDATE 9/1/15At the August 26, 2015 California Board of Forestry meeting, the second draft of the EIR was presented. The board decided the EIR needed further study. The second draft is an improvement, but still contains significant problems including misconceptions regarding chaparral. We offered testimony at the meeting and offered two new research papers that refute the notion that the clearance/burning of chaparral in northern California provides ecological benefits (which the second draft incorrectly claims).
Wilkin et al. (2015). Discusses the trade-offs of reducing chaparral fire hazard in northern California.and... Newman et al. (2015). Discusses the negative impacts caused by chaparral clearance in relation to the spread of Lyme disease.
UPDATE 12/31/14In August, 2014, the California Fire Science Consortium recommended in their peer-review report that the Cal Fire Plan, “undergo major revision if it is to be a contemporary, science-based document." The board then began the process of rewriting the document in the Fall of 2014 with assurances they would be modifying their plan by incorporating the new information and offering opportunities for the original reviewers to provide input on the developing draft.
UPDATE 2/11/14After the board received criticism from fire scientists that the Plan did not reflect the most current research, the California State Legislature asked the California Fire Science Consortium, an independent network of fire scientists and managers, to review the document.
UPDATE 8/16/13A sobering review of Cal Fire's approach when we once felt very positive about the department's willingness to collaborate to create a science-based plan. It all eventually broke down. August 14, 2013 interview on public radio.
The Back Story Since 2005
- focuses on actual assets at risk rather than habitat clearance- preserves the rights of citizens to object to destructive projects- incorporates the most current science- understands the difference between forests and other ecosystem
You can read our original 2016 petition here.
Our three important comment letters include:1. January 25, 2013 - detailing the major flaws of the proposal.
2. February 25, 2013 - addressing legal issues, type conversion, and the importance of incorporating citizen input into the planning process.
3. April 8, 2013 -reframing the question asking, "How can we protect lives and property from wildland fire," rather than "How can we try to stop wildland fires?" To see our full set of comment letters from 2005 to 2018, you can download the file here.
Another useful comment letter is from the Conservation Biology Institute.
If you would like to view the Board's original proposal, please send us an email and we can send you a copy. The file is about 20 MB. The basic points we made in our original comment letter (which still apply to the final 2019 plan) include the following: 1. We Requested the Board of Forestry to retract the Vegetation Treatment Program Programmatic EIR (Environmental Impact Report) and create a program that will properly consider the entire fire environment, reflect regional differences, allow for independent oversight, and incorporate the most up to date science. 2. The Wrong Focus. This program focuses entirely on clearing vegetation, despite extensive scientific research that clearly indicates the best way to protect lives, property, and the natural environment from wildfire is by addressing the entire fire environment: ignitability of structures, community and regional planning, and science-based vegetation management within and directly around communities at risk. Leave the natural landscape alone! Concentrate where the actual risks are: in and around communities. Additional details here: Protecting Your Home 3. Inadequate Alternatives. By law this document is required to offer reasonable alternatives to the proposed program. The only differences between the alternatives offered are different mixes of methods to clear vegetation. There is no alternative that looks at the entire fire environment (see #2 above).
4. Impossible to Determine Impacts. The Vegetation Treatment Program is so generalized that it is impossible to determine its environmental impacts on wildlife, plant communities, water and air quality, visual and aesthetic resources, recreation, soils, and invasive weed spread. There are no maps showing the location of clearance projects, only estimated number of acres per region.
5. Taking Away Citizen Rights. All projects within the scope of this Program will only be evaluated by a yet-to-be formulated checklist. They will not be reviewed through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as they normally are now. This will prevent citizens and independent scientists from challenging a project under CEQA that they feel is environmentally damaging. Citizens have the right to have individual projects thoroughly evaluated under CEQA. 6. Underlying Bias. This proposal is based on the questionable, overly-broad assumption that past fire suppression efforts have allowed a buildup of unnatural amounts of vegetation across the landscape, thus creating a fire hazard. While it may be true that some forests have been negatively impacted by fire suppression, this is not true for many other ecosystems, especially the chaparral. The proposal takes a simplistic, forest-centric approach that attempts to make fire issues out as broadly similar across the region, when in fact they are very different.
7. Ignored Contrary Views. By law this document is supposed to make an honest effort to review points of disagreement among experts. It failed to do so in areas such as the effectiveness of vegetation treatments, prescribed burns, and impact of fire severity in forests. 8. Cumulative Impacts Dismissed. The document only considers clearance programs conducted by other agencies and timber harvest activities in determining cumulative impacts. It does not include the impact of increased fire frequency on ecosystems, such as chaparral, already impacted by such a trend. Such an approach precludes a proper analysis of cumulative effects.