Second CCA-Sponsored Wildfire Resilience Bill Introduced in State Legislature
Last week’s Legislative Bulletin reported on CCA-sponsored Assembly Bill 434 (R. Rivas, D-Hollister), legislation introduced on February 4 which seeks to improve the wildfire resilience of state-owned lands managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Lands Commission and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. AB 434 would give land managers greater flexibility to lease state lands for livestock grazing, particularly where grazing may reduce fire fuel loads or provide other ecosystem benefits. AB 434 also seeks to provide lease terms that incentivize and facilitate infrastructure development on leased land, providing producers sufficient operational certainty to realize a return on their investment with little to no cost to the state.
Last Monday, a second CCA-sponsored wildfire resilience bill was introduced in the Legislature. Senate Bill 332 (Dodd, D-Napa) would establish a gross negligence liability standard for state-certified burn bosses performing prescribed fires. The legislation would remove a significant disincentive to the application of controlled burns, encouraging the application of ‘good fire’ on the landscape and thereby improving the state’s wildfire resilience.
When CCA’s Fire Subcommittee convened in October of 2020 to set out its legislative priorities for the coming year, increasing the use of prescribed fire was at the top of the Subcommittee’s list. According to experts on the Fire Subcommittee, the state’s current ‘simple negligence’ liability standard for controlled burns causes trepidation in burn bosses. While escaped prescribed fires are incredibly rare and significant property damage or personal harm from an escaped fire is even rarer, liability concerns are nevertheless a major disincentive to applying good fire to the landscape.
Through SB 332, CCA seeks to establish a gross negligence liability standard—that is, a higher standard for finding that a prescribed fire practitioner acted unreasonably in conducting a prescribed fire. Moreover, the gross negligence standard would only apply to burn bosses certified under a curriculum developed by the State Fire Marshall under SB 901 (Dodd 2018), ensuring that the best-trained, most responsible prescribed fire practitioners are not needlessly prohibited from applying good fire.
Neighboring Nevada and four other states in the country already have gross negligence standards in place for prescribed fire practitioners. The result of those laws, predictably, is wider use of good fire on the landscape.
Look for updates on both AB 434 and SB 332 in upcoming editions of Legislative Bulletin.
CDFA Seeks Input on Farmer- and Rancher-Led Climate Change Solutions
Last week, the California Department of Food and Agriculture hosted two stakeholder meetings for livestock and dairy producers intended “to solicit feedback from the public and agricultural stakeholders on farmer-and rancher-led climate solutions that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gases and enhance biodiversity.”
If you were unable to make last week’s meetings, there’s still time to provide input to CDFA! The opening presentation for the stakeholder meetings is available here, and according to CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming & Innovation, “Input will be received until 14 days after the relevant meeting.” For livestock and dairy producers, then, CDFA will accept written feedback concerning “additional climate-change solutions” in the livestock and dairy sectors “that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gases, and enhance biodiversity” until Friday, February 26. Comments may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, “In March, the report from the February meetings will be made available for a 30-day public comment period,” providing an additional opportunity for producer input and feedback.
This week, CDFA will hose two stakeholder meetings for producers of annual crops. Meetings for producers of perennial crops will be held next week. For more information, see CDFA’s press release, here.
Information gleaned from these meetings will ultimately inform the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy developed by various state agencies as mandated by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-82-20, which also established the goal “to conserve at least 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030” (often referred to as the “30 by ’30” initiative).
SWRCB to Issue Water Rights Reporting Reminders this Week
This week, the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Water Rights will mail out reminders to all water rights holders regarding the filing of 2020 Annual Water Diversion and Use Reports. The reminders will include User ID and Password information needed to file your annual reports.
As a reminder, SB 88 (2015) required all water rights holders to annually report their diversion and use of water. For appropriative water rights holders (those whose water rights are in the form of a certificate, registration, permit or license), reports must be filed no later than April 1. For those filing a Statement of Water Diversion and Use (those who divert under a pre-1914 or riparian right, for instance), reports must be filed by July 1.
Reports must be filed online using the SWRCB’s Electronic Water Rights Information Management System Report Management System. For more information about SB 88 and Annual Diversion and Use Reports generally, see the SWRCB’s Water Use Reports and Measurement webpage or contact Kirk Wilbur in the CCA office.
CDFW Updates “Known Wolves” Document to Reflect Presence of OR-93
On Friday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued a February update to its document titled “California’s Known Wolves – Past and Present.” While CDFW typically releases updates on a quarterly basis, the newest update comes less than one month after the prior update.
According to a CCA analysis of the January and February documents, only one significant update has been made: the document now reflects the presence of a collared wolf, designated OR-93, in Modoc and Lassen counties.
According to the CDFW document, “OR-93, a male wolf from northern Oregon, initially entered Modoc County on January 30, 2021. After briefly returning to Oregon, OR-93 reentered Modoc County on February 4. He entered Lassen County on February 10. OR-93 was collared in June 2020 and is believed to have been born in 2019. He dispersed from Oregon’s White River pack.”
USFS Extends Comment Deadline for Rangeland Management Directives Revisions
On Thursday, the US Forest Service announced that it has extended the comment period for proposed revisions to the agency’s Rangeland Management Directives governing grazing permits and allotment administration.
Comments, which were initially due tomorrow, will now be accepted through April 17.
The proposed revisions include amendments to the Service’s Rangeland Management Manual, the Grazing Permit Administration Handbook and the Allotment Management Handbook. The revisions would be the first in 30 years and are intended to make the Directives “more usable, modern and conform to recent legislation,” as well as to provide greater clarity and management flexibility. The revisions are intended to address major themes such as facilitating succession planning and conservation flexibility.
CCA staff is working closely with our national affiliates at the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to provide feedback on the proposals by the April 17 deadline.
Participate in the Water Board’s Strategic Plan
The California Water Board’s Central Valley Region 5 is working on a strategic plan “to guide the Board’s priorities for the next 5-7 years.” As part of the process, the Board is inviting all to take a survey and give their input on the plan. To take the survey by February 22, click here.
To see the boundaries the Region covers, spanning from parts of Modoc County down to sections of Kern County, click here.
Signups Extended for FSA’s Conservation Reserve Program
Earlier this month, USDA’s Farm Service Agency announced that it is extending signups for the Conservation Reserve Program (CPR) beyond the initially-announced deadline of February 12. FSA did not announce a new deadline for applications, but rather stated that “USDA will continue to accept offers as it takes this opportunity for the incoming Administration to evaluate ways to increase enrollment.”
“Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland,” a February 5 press release announcing the start of signups explains. “Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to their local region and the nation’s environment and economy.”
“This signup for the Conservation Reserve Program gives producers and landowners an opportunity to enroll for the first time or continue their participation for another term,” FSA State Director Connie Conway said in the press release. “This program encourages conservation on sensitive lands or low-yielding acres, which provides tremendous benefits for stewardship of our natural resources and wildlife.”
To learn more about the program, eligibility and get additional information on this enrollment period, click here.
CRP celebrated 35 years of operation in December 2020 and is one of the largest private-land conservation programs in the country. For more information on signing up for the program contact your local County FSA office. You can find contact information for your County FSA office here.