California · Wildfires

Newsom signs climate bill while visiting KNP Complex Fire damage

California Gov. Gavin Newsom swung through Three Rivers on Thursday to sign a $15 billion budget bill focused on the climate, with a significant portion going toward forest management and drought resiliency. 

Newsom signed Assembly Bill 170 while touring damage of the KNP Complex Fire in Tulare County, near Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. 

“Today’s signing represents about a $15 billion commitment to climate resiliency,” Newsom said. “It’s an unprecedented investment by any state in U.S. history.” 

As part of AB170, $1.5 billion is headed toward wildfire prevention, including prescribed burns, which Newsom pointed to as a saving measure for the Giant Sequoia trees. 

“Highlighting two things: One is the work that’s been done on prescribed burns to save this giant forest, which we need to do more of to highlight that, and that’s highlighted in this budget,” Newsom said. 

“And No. 2, to highlight our vulnerabilities and to remind people that this is not just about buildings, this is about things that are fundamentally irreplaceable, these sentinels to our history.” 

Along with prescribed burns, the money will go toward expanding forest-thinning efforts and cutting fuel breaks. It will also provide grants to private land owners and local governments to reduce fire risk. 

AB170 also increases the number of Cal Fire inspectors as well as funds wildfire research and detection technology. 

The bill also adds $5.2 billion for drought and water resiliency, headed toward safe drinking water efforts, wastewater plants, recycled water projects, conservation, groundwater cleanup and emergency drought relief. 

Newsom’s visit comes as the KNP Complex Fire has reached 33,000 acres without any containment at this point, even though the blaze has been active for a couple weeks. 

The governor noted that six of the seven largest wildfires in California history have taken place in the last two years, and so far in 2021 2.35 million acres have burned. 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.