2020 was an all-around bad year — not only for Americans — and the Australia and California wildfires were only part of the problem. But thankfully those are problems that can be prevented in the future. California lawmakers are searching for ways to prevent the yearly wildfire chaos from becoming even worse. What will California’s forests look like in 2021 and beyond? Science paints a bleak picture if we do nothing.
4.1 million acres of California forests burned to the ground in 2020. Animals and people are without homes. Wineries lost decades worth of investment. Ecosystems were obliterated overnight. The worst part? Humans are to blame for these fires — and not the environment.
Native Americans used to prescribe fires to prevent larger wildfires from starting later. They knew that the foliage would grow back stronger than ever, too, so there was little downside in these planned blazes. But we’ve not used this system for ourselves. Instead, we implemented one that didn’t work at all: fire suppression. This has left our forests drier and more vulnerable to larger fires — and larger bills.
Around $230 million was spent on wildfire prevention last year. California Governor Gavin Newsom has now proposed a 2021 budget including a billion-dollar investment into wildfire prevention. Environmental groups say this is a step in the right direction but that an even bigger financial stimulus is needed to make a big difference — they’re calling for anywhere from $2 and $5 billion.
California Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) said, “[Wildfires] are not just seen as sort of a rural issue or a hillsides issue, or suburban privileged issue, but as an equity issue. I think the public is there…It’s more getting the politics of Sacramento straight. I think we’re having trouble with that. People are ready.”
Retired Yosemite National Park Chief of fire and aviation Kelly Martin said, “The greater need is to really think about the economic impacts if we don’t do anything, if we don’t move in a direction of using more prescribed fire.”