Responding to a "wildfire crisis" in the West, the Biden administration will double or even triple its efforts to thin forests and prevent fires that would threaten communities, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. The 10-year plan will focus on large, high-risk "firesheds" in places such as the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevada in California, the Front Range of Colorado and the Southwest.
President Biden's nominee to oversee the 193 million-acre national forest system said on Thursday that he would focus on wildfire management and prevention and on eradicating racial and sexual discrimination at the Forest Service. "If confirmed, I will be the person responsible for providing leadership to ensure that everyone is treated fairly," said Homer Wilkes, a 41-year USDA employee.
In contrast to the Trump administration’s stance, a 600-page report by government researchers concludes it's "extremely likely" that human activities are the "dominant cause" of climate change.
Driven by "diablo" winds, massive wildfires burned hundreds of buildings, including three wineries, and tens of thousands of acres in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, reports the Wine Spectator. Dairy farms and produce growers with crops ripe for fall harvest also were in peril, "but moving farm animals is another story," said the San Francisco Chronicle.
After wildfires killed seven people and ravaged more than a million acres of rangeland in Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas panhandle, ranchers say they aren’t getting the relief they need from the federal government, reports The New York Times.
In parts of California, the historic drought is creating a new breed of wildfire that burns so hot that the scorched soil left behind erodes instead of reseeds, says Lisa Morehouse, who reported on one farming community’s efforts to revive its land after last year’s 70,000-acre Butte Fire. The story was co-produced by FERN and KQED’s The California Report.
The Valley fire that destroyed up to 1,000 buildings in Lake County, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, "threatened to scorch the California wine industry at harvest time," which begins in late summer, reports the New York Times.
The government is spending more than $150 million a week battling wildfires in the drought-stricken West, and that number "will likely grow in the days and weeks ahead, says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Fires in Washington State have ranchers worried about losing animals and resources, according to the Spokesman Review in Spokane.
The government announced its National Seed Strategy to restore federal lands damaged by wildfire, drought, severe storms and invasive species with "appropriate seeds to help grow plant life and pollinator habitat."
For the first time, the Forest Service will spend more than half of its budget fighting wildfires, says a USDA report that predicts wildfire suppression will consume two-thirds of the agency's annual budget a decade from now.
The government says wildfires have burned nearly 700,000 acres this year. That's three times the acreage at this point in 2013 but 40 percent less than the 10-year average for the first five months of the year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. It lists 21,530 fires since Jan 1. The average is 26,667 fires.
Beneficial rains moistened the western Corn Belt, particularly Nebraska and western Iowa, said the Drought Monitor, which says 38 percent of the contiguous 48 states are in drought vs 40 percent a week ago.