wildfires

Two MacArthur grants spotlight interplay of trees and climate

The MacArthur Foundation awarded “genius” grants this year to A. Park Williams, a hydroclimatologist who is developing a wildfire forecasting model after studying climate change and tree mortality, and Lucy Hutyra, an environmental ecologist whose studies show that conserving urban forest fragments helps mitigate local impacts of climate change.

USDA launches Forest Corps alongside Biden’s Climate Corps

The White House announced the creation Wednesday of the American Climate Corps to train 20,000 young adults for work in clean energy, conservation, and climate resilience. At the same time, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Forest Corps, operating through the U.S. Forest Service, would be the first major interagency partnership with the Climate Corps.

As climate disasters worsen, researchers push for farmworker safety net

In the last few weeks, academics and labor advocates have released a flurry of studies and surveys with the same urgent finding: Climate disasters are wreaking havoc on the health, safety, and economic stability of farmworkers, and well-funded government programs are the best way to provide workers with relief. (No paywall)

USDA announces $4.3 billion smorgasbord of ag aid

Farmers and ranchers who suffered losses due to natural disasters ranging from drought to hurricanes last year will receive $3.7 billion in aid in coming months, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The USDA also announced $500 million in additional funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and $103 million to defray marketing costs for organic dairy farmers this year.

USDA allots $490 million to reduce wildfire risk

The USDA selected 11 additional landscapes in the West as the sites for expanded efforts to reduce the risk of wildfires, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. Some $490 million was earmarked for the landscapes, raising USDA expenditures on its Wildfire Crisis Strategy to $930 million across 45 million acres.

From a meat-processing ban to free school lunch, food and ag are on the ballot

In Tuesday's elections, voters will decide several ballot initiatives on food and agricultural issues, including a ban on meat processing facilities in a South Dakota city and the expansion of universal school lunch to Colorado. California voters will determine the fate of a tax on high income earners to pay for green energy and for fighting wildfires, which have cost the state’s agricultural sector tens of millions of dollars. 

California proposal: Tax rich to pay for wildfires and electric vehicles

Voters in California will decide on Nov. 8 whether to raise the state income tax on millionaires to pay for electric cars, charging stations and wildfire prevention programs. So-called Proposition 30 in California has strong support but the double-digit margin was eroding, according to a poll released early this month.

In wine country, Sonoma tightens limits on farm work during wildfires

After a year of raucous protests and stakeholder meetings, Sonoma County announced it had standardized and reformed its "ag pass" program, which allows farms to bring workers into evacuated areas during wildfires when other residents have been told to flee.The county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to preserve the program, but also imposed limits on when and how farmers could use it. No paywall

Americans overwhelmingly connect climate change and extreme weather

A report from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication released Thursday shows that Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who think it’s not happening by a ratio of six to one (72 percent vs. 12 percent). Nearly the same percentage (70 percent) think climate change is tied to environmental problems such as extreme heat and wildfire. 

Pay hike of up to 50 percent for fighting wildfires

In a long-expected step, the White House announced hefty increases in pay for wildland firefighters on Tuesday, amounting to an additional $600 million over two years, to confront increasingly destructive fires. The Forest Service has acknowledged difficulty in hiring enough firefighters this year; some state and local agencies offer much higher pay.

Crop farmers to see $6 billion in disaster aid — USDA

Beginning later this month, farmers across the nation will receive around $6 billion in disaster relief for losses due to catastrophic weather and wildfires, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. The money, part of $10 billion earmarked for agricultural disasters, would be paid through the new Emergency Relief Program (ERP) to offset lower yields and value losses, said the Agriculture Department.

California weighs farmwork in wildfire areas

As California braces for another brutal fire season, farming communities across the state are weighing what it will take to save their harvests — and who, exactly, should bear the brunt of the risks. In places like Sonoma County, those risks are increasingly shouldered by low-wage immigrant farmworkers who pick grapes and milk cows inside the county’s evacuated areas during wildfires. Their work is facilitated by Sonoma’s “ag pass” program, which allows farmers to bring workers into areas that other residents have been told to flee. (No paywall)

Vilsack recuperating from Covid-19; ‘thankfully, my symptoms are mild’

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “will continue his official duties” while isolating and recovering from Covid-19, said the Agriculture Department on Saturday. Vilsak is the latest among Washington officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Attorney General Merrick Garland, to test …

Bringing back ‘good fire’ to the eastern seaboard

“A growing movement of scientists, land management agencies, conservation organizations, and indigenous groups is working to return fire to fire-adapted ecosystems, including forests and grasslands, throughout the U.S.,” writes Gabriel Popkin in FERN's latest story, published with Yale Environment 360.

‘The truth is California does not have enough water’

California’s San Joaquin Valley is getting drier, hotter and more polluted as climate change intensifies, and its communities will need to embrace more equitable agricultural strategies in order to survive, according to local experts and political leaders.(No paywall)

USDA unveils disaster aid for livestock producers

Livestock producers will receive at least $577 million in disaster payments to offset forage losses due to severe drought or wildfires last year, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday.

Drought worsens in wheat-growing Plains

The long-running drought that covers more than half of the continental United States — mostly west of the Mississippi — worsened in the central and southern Plains last week, the heart of U.S. winter wheat production, said the government's Drought Monitor on Thursday. In Kansas, the No. 1 winter wheat state, 31 percent of the crop was rated as being in poor or very poor condition.

White House announces $1.36 billion for wildfire recovery

The Biden administration will spend $1.36 billion on wildfire recovery, including $600 million in California, said Vice President Kamala Harris during a visit to a fire station in San Bernardino, 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who joined Harris for the announcement, said the USDA would put more than $48 million into projects to reduce the risk of wildfires where federal forests and grasslands meet privately owned land in the West.

The farmworkers in California’s fire evacuation zones

In 2020, as thousands of residents fled Sonoma County because of wildfires, hundreds of farmworkers stayed behind and continued working under a little-known government "ag pass" program, Teresa Cotsirilos reports in FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and the radio show World Affairs. No Paywall

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