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Landowners empowered to help prevent wildfires with new law

Assemblyman Vince Fong

Given California's increasingly intense wildfires, Assemblyman Vince Fong (R – Central Valley) introduced Assembly Bill 522 to help private landowners to clear brush and timber to prevent future fires, and the Governor signed it into law.

"California's communities and iconic landscapes have been ravaged by terrible wildfires in a seemingly never-ending wildfire season," said Assemblyman Vince Fong. "Reducing fuels and properly managing forest lands are proven methods of preventing and minimizing future fires."

"Calforests wants to express its gratitude to the leadership and hard work of Assemblymember Vince Fong and the Newsom Administration on AB 522. The Forest Fire Prevention Exemption is critical tool that forest managers often rely upon to address the ongoing wildfire crisis impacting our forests," said Matt Dias, President and CEO, California Forestry Association.

AB 522 will give landowners the ability to sustainably increase the pace and scale of healthy forest management and help California achieve its annual goal of treating 500,000 acres of land.

"The Forest Fire Prevention Exemption is one of the most streamlined permitting processes in the state to reduce fuels in our forests. This bill extends the use of this exemption until 2026. We thank Assemblymember Vince Fong and Governor Newsom for their leadership on this most important topic," said John Andersen, Director of Forest Policy, Humboldt and Mendocino Redwood Companies.

Specifically, AB 522 extends the sunset date of the Forest Fire Prevention Pilot Project Exemption until Jan. 1, 2026. This pilot project exempts landowners from submitting Timber Harvest Plans if the harvest reduces the rate, duration, fuel ignitability, and intensity of fire spread. The exemption is primarily used by industrial timberland owners on private land and still encompasses stringent guidelines.

AB 522 received support from the California Forestry Association, Association of California Water Agencies, California Licensed Foresters Association, California Association of Realtors, Rural County Representatives of California, California Farm Bureau Federation, and the Personal Insurance Federation of California.

Assembly Bill 522 goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

Assemblyman Vince Fong represents the 34th Assembly District, encompassing most of Kern County including the communities of Bakersfield, Bear Valley Springs, China Lake, Frazier Park, Golden Hills, Inyokern, Lebec, Oildale, Ridgecrest, Taft and Tehachapi.