During a visit to California Tuesday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to a multiagency effort to increase the resiliency of farms, ranches and communities to wildfire and climate change.
“There's absolutely no question that the President's vision is to have a whole of government approach to this,” Regan said. “What you're seeing the past six months is USDA, EPA, FEMA, Interior, all beginning to work together in a very congruent manner to think about how we leverage our resources.”
Appearing with Gov. Gavin Newsom at the site of the CZU Lightning Complex fire, which burned more than 85,000 acres in 2020 in and around the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Regan said one of the first conversations he had after being appointed Administrator was with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. USDA and EPA have a partnership Regan described as a “one-two punch” concerning wildfire response and climate mitigation.
President Joe Biden's effort to get all agencies working in tandem, Regan said, meant a faster and stronger response when California needed a partner this year.
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He added that rebuilding and improving local water infrastructure, which in some communities has been damaged by fires and in others is nearly unusable due to drought, will not focus on “putting Humpty Dumpty back together the same way, but doing it in a way that's really smart and climate resilient.” The pending infrastructure bill would send more money to California for drinking water systems, Newsom added.
With the charred remains of a giant tree behind him, Newsom said the CZU Lightning Complex fire was a “gut punch” to those, like him, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and spent time in California’s oldest state park as children. The roughly 1,500-year-old tree managed to survive. “May not be thriving, but it's surviving,” he said, and that is “a point of tremendous optimism.”
Vilsack visited a different 2020 wildfire site with Newsom two weeks ago. Newsom praised state and local firefighting agencies, including CalFire, and the strengthening of the partnership with the federal government but added “it goes without saying, we have to do more” to protect Californians and the state’s natural resources from damaging wildfires.
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