Home Substantial portion Measure A must respond to wildfire threats in county open spaces – Marin Independent Journal

Measure A must respond to wildfire threats in county open spaces – Marin Independent Journal

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Reducing the potential for catastrophic wildfires in our 17,900 acres of open space must be a top priority in the June 2022 Marin County Parks Measure A one-quarter sales tax renewal measure hundred.

The accumulation of flammable vegetation poses a growing threat to public safety, air and water in Marin. The Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers, along with former Civilian Grand Jury members who formed Citizens for Wildfire Preparedness, are urging supervisors to approve ballot measure provisions that address this pressing issue.

An allocation of one-third of Measure A’s overall funds should be dedicated to forest fire prevention, with the following specific guardrails:

• Maximize funds available for fuels work by spending on projects, not overhead

• Set up an open space fire reduction team

• Plan additional treatment of fire prone areas linked to a detailed project list

• Provide own funding for species preservation work, separate from firefighting work

• Commit to the 33% allowance for fuel reduction and declare that it cannot be reduced during the term of the nine-year tax.

These provisions are based on clear public inquiry findings and a December letter from the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association to supervisors. After decades of neglect, our wild lands resemble what fueled the destruction of Paradise City.

Proponents of the status quo argue that the Parks Department’s fuel reduction projects will be adequately funded by the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority’s new Measure C tax. This ignores the magnitude of the problem in our open space. While the Wildfire Authority can and will work on public lands, its funds are limited and it needs a well-funded and committed partner.

Our communities remain at risk until everyone does their part to reduce the risk. Measure C was never intended to pay for reducing all forest fire risk. Just as Marin owners are asked to pay for their own expensive defensible space, all other owners and property managers are expected to cover these vitally important maintenance costs. Land managers in public bodies should pay for this work from their own budgets. If limited funds need to be reallocated to address pressing new priorities, so be it. Everyone has tough choices to make.

Measure A’s annual reports show that the Parks Department spent an average of just $1.5 million a year on all of its vegetation management work, a substantial portion of which was for species preservation and allocations. general staff. This is a tiny fraction of the $15 million in annual revenue from Measure A and the department’s overall budget of $32.2 million.

Additionally, Marin Parks current wildfire management program is unrealistically modest. According to its 2019-2020 annual report (the most recent available), only 109 acres were thinned to maintain emergency access and 1,510 acres grazed to clear fire fuel. Virtually all of these activities take place in the same locations each year, leaving the vast majority untouched.

However, at their Dec. 14 meeting, supervisors ignored two fire chiefs who presented their association’s call to spend 33% of Measure A funds on prevention. Supervisors also pushed back on Marin Parks staff’s proposal to increase spending on wildfire fuels (to be funded by decreasing the 20% allocation for a farmland preservation program). Appearing to suggest that the public is misinformed or confused, supervisors dismissed two different opinion polls showing that an overwhelming majority of the public ranks preventing wildfires as voters’ highest priority for the use of funds. measure A.

Measure A needs to be revised to meet our new forest fire challenges.

Email [email protected] to let supervisors know that your support for Measure A renewal is dependent on a ballot measure that commits to reducing fuel consumption in open spaces. The funds to pay for this will have to come from other Measure A programs. It is time for our elected officials to show leadership in keeping the general public safe.

Lucy Dilworth, of San Anselmo, is a director of the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers, chair of the 2019-2020 Marin Civilian Grand Jury, member of Marin Citizens for Wildfire Preparedness, leader of the Firewise community, and chair of the Marin Wildfire Citizens Oversight Committee Prevention Authority and a practicing lawyer.