Prescribed burn in California.
Prescribed Fire Fly-Along A prescribed burn is an intentionally-ignited fire contained within a designated area. The practice is a critical tool for forest restoration and helping to prevent megafires. © TNC

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The Nature Conservancy Applauds Passage of California Budget Plan to Boost Prescribed Fire Efforts That Reduce Wildfire Damage

$20 million Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program will help close insurance gaps.

Science shows that prescribed fire is a critical tool in curbing catastrophic megafires in California. However, a major obstacle to increasing the pace and scale of prescribed fire is the inability of practitioners to procure the necessary liability insurance. The new Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program will alleviate that barrier by establishing a source of funding to pay for damages in the unlikely event that a prescribed fire escapes beyond fire lines. The pilot fund will serve as a “backstop” for the private insurance market.

The $20 million to establish a pilot prescribed fire claims fund will increase the use of prescribed fire in California, helping to reduce growing megafire risks in the face of rising temperatures and dryer conditions due to climate change. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) applauds the leadership of Governor Gavin Newsom, Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Senator Bill Dodd, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, and Assemblymember Jim Wood. 

“Returning beneficial fire to the landscape is essential to both forest health as well as reducing the impacts of megafires to our communities,” said Jay Ziegler, Director of Policy and External Affairs at TNC. “We greatly appreciate Governor Newsom, Commissioner Lara, and the Legislature for securing $20 million to establish a prescribed fire claims fund as part of the wildfire resilience budget. This measure is critical to reducing the risks and impacts of massive and severe wildfires that are only expected to grow with climate change.”

"While prescribed fire is a top priority for reducing the risk of megafires fueled by climate change, lack of insurance is holding back local communities including tribal groups that have used fire constructively for millennia," said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who strongly supported the Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program in the state budget. "Creating a prescribed fire pilot program will provide data to insurance companies to write more policies and help us close the insurance gap to protect more Californians from wildfires."

“Lack of insurance has become increasingly limiting for prescribed fire in California, even while the state increases its prescribed fire commitments and investments," said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, area fire advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension and director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council. "This new state-backed claims fund is a linchpin of California’s future prescribed fire success, and it’s the necessary complement to the liability protections afforded by SB332 (Dodd). With these policy changes, we will finally be able to effect real, positive change around prescribed fire in California.”

The creation of the Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program is an important step towards getting more prescribed fire on the ground. By addressing the insurance barrier to prescribed burning, TNC and partners believe California stands a stronger chance of reducing the risk of megafires and promoting healthier, more resilient forests.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.