Rural residents are being asked to bear a disproportionate share of the cost of protecting the state’s oak woodlands, rangeland, forests, open space, and watersheds through the imposition of the Fire Prevention Fee within the State Responsibility Area.
As noted in Watershed-Based Strategies for Amador and Calaveras Counties, “Watersheds in the Sierra Nevada are an essential source of natural capital for the state’s multi-billion dollar economy. Sierra snowpack is California’s single largest water storage system. The 24 major watersheds of the Sierra Nevada supply around 65 percent of California’s drinking water.”
Clearly, every resident of California is a beneficiary of local water resources and should help shoulder the cost of preventing wildfires, which foul our waterways by creating rapid runoff that contains sediment and other pollutants.
Every resident also benefits from the carbon sequestration our grasslands and woodlands provide and from the recreational opportunities, the history, the culture, the scenic beauty, and the simple assurance that each may find respite in the unspoiled rural regions of the state. Either eliminate the fee or charge every resident to protect what are valuable resources with multiple benefits for all.
The state should address the root of the problem, which is residential development in areas of high fire danger. The correct approach would be to pass land use laws which restrict such development rather than allowing the development and then penalizing those citizens who choose to live in a rural home that they trust is safe, because it has been legally approved.