This year’s United States Capitol Christmas tree, adorned with colorful ornaments handcrafted by children from across California, stands 84 feet tall behind the Halls of Congress.
The white fir, affectionately known as Sugar Bear, came from part of the Six Rivers National Forest in the Congressional District held by California Representative Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.
Although he is a monument to diversity as the âtree of the peopleâ in Washington DC, Sugar Bear left his brethren in a state that has been marred by wildfires and drought. The tree reminds Congress of the impacts of climate change, wildfires and drought – and blocked legislation that could fund methods to alleviate those problems, members of the California delegation said.
âThis year’s tree is a symbol of the beauty and importance of our nation’s public lands,â Huffman said. “And it’s a reminder of our responsibility to conserve public lands so that everyone, including future generations, can continue to enjoy them.”
A prolonged drought in California could threaten access to clean groundwater for farming communities and has strained conservation efforts. Cal Fire believes that forest fires burned over 3 million acres this year. A few fires are still in progress.
President Joe Biden said the West wildfires were a “red flash code” for the United States to tackle climate change during a tour of California in September. The president has made the fight against climate change one of his main agendas.
Several members of the California congressional delegation lamented the effects of wildfires and drought on the state at the tree lighting this month.
âCalifornia’s forests, as Nancy Pelosi and other members here certainly know, face many challenges, including persistent drought and wildfires,â Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Ignition. “I hope this Congress and the Biden administration will really focus on these things and that we can do something about it.”
Days later, Feinstein and former Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott published an opinion piece titled “How Congress Can Help Reduce The Wildfire Problem In The WestIn the Los Angeles Daily News. Feinstein and Pimlott have suggested five policy areas Congress should implement to deal with the fires in the near term:
âª Reform forest management practices, including combining small, disparate fuel reduction projects into large-scale regional projects.
âª Ground power lines, insulate power towers, improve blackout practices, and strengthen homes and other buildings.
âª Increase the salaries of federal firefighters and create more permanent than seasonal positions.
âª Invest in more training for federal firefighters, especially prescribed burns.
âª Adapt the biomass industry and wood use initiatives to build an economy for smallwood extraction.
âWe fully support vigorous actions to bring climate change under control; this is the only way for us to ultimately reduce catastrophic forest fire rates, âthey wrote. âUntil that happens, we need to direct our attention to strategies that will have faster results. “
Their suggestions are on the table through the Community Wood Facilities Assistance Act and the Wildfire Emergency Act, among other measures.
Some legislation to tackle wildfires, drought and climate issues is part of Biden’s sweeping spending agenda that the US Senate and House of Representatives have been battling for months.
The Build Back Better Act, which was recently passed by the House but must be passed by the Senate before going to the President’s office for a signature, would provide funding for forest fire prevention, drought control, conservation efforts, climate change research and other environmental initiatives. Biden intended $ 15 billion from the $ 1.75 trillion law to be spent on making forests less combustible nationwide over the next decade.
California has received billions of dollars in funding for wildfires and drought issues over the next decade through congressional spending programs that were passed this fall. The state has secured $ 84 million for forest fire protection and $ 3.5 billion for water supply projects over the next five years as part of the bipartisan 1,000 infrastructure program. billion that was passed last month, according to estimates released by the office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
While the tree may be bipartisan, as it comes from a forest shared by Huffman and Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, climate change initiatives are not. Most Republicans want to fight wildfires and drought, but many disagree on what some of the funding should target.
LaMalfa said many residents of his district – where nearly 1.7 million acres burned this summer – still struggled to rebuild after major wildfires over the years.
âAppropriate forest management practices would reduce the damage from wildfires and help keep our water and air supplies clean, our cities and our wildlife habitats safer,â he said.