The Governor’s office proposed broad changes to logging rules in California to allow landowners to cut larger trees and build temporary roads without obtaining a permit. This proposal is a way to encourage the thinning of forests to alleviate wild fire threats. The timber industry is supportive of the changes, while most environmental groups are opposed.

Under Governor Brown’s proposal, private landowners would be able to cut trees up to 36 inches in diameter – the current allowance is 26 inches – on property sized 300 acres or less without obtaining a permit so long as the purpose was to thin forests to reduce fire risk. The proposal also allows landowners to build roads up to 600 feet long without obtaining a permit.

In the 1850s, California’s forests tended to burn every several decades due to lightning strikes. Due to a century of firefighting, forests are much denser, with upwards of 10 times as many trees per acre in some areas. Increased brush and larger numbers of small trees cause fires to burn hotter. The legislative session for the year ended August 31, 2018, and the proposed changes have not been adopted. It is unclear whether they will be adopted next session.