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Clean Air in the Capital

The Metro Chamber’s 46th Annual Capitol-to-Capitol advocacy program encompassed nearly 350 representatives from California’s Capital Region.  Attendees represented issues important to our region in our nation’s Capital with congressional offices, federal agencies and other organizations headquartered in Washington D.C. Among the 11 issue areas represented is the concern for the quality of the air we breath.

The Air Quality team carried three “policy papers” to 20 meetings over the course of three days. The continuation of funding for grant and incentive programs that support important air quality monitoring and management are traditional issues for the Air Quality team. New to the Air Quality team’s policy agenda this year is the concern for the health of our forests. While at first glance, this may not be immediately evident as an air quality concern, the health of our forests has far-reaching implications. The air quality impacts come when wildfire ignites and spews massive amounts of soot into the air. But the health of our forests also impacts water quality and supply; flood control capabilities; tourism and recreation; economic value; and ultimately the health and well-being of rural and urban communities across our region.

California’s forests are facing a crisis. Five years of drought and warmer temperatures have weakened trees, leaving our forests vulnerable to an increased risk of insect outbreak and substantially increased risk of high-severity wildfire.

A key win for the Air Quality team at Cap-to-Cap was learning that there is bipartisan interest in solving the problem of forest health. It’s recognized that funding prevention is a better and more cost-effective approach than the reactionary approach of fighting wildfire and responding to the aftermath.

Although this year’s Cap-to-Cap program is drawing to a close, the advocacy work will continue; the concern for forest health is a focus for the Cleaner Air Partnership (CAP).  We look forward to continuing the conversation about what can be done to improve the health of our forests and engaging federal, state and local partners on policy solutions for a healthy forest ecosystem that supports the health and wellbeing of our communities.

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Tammy Cronin is a Valley Vision project leader working in the clean air, broadband and business resiliency portfolios.

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