September 8, 2021

The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack Secretary

U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, D.C., 20250

The Honorable Randy Moore Chief, Forest Service

U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, D.C., 20250

RE: National Forest Wildfire Management

Dear Secretary Vilsack and Chief Moore:

We write today on behalf of the County of Trinity and our constituents, who are deeply concerned about wildfires originating from the Shasta/Trinity National Forest (STNF) and the Six Rivers National Forest (SRNF) and managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS). We are requesting that you investigate the USFS’s wildfire management decisions that were made during the August Complex Fire, Monument Fire, McFarland Fire, and portions of the River Complex under the leadership of USFS.

As we write today, August 30, 2021, the Monument Fire has grown to be in the top 20 largest wildfires in California’s known fire history, well exceeding 150,000 acres and continues to see significant growth. Under the leadership of the federal incident management team, the fire has threatened the towns of Weaverville, Douglas City, Hayfork, Junction City, Del Loma, Burnt Ranch, Cedar Flat, Big Bar, Big Flat, and Helena; and other small communities. It has caused the mandatory evacuations of thousands of people in Trinity and Humboldt counties.

The August Complex Fires, started on August 16, 2020 and burned over 1 million acres. In Trinity County alone, it destroyed close to 140,000 acres in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and 160,000 acres in the Six Rivers National Forest. The August Complex is the largest recorded fire in California history.

Fires in our national forests, especially from the ST/SR-NF, have had significant impacts on our constituents, law enforcement, county staff and emergency personnel. The fire suppression philosophy of the USFS in managing, monitoring and lack of commitment to protecting private property, has resulted in the loss of a great deal of public resources, private property, homes, and critical infrastructure. Because of the gross negligence of the USFS’s fire management philosophy, we no longer have trust or confidence in the decision- making process being used by the USFS. The current “maximum suppression effort” looks to us a lot like the old “let it burn” policy. The forest management practices, initial fire attack and suppression decisions employed by the USFS have now been proven to be unsuccessful for protecting communities, sensitive resources, water and air quality, wildlife habitat, and other economic, social and ecological values.

These fires, and many others, in our national forest lands have completely destroyed public resources for generations to come and have caused many great grief due to their personal losses. These fires have put many in harm’s way. It is a disappointment to us that the USFS has been derelict in its duty to manage our public forestlands over these past forty-plus years. They appear unprepared and incapable of planning for and managing wildfires.

The Trinity County Board of Supervisors strongly urge that you investigate these fires to ascertain if the decisions made by the USFS leadership and the Incident Management Commanders were decisions made for full suppression — or for managing the resource. What course of action did the Forest Supervisors initially order  (full suppression or observation and monitoring)? When and what decisions were made by the Forest Supervisors and Regional Leadership? When and what decisions were made by the Forest Supervisors and Regional Leadership throughout the fire’s timeline; did those decisions ultimately aid or hamper fire suppression operations by Incident Commanders? Did the Forest Supervisors influence key leadership staffing by appointing their own staff to Incident Command Teams? In addition, we respectfully request reimbursement for costs associated with County’s response to these events, and recovery efforts.

Thank you for your time and attention to these matters. We expect and look forward to hearing from you. Something has to change! Should you have any questions regarding Trinity County’s position on this matter, please contact Richard Kuhns at 530.623.1382 or rkuhns@trinitycounty.org.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Brown, chairman

Trinity County Board of Supervisors

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