Obama Cabinet official criticizes Brown's wildfire plan
Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to limit legal damages from wildfires appears to be headed for final approval this week after some tweaks to the legislation.
But one more high-ranking federal official has joined a chorus of critics urging Brown to drop the plan. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wrote in a letter Tuesday that government agencies will have a more difficult time recovering from wildfires if the bill passes.
"Wildfires not only can cause millions of dollars of damage to state and federal lands and private
property, but can also require millions of dollars over time to restore those lands to productivity," Salazar wrote. "In this way, limitations on damage recovery could have negative impacts on the economy of many California communities."
Brown's plan would limit the amount of money government agencies -- but not private companies or individuals -- can recoup from lawsuits over wildfires.
Another one of President Obama's Cabinet members, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, has already written to the governor criticizing the plan.
One of the main opponents is Benjamin Wagner, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, who is suing Sierra Pacific, the state's largest timber company, for the 2007 Moonlight fire.
Brown's proposal was changed to ensure it would not affect that ongoing case, but Wagner said he still has concerns.
"While the current draft of the legislation contains some improvements over earlier versions, we are still concerned that some provisions would unfairly prevent the United States and the State of California from recovering full and fair compensation for damage caused to public lands due to the negligence of others," he said.
Photo: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testifies before Congress in 2010. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press