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USDA: Forest Health Can Improve Water Supply

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Area burned by the King Fire near Pollock Pines, CA. Taken in November 2014.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie says controlled burns and forest thinning are imperative as California deals with drought and an increased threat of wildfires.

He says when forests aren’t choked with small trees there is another benefit. More snow and water can soak into the ground and replenish streams, rivers and reservoirs.

“There’s such a critical link between the health of our forests and the health of our watersheds," says Bonnie. "The Sierra provides an enormous amount of water for all of California agriculture and the water people use and drink every day.”

Bonnie says it’s difficult to do the work needed in national forests because much of the money is spent fighting wildfires. He says a bill pending in Congress would create an emergency fund the Forest Service could use in bad fire years. That would allow more money for forest thinning.