In a certification letter released on April 12, the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency determined that the CEQA exemption in Public Resources Code Section 4799.05 (enacted by Senate Bill 901 ) should remain in effect by certifying that neither the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) nor any other federal laws affecting the management of federal forest lands in California have been substantially amended. This action resolved questions about whether the CEQA exemption was available to use this year. The Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency must re-certify the exemption each year.
This statute exempts from CEQA prescribed fire, thinning, or fuel reduction projects undertaken on federal lands where NEPA has been completed and the primary role of a state or local agency is providing funding or staffing (e.g., grant funding) for those projects. The “SB 901 Exemption” has provided a very valuable streamlining tool to help the state achieve its goal to substantially increase the pace and scale of vegetation treatment to reduce wildfire risks in response to California’s wildfire crisis.