California awards $67 million for reforestation, watershed restoration, fire resilience and related bioenergy production

On February 3, 2020, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) awarded $67 million for landscape-scale land management projects intended to restore and maintain healthy forests, conserve working forests, and enhance carbon storage in California’s forests.

The grants were awarded by CAL FIRE’s Forest Health and Forest Legacy Programs to local and regional partners and collaboratives implementing forest treatment and conservation activities on state, local, tribal, federal, and private lands. This year’s funded projects are distributed between 13 counties covering the length of California, from Siskiyou to San Diego.

CAL FIRE funded 17 Forest Health grants, targeting over 130,000 acres of California’s forestlands for restoration through a suite of activities. Activities include thinning dense and degraded forests; reducing hazardous fuel loads to change extreme fire behavior across the landscape; managing for drought, insects and disease; and applying prescribed fire for ecological restoration.

Some of the overstocked forest material will be converted to bioenergy. Reforestation efforts will result in planting approximately 170,000 trees that will sequester carbon, provide habitat for wildlife, and stabilize soil in severely burned areas.

Three examples of awardees:

  • The Colusa County Resource Conservation District, which was received $1.8 million for the Upper Little Stony Post Ranch Fire Restoration project. Through reforestation, biomass removal, pest control and fuels management, the project will help restore the watershed and forest on private lands and complement adjacent projects within Mendocino National Forest aimed at watershed health and habitat restoration.
  • The Glenn County Resource Conservation District was awarded nearly $1.4 million for the Mendocino National Forest Fuel Reduction Partnership: Smokey Project. This project will restore and maintain healthy forests and conserve working forests by implementing fuels reduction, fire reintroduction, treatment of degraded areas and conservation of forests to 7,059 acres. A total of 636 acres of mechanical thinning will provide for long-term carbon sequestration.
  • The Yuba Water Agency was awarded nearly $4.6 million to help carry out a massive forest management project that will benefit over 5,000 acres in the Yuba River watershed. As part of the Yuba Foothills Healthy Forests project, federal and private partners will conduct forest management across 5,375 acres of public and private forestlands in the foothills, in various areas around Dobbins, Challenge and Brownsville. Some of the actions planned include fuel reduction and thinning, prescribed fire, pest management, reforestation and biomass utilization. The project will provide benefits for everything from forest health, climate change resilience and catastrophic fire risk reduction to species composition and improved water yield. It is also expected to benefit hydropower and bioenergy fuels, and local jobs, according to the agency.

Through a handful of these projects, CAL FIRE will also make an investment in human capital, to ensure that a workforce is available and appropriately trained to staff new wood products and forestry operations needed in the state.

Finally, research components on a portion of these projects will help gather information on best management practices and monitor the impact of
forest treatment activities over time. CAL FIRE intends to announce the award of an additional $2,000,000 in stand-alone research projects in the next two months.

CAL FIRE’s Forest Legacy Program funded the establishment of conservation easements on three separate properties, totaling nearly 4,700 acres, in Humboldt County. The easements will protect these high-quality forestlands threatened with development and ensure the forests continue to provide for carbon storage and enduring natural resource, economic and recreational opportunities.

CAL FIRE’s Forest Health grants were made available through California Climate Investments (CCI), a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars toward achieving the state’s climate change goals while also strengthening the economy and improving public health and the
environment-particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Since taking office, California Governor Gavin Newsom has directed over $1 billion (over the next five years) towards climate resilience, proactive forestland health maintenance and fire prevention.

Photo of new understory growth after forest fire near San Diego is by Theresa McGee from Pixabay.

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