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CAL FIRE awards US$160M to projects that boost forest health and resilience

In the United States (US), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has recently awarded US$160 million for landscape-scale land management projects intended to restore and maintain healthy forests throughout California (CA) while enhancing carbon storage. This year’s funded projects are distributed among 27 counties covering the length of California, from Siskiyou County to San Diego County.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has recently awarded US$160 million for landscape-scale land management projects intended to restore and maintain healthy forests throughout California (CA) while enhancing carbon storage (photo courtesy CAL FIRE).

In April 2021, Governor Newsom signed SB 85 providing US$536 million in early action funding to accelerate forest health, fire prevention, and climate resiliency projects. CAL FIRE worked swiftly to ensure this funding could be implemented on the ground as soon as possible.

Priorities for funding are reflected in the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan which provides multi-agency guidance for priority action items that will protect California’s communities and natural resources while making our forests more resilient.

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.

With early action funding CAL FIRE’s Forest Health program funded 37 projects that propose to restore California’s forestlands through such activities as thinning dense and degraded forests; reducing hazardous fuel loads to change extreme fire behavior on the landscape; post-fire restoration and reforestation; insect and disease management; and prescribed fire for ecological restoration.

Some of the overstocked forest material will be converted to bioenergy. Reforestation efforts will result in planting approximately 7.15 million trees that will sequester carbon, provide wildlife habitat, and help stabilize soil in severely burned areas.

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.

CAL FIRE’s Forest Legacy Program funded conservation easements and fee title purchase on four properties, totaling 17 870 acres, across Napa, Siskiyou, Sonoma, and El Dorado counties. The easements will protect high-quality forestlands threatened with development and fragmentation and ensure the forests continue to provide for carbon storage and enduring natural resource, economic and recreational opportunities.

Within the next month, CAL FIRE expects to award up to an additional US$123 million for Fire Prevention projects and US$2.3 million for Forest Health Research projects.

CAL FIRE was fortunate to receive early action funds that facilitated these partner-led projects. It is only through such collaborative relationships that CAL FIRE and its partners will succeed at increasing the pace and scale of forest management and wildfire resilience efforts, said Matthew Reischman, Deputy Chief for Resource Management.

Many of the 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.

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