Renewed attention on forest management after a destructive 2018 fire season

Tree Mortality in Fresno County. Photo Credit: Steve Haze, Sierra RCD

With 26% (9 million acres) of all forest land in California in the hands of non-industrial private landowners, the governor’s recent call to increase the pace and scale of forest management across the state relies on the interest and investment of individual forest landowners. Large scale projects in a forest landscape cross property lines and ownership types, which makes outreach and assistance to engage individual landowners a key component of healthy forest management.

In the Central Sierra, the tree mortality crisis has outpaced the assistance available to private landowners, and dry, dead trees remain on the land. These trees pose a hazard to the landowners and communities surrounding them because they increase the likelihood of catastrophic wildfire. To meet forest management objectives, landowners require assistance to remove hazard trees, manage forests to be more resilient to pests, and undertake fuel reduction activities. The needs of landowners and of the tree mortality crisis can be met by strengthening and provisioning existing partnerships:California’s Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) have a long and productive partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), with the shared goal of providing low or no cost technical assistance to land owners and promoting the effective management of our natural resources at a community scale.

Tree Mortality in Fresno County. Photo Credit: Steve Haze, Sierra RCD

To grow this partnership, and to build the capacity of the RCDs to provide much-needed technical assistance in the Central Sierra, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) applied for a grant through the national NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  Signed at the end of September in 2018, this RCPP grant brings additional Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) funding into the state to address the tree mortality crisis in the Central Sierra.

The RCPP tree mortality grant enables new EQIP dollars to be administered by local NRCS offices in the Central Sierra region, providing more cost-sharing assistance to landowners. The grant also makes technical assistance funding available to RCDs in the 10-county high hazard area,allowing them to extend their forestry technical assistance programs and work with more landowners to produce forest management plans.

The RCPP grant is an opportunity to build on the effective partnership between RCDs and local NRCS offices. In times of crisis,strengthening such partnerships is crucial to realizing our shared goals.