Man in high visibility vest in forest looks up at trees

National grant funds wildfire mitigation and soil health through California Resource Conservation Districts


Funding from the Technical Assistance grant will increase on-the-ground conservation by allowing RCDs to hire foresters, soil health specialists, and other technical staff.

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) awarded the Technical Assistance Grant to nine California resource conservation districts (RCDs). The Amador RCD, the Calaveras County RCD, the Tuolumne County RCD, the Cachuma RCD, the Coarsegold RCD, the East Merced RCD, the Napa County RCD, the Lake County RCD, and the Sonoma RCD will use the funding to hire staff to deliver conservation planning technical assistance and to assist landowners in implementing Conservation Stewardship Program contracts.

The Technical Assistance Grant Program is a collaboration between the NACD and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as a way to provide enhanced conservation services to farmers, ranchers, forestland owners and local communities across the nation. In 2017, NACD entered into the first of a series of cooperative agreements with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and in 2020, they renewed the Memorandum of Agreement that provides the basis for the program.

“Partnerships with the resource conservation districts are paramount to the overarching success of NRCS program delivery. RCD support with the Conservation Stewardship Program further enhances the success of conservation efforts where it counts.” said NRCS California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez, “We welcome with open arms a third round of technical assistance in collaboration with the NACD Technical Assistance Grant Program. The local efforts of the RCDs support NRCS conservation goals on the ground by increasing technical assistance available to farmers and ranchers in high priority areas.”

Cachuma RCD Hires Bilingual Outreach and Water Resources Specialist

With the grant, Cachuma RCD was able to hire their Bilingual Outreach and Water Resources Specialist. This position provides technical assistance for irrigation water management and nutrient management as well as outreach to the Spanish speaking agricultural community. Through this grant, the RCD has been able to build relationships with underserved growers in their County and expand their ability to assist those that the RCD was previously unable serve.

Man holding strawberries standing in strawberry field

Misael Sanchez is the Cachuma RCD’s Bilingual Outreach and Water Resources Specialist.

Napa County RCD and Lake County RCD Support Forestry and Wildfire Preparedness

Through a collaborative application for the Technical Assistance Grant, the Napa County RCD hired its first Forestry Specialist and the Lake County RCD has been able to maintain a Forestry Specialist position on staff. It made sense for the two RCDs to collaborate on an application because of the similar needs of their communities—Napa and Lake Counties are geographic neighbors in Northern California, and share many natural resource features, including forests, watersheds, and habitat corridors. The two counties also share the unfortunate experience of having been recently impacted by numerous catastrophic wildfires. The NACD Technical Assistance grant program has allowed the two RCDs to greatly increase the quality and efficiency of forest management and wildfire preparedness programs, and has led to more consistent and coordinated services across the fireshed.

landscape which is burned in the foreground and agriculture in the background

A post-fire landscape in Napa County. Photo courtesy of Napa County RCD.

Sonoma RCD Hires First Registered Professional Forester

The Sonoma RCD received funding through the grant in 2018, allowing their RCD to hire their first ever Registered Professional Forester. The position is incredibly important to their community. Interest in forest health and management increased markedly since wildfires devastated Sonoma County in 2017, and professional foresters are in limited supply locally. With the support of these grant funds, their forester provides education and technical assistance to individuals and communities. The forester also writes Forest Management Plans that enable landowners to enroll in the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program and other cost-share programs.

Staff speaks to small group near burned trees

The Sonoma RCD’s Forester speaking at a post-fire forestry education event in late 2019, after the Kincade fire. Photo courtesy of the Sonoma RCD.

Amador RCD, Calaveras County RCD, and Tuolumne County RCD Develop Partnership for Forestry Assistance

Extensive drought and bark beetle infestation in the Sierras has left residents in the Amador RCD, the Calaveras County RCD, and the Tuolumne County RCD to contend with millions of dead trees, which pose a significant fire risk. In 2018, when the three RCDs were first awarded the Technical Assistance Grant, they developed a collaboratively run initiative: the Forest Health Assistance Program. Two full-time natural resource specialist housed in the Amador RCD service the three districts, and they work closely with NRCS, helping landowners apply for and complete the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The landowners received funding to remove dead and dying trees, plant trees and remove woody debris on over 1000 acres. The partnership is in the process of developing a Soil Health Program, which will allow them to improve conservation on rangeland and cropland.

Staff person puts hand on large pine with damage near from trunk

Vincent Campa, Amador RCD Natural Resource Specialist, inspecting a tree on a forestry site visit in Amador County. Photo courtesy of Amador RCD.

Coarsegold RCD and East Merced RCD Deliver Soil Health and Forestry Assistance

The Coarsegold RCD and the East Merced RCD have collaborated to provide forestry management and soil health technical assistance through their Technical Assistance Grant funding. With the 2020 funding, the East Merced RCD, will work with the East Stanislaus RCD’s soil health staff to work with UC Merced to improve soil health. The Coarsegold RCD was able to hire a forestry specialist who will work with through NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help landowners apply for cost share to manage trees on their land.

The nine RCDs awarded funding were identified by NACD as high-priority locations from previous rounds of agreements, allowing them to continue providing services which they had begun in 2018 and 2019. The entirety of the $15 million available for the 2020 third round of funding has yet to be dispensed, and NACD and NRCS are currently inviting applications for first-time applicants until June 1, 2020. More information on the Technical Assistance Grant can be found here.