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RCD efforts helping forests to recover, restock

California’s Mariposa County Resource Conservation District (RCD) is joining forces with county, state and federal agencies to implement fuels reduction, reforestation and biomass utilization projects.

The RCD has combined two grants – totaling more than $3 million – to put toward that effort, which will impact nearly 3,000 acres of forestland, in some cases with multiple treatments. One grant for more than $2 million came in August from CAL Fire’s California Climate Investments Forest Health grant program, while the other for $1.3 million was secured from the Wildlife Conservation Board’s Forest Conservation program.

“Everyone’s already working as hard as they can to the maximum budget they have, and it’s not enough,” RCD Program Manager Melinda Barrett said. “By joining our efforts, we improve the timing, coordination and effectiveness of everything we’re all doing.”

“With these grants, we’re in effect doubling the amount we’re able to put toward the project,” she said. “Without this kind of coordination and collaboration on a large landscape effort, we’re really not going to be able to address the health of the forest and prevent these huge wildfires that have been happening.”

American Forests, a national nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring forests, will be responsible for outreach and developing a climate-smart reforestation strategy for use in future projects throughout the area.

Mariposa County lost approximately 250,000 forestland acres to wildfire in 2017 and 2018, and the county has lost nearly 10 million trees to beetle infestation. The grant work will target efforts to remove fallen trees and more than 3,000 tons along county roads and county facilities will be converted into energy and biochar.

Funds also will be used for reforestation within the Ferguson Fire burn scar in Yosemite National Park, as well as fuels reduction around the Mariposa grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite and approximately 150 acres of restoration northeast of Fish Camp on the Sierra National Forest.

With at least half the county in national park and forestland, joint prescribed burns will ultimately reduce the risk and intensity of fires that naturally occur in the area, Barrett said. This will help protect the forests, the Great Sequoias that draw tourism and the 18,000 residents who live in Mariposa County.

“It’s a new way of managing the forest for the health of the trees and recognizing that moderate fire is part of the necessary cycle,” Barrett said. “All the work that needs to be done to get the forest back into a natural state where it can tolerate droughts and typical fire – not high intensity – is really important for the future. We’re learning how to work together and how to apply for these funds and use funding together, collectively as land managers.”

Additional information about funding: Over $2 million in funding for projects was provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as part of the California Climate Investments (CCI) Program. CCI is a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities. The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. CCI projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling and much more. At least 35 percent of these investments are located within and benefiting residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities and low-income households across California.

The Wildlife Conservation Board provided funding through the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018 (Proposition 68), which identified a need for climate adaptation and resiliency projects.

Tags: Forestry

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