LITTLE RIVER, 2/23/21 — Thanks to a grant from Cal Fire, Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, and Napa landowners can apply for funding to conduct fire mitigation projects. Potential projects include forest thinning, woody fuels reduction, and planting site preparation, among others. (Applications are available here)
The North Bay Forest Improvement Program, an incentives program funded by Cal Fire, is giving out a total of $1.5 million to private forest landowners who have between five and 500 acres to execute non-commercial fire mitigation projects. It is unclear if the money will be used to fund a large amount of smaller projects or just a few larger projects.
The Forest Improvement Program, which is run by the Rebuild NorthBay Foundation, a nonprofit, the resource conservation districts of Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa counties, and the nonprofit Clear Lake Environmental Research Center, was created “to increase the pace, scale, and effectiveness of forest treatments in the north bay [sic] area by incentivising and supporting landowners with partial payments to implement planned treatments where they would not otherwise be possible because of financial hardship.” Rebuild NorthBay noted on their website that “assisting landowners in disadvantaged communities is a priority of the program.”
For more than a century in California, and around the West, official policy has been to snuff out forest fires as soon as they’re detected. This has led to massively overgrown forests and a huge accumulation of fuel — dead, highly flammable material on the forest floor that, in the right conditions, can catch on fire in an instant. Misguided forest management has also resulted in forests that are densely packed, meaning that flames can jump quickly from tree to tree and grow from a small spot fire to a massive inferno without skipping a beat. All of this is exacerbated by climate change.
Today, we are paying the price for years of fire suppression, trying to figure out how to stay safe among forests that can turn to flame in a matter of minutes.