Sierra Institute for Community and Environment based in Taylorsville is one of eight organizations that received a share of the $1.85 million Forest Health Watershed Coordinator Grant Program grant, the Department of Conservation (DOC) announced March 21. Sierra Institute for Community and Environment will receive $228,264.
The grants are intended to hire watershed coordinators who will build local capacity to improve forest health.
“Healthy forests are essential to reduce catastrophic wildfires, supply clean water, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” DOC Director David Bunn said. “Watershed coordinators can play a major role in ensuring the health of our forests by promoting collaboration, integrating watershed management efforts, and supporting local activities that restore resilience to forest lands.”
Local projects will support the state’s Forest Carbon Plan and Executive Order B-52-18 and help achieve the California Global Warming Solutions Act’s goal of reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Just as the state is divided into counties, it is also divided into watersheds: the geographic areas that channel rain and snow into creeks, streams, lakes and rivers.
The forest health coordinator grant program is funded by the California Environmental License Plate Fund and administered by DOC. Areas identified by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as being most at risk of catastrophic wildfires were given priority for the grants.
“Each grant application received highlighted good local projects and collaboration,” said Keali’i Bright, director of DOC’s Division of Land Resource Protection. “Our ability to protect forested lands depends on strong local leadership, and this fantastic response underscores the need for continued support.”
The strategy of funding watershed coordinators to organize efforts at the local level has an outstanding track record. DOC provided grants from 2000-2015. A study of that program by the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment indicated that every dollar spent to hire a coordinator leveraged more than seven times that investment in the development of watershed management plans and restoration projects. The study also found that that forest health and watershed health are inextricably linked.
“The return on investment in watershed and forest health has been impressive, and California’s commitment to these issues is strong,” DOC Director Bunn said, noting that the Natural Resources Agency and DOC recently announced $20 million in other block grants for local and regional projects to improve forest health and increase fire resiliency.