Policy Recommendations to Benefit the Sierra Part Two: Forest Restoration

This post is Part Two of a five part series detailing the content of Sierra CAMP’s newly released “Sierra CAMP’s Policy Recommendations for the 2017 Update of Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk”, the state’s climate adaptation plan.

COMM DM Blog Image 2015 01Click here to view the full report.

We have broken the report into five sections, each of which will have its own blog post describing the topic area’s current policy landscape followed by our recommendations. The five topic areas include: Integrated Watershed Management, Forest Restoration, Regional Economic Development, Preparedness and Public Health, and Structural Recommendations.

Part 2 of 5: Forest Restoration

Current Status: California’s forests sequester carbon, protect and improve the state’s water supply, provide wildlife habitat, and draw millions of tourists annually for their unparalleled recreational opportunities and beauty. Unfortunately, under-management of these resources in recent decades has reversed these positive benefits and contributes to ever-increasing wildfire, dwindling snowpack, epidemic tree mortality, and increased development in the Wildland Urban Interface.

Actively managing and restoring California’s forests through mechanical thinning and increased use of prescribed burning is the only way to reverse this trend. When done correctly, these efforts can help bring jobs to rural communities in the Sierra Nevada region, provide materials for new economic markets, and create renewable sources of energy to help the state meet the requirements set by AB 32 and the Renewables Portfolio Standard.

Governor Brown is bringing attention and action to the issue through Executive Orders such as B-30-15 and B-36-15, along with the formation of the Tree Mortality Task Force and the Forest Carbon Action Team. Most importantly, however, expanding cooperative efforts such as the the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Watershed Improvement Partnership (WIP) can overcome jurisdictional boundaries and help maintain California’s forests and their benefit of the future.

Our Recommendations: Sierra CAMP’s policy recommendations regarding forest restoration fall under three main categories: directing Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) investments to forest restoration projects and incentives to maintain working forests, fostering continued growth of the biomass power sector in the Sierra Nevada, and supporting quantification of climate benefits and co-benefits of forest restoration.

The focus of this first body of recommendations, directing GGRF investments, includes financing controlled burns to mitigate wildfire risk and other benefits, restoring meadows and wetlands that store water, including forestland as part of the Sustainable Agricultural Land Conservation Program to protect it from over development, and more.

Sierra CAMP’s second set of forest restoration suggestions looks at fostering biomass in this region by assisting biomass producers in securing power purchase agreements (PPAs), expanding on current resolutions, bringing a UC Bio-Economy Innovation Laboratory to the Sierra, and accessing funding to support biomass in the region and alleviate transportation costs.

It is important to have up-to-date and accurate metrics regarding the climate benefits and co-benefits of forest restoration, which is why the third and final set of recommendations in this section of the report focuses on quantification. Suggestions include designing GGRF-funded projects (such as a region-wide GHG/carbon inventory), focusing on measures other than just GHG reductions when evaluating funding opportunities (carbon sequestration, for example), support metrics that will account for wildfire emissions, and additional efforts that will streamline the data to increase the success rate of funding important forest restoration projects.

The subject of Forest Restoration is an important part of Sierra CAMP’s recommendations for the 2017 update of Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk. These 3 sections regarding GHG investments, biomass, and data will assist further efforts in mitigating and adapting to climate change in the Sierra. The next part of this five part blog series will be Part Three: Regional Economic Development. To catch up on Part One, Integrated Watershed Management, click here.

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