The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) on Tuesday announced that the department will award over $21 million in grants to local groups across California that will help the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.
Three of the six grants announced fall under CAL FIRE’s Forest Legacy Program. These grants enable the purchase of conservation easements on properties in Mendocino, San Bernardino and Siskiyou counties, protecting the land from being used in ways that would increase greenhouse gas emissions – such as urban or agricultural development – and harnessing the ability of trees to “sink” or sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Landowners will retain ownership of their land and will not be restricted from using it for activities such as timber harvest, hunting, fishing and hiking. These grants will protect more than 28,285 acres of forests from development.
The grants use proceeds from California’s cap-and-trade program to combat climate change. Through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, CAL FIRE and other state agencies are investing in projects that directly reduce greenhouse gases while providing a wide range of additional benefits in California communities.
“Investments in forest health are even more critical now because of climate change,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director. “California continues to invest millions of dollars into protecting working forest lands and improving our state’s urban forests which will help increase carbon sequestration and has the added benefit of helping protect our state’s vital watersheds.”
CAL FIRE’s voluntary Forest Legacy Program ensures that state forests will provide wildlife habitat and watershed protection as well as jobs, strong rural economies, grazing, recreation, wood, scenic beauty and research opportunities. To date, CAL FIRE’s Forest Legacy Program has conserved nearly 111,379 acres of working forest lands in California.
The remaining three grants, also funded by cap-and-trade proceeds, represent CAL FIRE’s landscape-scale forest health initiatives. These initiatives include efforts to combat the state’s unprecedented bark beetle epidemic, watershed protection, and the increased use of tools such as prescribed fire and hazardous fuels reduction to create resiliency in California’s forests.