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  • Writer's pictureKristin Cooper

New Funding - Forest Health Program Grant Opportunity

CAL FIRE's Forest Health Program awards funding to landscape-scale land management projects that achieve the following objectives:

• Restore forest health and disaster resilience to California’s forests.

• Protect upper watersheds where California's water supply originates.

• Promote long-term storage of carbon in forest trees and soils.

• Minimize the loss of forest carbon from unnaturally large high severity wildfires.

• Further the goals of the California Forest Carbon Plan, California’s Natural and Working Lands Implementation Plan and AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan

CAL FIRE seeks to significantly increase fuels management, fire reintroduction, reforestation, and conservation of forests degraded by overcrowding, drought, pest infestation, and catastrophic fire. All Forest Health projects must have climate benefits from

1) treatment activities,

2) avoided future wildfire and fossil fuel use, and/or

3) reforestation and/or growth and yield of remaining vegetation. Applicants are required to submit supporting documentation to enable CAL FIRE staff to validate benefits using the Forest Health Quantification Methodology and Calculator Tool developed by CAL FIRE and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The following activities are eligible for funding through the Forest Health Program:

a. Forest Fuels Reduction – Eligible activities must focus on treating understory trees and brush with the goals of reducing fire hazards, improving tree growth, stabilizing carbon in retained trees, and increasing forest resilience. Forest thinning activities can be manual or mechanical and must be designed to change stand structure to:

1) concentrate carbon storage in widely-spaced and larger trees that are more resilient to wildfire, drought, and pest outbreaks; and

2) reduce the likelihood of wildfire transitioning into the forest canopy. Commercial harvesting activities should focus on promoting carbon storage in remaining trees and must be compatible with achieving resilient forests with stable carbon storage that provide co-benefits such as fish and wildlife habitat, increased biodiversity, and wildlife adaptation to climate change. Precommercial and brush removal activities are also eligible.

b. Prescribed Fire – Eligible activities must focus on the need to reintroduce fires to fire-adapted forest ecosystems. Applying fire to the landscape may serve multiple purposes including, reducing fuel loads, creating heterogenous and diverse vegetation, maintaining cultural practices of indigenous communities, and/or promoting healthy ecosystem processes such as water storage and pest control. Prescribed burns may be completed with private or public burn crews.

c. Pest Management – Eligible activities must address pest control and related forest health improvement, while reducing pest-related mortality, improving tree growth, stabilizing carbon retained in trees, and increasing forest resilience. Activities may include forest thinning and/or brush removal. Forest thinning activities (manual or mechanical) should change stand structure to increase carbon storage in more widely spaced trees that are more resistant to wildfire, drought, and insect attacks. Harvesting activities should focus on removing dead, diseased, suppressed, or slow-growing trees for the purpose of promoting carbon storage in remaining trees and must be compatible with achieving resilient forests with stable carbon storage that provide co-benefits such as fish and wildlife habitat, increased biodiversity, and wildlife adaptation to climate change.

d. Reforestation – Eligible activities should establish a diverse, native forest, which will result in stable carbon sequestration and storage, improved watershed and habitat functions, and forest resilience. Species selection must be appropriate for the site and may be used to address climate adaptation. Climate appropriate seed lots may be identified using the U.S. Forest Service’s Seedlot Selection Tool. Reforestation of recently burned areas is also eligible for funding, including planning, site preparation and planting; fire suppression repair costs are not eligible. The Forest Health program does not fund afforestation or the establishment of forests in historically non-forested areas.

e. Biomass Utilization – Eligible activities must:

1) utilize woody biomass for wood products such as post and pole, firewood, dimensional lumber, plywood, or other products which allows for continued carbon storage;

2) generate energy though combustion or gasification, which displaces carbon-intensive fossil fuelbased energy; or

3) utilize woody biomass to help develop markets for beneficial uses of the material. Beneficial uses include, but are not limited to, dimensional lumber, animal bedding, biochar, artistic and cultural products, cross-laminated timber, mulch, oriented strandboard, pulp, post, shredding, and veneer products.

f. Forest Legacy – Eligible activities include the purchase or donation of conservation easements or fee title of productive forest lands threatened with conversion to non-forest uses, such as subdivision for residential or commercial development. As with Forest Health Program grants, all conservation projects must also demonstrate GHG emission reduction benefits. Forest Legacy project applications have different selection criteria and application requirements than Forest Health projects. Forest Legacy applicants that wish to complete fuels reduction, pest management, reforestation, etc. on the property with grant funds will need to define those proposed treatments in the Forest Legacy application, scope of work, budget, and work plan. Please refer to Appendix A for Forest Legacy requirements and application instructions.

g. Research – Research activities are no longer eligible as a component of Forest Health implementation projects. Research activities are still eligible for award as stand-alone projects through the Forest Health Research Program and have separate application requirements and processes (see Appendix B). The Forest Health Research Program funds projects that seek to improve the scientific understanding of issues related to the objectives of the Forest Health Program, CCI Investment Plan, and the California Forest Carbon Plan. All proposed projects must address one or more priority topics. Research Program applications have different selection criteria, timeframes for agreements, and other requirements than Forest Health projects. Please refer to Appendix B for Research Program requirements and application instructions.

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