California, U.S. Forest Service establish shared long-term strategy to manage forests and rangelands
Last updated 8/20/2020 at 4:07am
SACRAMENTO – In a key step to improve stewardship of California’s forests, the Newsom administration and the U.S. Forest Service announced a new joint state-federal initiative to reduce wildfire risks, restore watersheds, protect habitat and biological diversity and help the state meet its climate objectives.
The Agreement for Shared Stewardship of California’s Forest and Rangelands includes a commitment by the federal government to match California’s goal of reducing wildfire risks on 500,000 acres of forest land per year. To protect public safety and ecology, experts agreed that at least 1 million acres of California forest and wildlands must be treated annually across jurisdictions.
A historical transition toward unnaturally dense forests, a century of fire suppression and climate change resulting in warmer, hotter and drier conditions have left the majority of California’s forestland highly vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire and in need of active, science-based management. Since the federal government owns nearly 58% of California’s 33 million acres of forestlands, while the state owns 3%, joint state-federal management is crucial to California’s overall forest health and wildfire resilience.
Improved coordination also is key since nearly half of the state dollars invested in fuels management in recent years was spent on federal land.
“Wildfires don’t stop at jurisdictional boundaries. As we respond to wildfires in real time this summer, improving coordination between the major stewards of California’s forested land will help us protect communities and restore forest health across California,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “We are grateful to secure the U.S. Forest Service’s commitment to help us more effectively address the scale of California’s current wildfire crisis.”
“Collaboration between state and federal agencies on issues of forest health and resiliency is critical,” Vicki Christiansen, chief of U.S. Forest Service, said. “The Forest Service is fortunate to collaborate on restoration projects across the state and share science and research to address issues to help care for the land and serve people. We are excited to expand our partnership with California to enhance our collaboration though this Shared Stewardship agreement with California.”
The Shared Stewardship Agreement builds on existing coordination between state and federal agencies, and outlines six core principles and nine specific actions that will drive improved state-federal collaboration.
They are: prioritize public safety; use science to guide forest management; coordinate land management across jurisdictions; increase the scale and pace of forest management projects; remove barriers that slow project approvals, and work closely with all stakeholders, including tribal communities, environmental groups, academia and timber companies.
Specifically, through this agreement California and the U.S. Forest Service commit to execute the following activities together.
Treat 1 million acres of forest and wildland annually to reduce risk of catastrophic wildfire, building on the state’s existing 500,000-acre annual commitment.
Develop a shared 20-year plan for forest health and vegetation treatment that establishes and coordinates priority projects.
Expand use of ecologically sustainable techniques for vegetation treatments such as prescribed fire.
Increase pace and scale of forest management by improving ecologically sustainable timber harvest in California and grow jobs by tackling structural obstacles, such as workforce and equipment shortfalls and lack of access to capital.
Prioritize co-benefits of forest health such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity, healthy watersheds and stable rural economies.
Recycle forest byproducts to avoid burning slash piles, improve sustainable recreation opportunities, enable resilient, fire-adapted communities and share data and continue to invest in science.
The Great American Outdoors Act, signed by President Donald Trump Aug. 4, will provide critical funding for the Forest Service’s work in California.