Placer County moves forward with partnership to restore Sierra Nevada forest health, reduce wildfire risk

Published on February 26, 2019

Forest health and reducing wildfire risk was a key topic today as the Board of Supervisors voted on a resolution to move forward on a multi-agency partnership project covering 30,000 acres of public and private land around French Meadows Reservoir, west of Lake Tahoe. 

Specifically, the resolution approves a memorandum of agreement with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to use $3.5 million in multi-year grant funding from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“Healthy, resilient forests are essential to our economy, safety and overall quality of life,” said Placer County Board of Supervisors District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes. “By investing in the long-term resilience of French Meadows, we protect our fire vulnerable communities while improving forest health and our important watershed.”

The project involves clearing underbrush, thinning smaller trees, removing biomass to renewable energy facilities, reforestation, restoring meadows and using prescribed burns. The goals are to promote forest resilience to stressors such as wildfire, insect and disease outbreaks and climate change. Protecting and restoring habitat for fish and wildlife is also a top priority with the aim of safeguarding the water supply and resources. 

“This grant award shows that the state is supportive of the innovative partnership work being done in Placer County to address wildfire safety and forest health,” said Brett Storey, principal management analyst with Placer County Environmental Utilities. “It is incumbent upon all stakeholders to come together to address this important issue and it is encouraging to see the state's continued partnership in this project.”

With limited U.S. Forest Service resources already engaged on other forest resiliency projects in the American River watershed, a diverse group of partners worked to design, manage and fund the project in close partnership with the Forest Service, which owns much of the land the project would address.  

Key partners include: 

  • Placer County Water Agency 
  • The Nature Conservancy 
  • Placer County 
  • American River Conservancy 
  • Sierra Nevada Research Institute at the University of California, Merced 
  • Sierra Nevada Conservancy 

Hotter and drier conditions, decades of fire suppression and past logging practices have combined to make California’s forests more vulnerable to high-severity wildfire. Massive tree die-offs due to years of drought and widespread insect infestations, year-round fire weather conditions and overgrown young-growth forests have all combined to create severe fire risks, particularly in the Sierra.  

The uptick in devastating megafires puts people and nature at risk. Wildfires can also damage vast expanses of forest habitat, threaten the lives of people and communities nearby, and endanger the source of water for millions of people.

This public-private partnership can address these issues and serve as a model for increasing the pace and scale of ecologically-based forest management and fuels reduction throughout the Sierra Nevada.