Accelerating restoration on national forests in California

Contact(s): Paul Wade, (707) 562-9010


Forest Service Shield Blue Forest Conservation World Resources Institute Yuba Water Agency NFF Logo 2 Sierra Nevada Conservancy
 

Pilot project to begin on Yuba watershed

VALLEJO, Calif.—With recent wildfire activity breaking records in California and requiring year-round response, testing new landscape-level models to deploy forest management techniques that improve the health of California's national forests has never been more critical. This is particularly true when the model being tested would provide a consistent influx of private investment dollars to amplify federally appropriated funds.

The USDA Forest Service has partnered with Blue Forest Conservation and the World Resources Institute to pilot the Forest Resilience Bond (FRB), a financing vehicle that will enable private capital to fund forest restoration. The inaugural FRB will be launched in the Tahoe National Forest, with Blue Forest raising private investor funds for the Yuba Project in the North Yuba River watershed. Planned Forest Service treatments include ecologically driven forest thinning, meadow restoration, prescribed burns, and invasive plant management will be deployed to mitigate fire risk on California's national forest lands. By utilizing investor capital, the FRB will accelerate landscape and watershed restoration, while leveraging funds from public and private beneficiaries to reimburse investors over time. In addition to the Forest Service, the Yuba Water Agency and the State of California are contributing to the project. The National Forest Foundation will serve as the implementation partner, managing all forest restoration work associated with the Yuba Project.

The FRB was developed over the last three years with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, Packard Foundation, Bella Vista Foundation, and Fink Foundation with additional support provided through grants from the USDA-NRCS, USDA-SBIR, and the EPA Healthy Watershed Grant program administered by the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities. Investors in the Yuba Project include the Rockefeller Foundation, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, Calvert Impact Capital, and CSAA Insurance Group, part of AAA Insurance.

At a total estimated cost of $4.6 million, the pilot project brings together private and public partners in an innovative way to invest in the restoration of approximately 15,000 acres in the North Yuba River watershed.Recognizing the potential for this project to benefit local water and power resources, the Yuba Water Agency is contributing $1.5 million over five years to reimburse FRB investors and demonstrate the viability of this new partnership model.

The pilot project will take place in Sierra County, although the planned activities will also directly benefit residents of Yuba County. Upon completion of a successful pilot, a potential second phase could include a much larger area within the Yuba River Watershed.

"If this pilot project works as planned, it could mean really big things for our ability to reduce the fuel load by thinning the forest in a healthy, responsible way, thereby significantly reducing the fire risk to our residents, while bringing great benefits to the Yuba watershed," said Yuba Water Agency Vice-Chairman Randy Fletcher. "The board unanimously supported this project due to its benefits for Yuba County's water quality, quantity, healthier forest, air quality, economy and environment."

In addition to Yuba Water Agency's support, $2.6 million from California's Climate Change Investment grant program and $500,000 from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy has been awarded to the project. Investment capital from the FRB will serve a crucial role in accelerating restoration treatments and providing financial flexibility for project implementation. This is especially relevant with projects supported by the California Climate Investment grant program, which is made available for reimbursement only after work is completed and expenses incurred.

"This pilot program not only demonstrates a new mechanism for funding forest health projects, but also highlights the collaborative nature of modern National Forest land management. We are excited and honored to be part of a team that includes local and state agencies, non-profit partners, and organizations like Blue Forest Conservation and the World Resources Institute," said Eli Ilano, Tahoe National Forest Supervisor.

After a variety of treatments are applied, researchers will monitor the impacts on water supply in the region, providing critical data to quantify exactly how forest health can benefit watersheds. The research could help spark additional future investment in forest management.

"As a private financing mechanism, the FRB increases the pace and scale of forest health treatments for the Yuba watershed," said Blue Forest Conservation Managing Partner Zach Knight. "We hope this pilot can serve as a template for any state struggling to fund forest restoration work."

"We believe that ultimately this partnership will improve forest health, support job growth in rural communities, and provide more opportunities to get wood from overly-dense forests out to market," said Regional Forester Randy Moore of the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Region.

###

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.



Key Contacts

Media Relations Main Line:
707-562-9004

Email (send questions):
MediaDeskR5@fs.fed.us

Brenda Kendrix (Media Relations Officer):
707-562-9011

Paul Wade (Media Relations Back Up):
707-562-9010



https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r5/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD601948