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Some Examples of SNFCI Success

General summary of SNFCI successes achieved between July 2014 and December 2015:
  • Launch of the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program (WIP) in collaboration with other state, federal, and local government entities; nonprofit and community organizations; and tribes. The purpose of the WIP is to address key policy issues and coordinate investment in the Sierra Nevada to reduce risks to the benefits the Region provides. In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by CNRA Secretary John Laird and USFS Regional Forester Randy Moore in August 2015, the SNC was identified as the lead state agency responsible for organizing and implementing the WIP. The WIP Regional Strategy was developed in February 2016 and includes key information, trends, plans, and data for major categories influencing watershed health, as well as the process and timeline through which the WIP will be implemented. Most of the work previously done under SNFCI will continue under the auspices of the WIP.
  • Implementation of $1 million Rim Fire restoration grants funding. SNC collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and partners to develop a specific restoration strategy and timeline for available funding, and awarded two Category 2 assessment/planning grants of approximately $150,000 to support the Rim Fire restoration effort. These grants provide needed pre-project due diligence for identified stream, meadow, and forest restoration projects. The process is on track to award the remainder of the $1 million for project implementation in 2016.
  • Development of a Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Action Plan, to guide the SNC’s efforts in addressing the dire state of many forests in the Sierra Nevada. In December 2014, the SNC Board approved the SNFCI Action Plan. This plan was created in collaboration with the SNFCI Regional Coordinating Council (CC) and will serve as a roadmap for restoring forest health in the Sierra Nevada Region.
  • Provided five grants totaling approximately $825,000 to support projects that reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and improve forest health through the Proposition 84 grant funding program, as well as collaboration with the USFS and other partners to develop a specific restoration strategy and timeline for available funding, and award of two Category 2 assessment/ planning grants, as described in the Rim Fire restoration grant section above.
  • Through close coordination with the SNFCI Regional Coordinating Council, an MOU was developed and signed by state and federal land managers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and prescribed fire councils to capture a commitment to increase the use of fire for ecological and other benefits, and provide guidance developed by governmental and other stakeholders to address fire management across jurisdictions. The MOU will greatly increase collective ability to increase the use of prescribed fire on the landscape as a restoration tool.
  • The USFS Region 5 has been working closely with the SNFCI CC to develop a toolbox to help National Forests and local collaborative groups to more effectively retain economic benefits from restoration work in local communities.
  • The USFS Region 5 is working closely with the SNFCI CC to ensure that language is being included in forest plan revisions to enable better access and utilization of modern technology to increase access to steep slope areas for forest thinning, thereby decreasing the risk of uncharacteristically large wildfires and increasing the ability to use prescribed and managed fire as a restoration tool on the landscape.
  • A number of projects funded by SNC’s Proposition 84 grant program have been completed. Fuel reduction and restoration projects reduced the risk of large, catastrophic wildfires while promoting forest health, and meadow restoration projects improved plant and wildlife habitat. Local organizations and agencies benefitted from the work enabled by SNC grant funds, and Sierra watershed and forest health improved.
  • Through fund identification and grant review, SNC helped the Kern River Valley Heritage Foundation secure funding for site improvement and wetlands expansion for the Bob Powers Wetland Preserve near Lake Isabella.
  • SNC provided staffing and funding support for the development of a Southern Sierra Fisher Conservation Strategy, with the goal of producing a final, geographically specific, “all lands” conservation strategy for the Pacific fisher. The conservation strategy was finalized in early 2016.
  • SNC provided funding development assistance to collaborative efforts through funding consultations and grant research memos in order to support forest and biomass collaboration efforts seeking long-term sustainability by assisting them in the search for capacity-building funding through SNC partners and other opportunities.
  • SNC assisted the Sierra Institute in obtaining two Rural Community Development Grants for a total of more than $400,000 to provide resources for capacity-building in communities that are developing collaborative biomass projects.
  • SNC worked successfully with the forest health collaboratives and biomass working groups listed below to obtain over $5 million in funding for building both internal capacity and project development capacity. Assistance from staff was provided by introducing relevant funding sources to individual groups, or through direct technical assistance with application or project development:
-Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions
-Alpine Biomass to Bioenergy Group
-Mariposa Biomass Group
-Groveland Biomass Group
-Watershed Connections
-North Fork Community Power
-Camptonville Community Partnership
-State Wood Energy Team
-Northern Sierra Biomass Taskforce
-Lost Sierra Community Collaborative
  • SNC participated in various efforts to promote research, policy changes, and investment in support of SNFCI objectives, including:
-Beginning work with the USFS, CAL FIRE, and other partners on a science synthesis document that will aggregate the best available science on forest carbon, and will make policy and funding recommendations that are supported by the top Regional scientists in this field.
-Working with Secretary Laird and CNRA staff to implement actions identified in Governor Brown’s Rim Fire Emergency Proclamation and successfully confirmed California Environmental Quality Act exemptions for more than $29 million of Rim Fire restoration projects.
-Initiating support for a Sierra Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) cooperative discussion group to allow agencies and organizations to better coordinate data needs, resources, and funding opportunities. LIDAR is a remote sensing tool that can provide researchers with invaluable information regarding forest health, water supply, topographic information, and infrastructure location, all of which directly support SNFCI efforts.
  • SNC participated throughout the Region in a number of collaboratives working to improve forest and watershed health, including but not limited to:
-Dinkey Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program
-Sustainable Forests and Communities Collaborative
-Watershed Connections Working Group
-Southern Sierra Regional Water Management Group
-Amador Calaveras Consensus Group
-Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions
-Eastern Sierra Recreation Collaborative
-Alpine Biomass to Bioenergy Group
-Mariposa Biomass Group
-Burney/Hat Creek Community Forest and Watershed Group Sierra Climate                                          -Adaptation and Mitigation Partnership
-Mariposa County Tree Mortality Disaster Committee
-Diamond Mountain Initiative Working Group
  • Proposition 84 grant funding was provided for projects that met SNC criteria for biomass utilization funding under the 2013-14 grant round, including:
-Grant award for the implementation of the Mono County Thermal Biomass Project, which will provide a model of using biomass boiler systems for heating public facilities.
-Grant award for the implementation of the Plumas County Energy Wood Processing Facility, which will convert forest biomass into conditioned wood chip fuel for boilers and enable the rapid development and implementation of a larger woody renewables boiler network.
  • SNC provided technical assistance and funding support, as well as identification of additional funding sources, for projects in various stages of development within the Region. These included:
-Collaborative work by SNC staff and other agencies resulted in a $4.9 million award for the implementation of a community-scale biomass project in North Fork, Madera County.
-SNC assisted in obtaining funding for four additional projects to complete feasibility studies for bioenergy facilities, and for three projects to complete System Impact Studies in preparation for utility interconnection.
-SNC assisted the Northern California Community Loan Fund with the development of a technical assistance program for financing biomass and bioenergy projects. The program will target those projects which will most significantly increase capacity for biomass utilization, thereby potentially increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration.
-SNC helped design and fund a capacity-building program to assist 10 communities working to develop bioenergy projects.
-SNC helped to compile information and develop tools that assist in identifying the most appropriate locations for biomass utilization facilities by developing a geographic information systems (GIS) tool that identifies appropriate sites based on factors such as biomass availability, interconnection opportunities, etc., was finalized, and training was provided to SNC staff and other interested entities.
Other examples of early SNFCI success include:
  • April 2014-One of the SNC's Prop 84 Healthy Forest grant projects, the Sagehen Forest Habitat Restoration Project, is now being implemented. Joanne Robique, from the Truckee/Tahoe National Forest, formally thanked the SNC, saying, "I am very pleased to let you all know that the Tahoe National Forest was able to award our first contract implementing the decisions made for the Sagehen Project.  This is a wonderful and exciting step.  Everyone who participated has helped us get to this point.   We are also very pleased to announce that on March 12, 2014, the National Forest Foundation was awarded a $349,140 grant by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy that will allow implementation of the next phase of this project, as well."
  • April 2014-SNC Prop 84 grants program funded North Fork Biomass Project CUP Permit granted. Project Manager Steve Haze expressed "Our thanks and appreciation to all of the hard work and collaboration that went on between SNC and YSRC&D Council – and successfully securing the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) from Madera County.  This was the most important grant that we had received that supports the construction of a state-of-the-art bioenergy facility. Again, we would like to thank SNC for their confidence and support of this important initiative."
  • November 2013 - The Sierra National Forest was announced as one of the recipients of the annual Region 5 Regional Forester’s Honor Awards for the Whiskey Ridge Ecological Restoration Project.This award is given as a special tribute to those who demonstrated outstanding professionalism, customer service, and exemplary leadership in advancing the Forest Service mission.  The collaborative process and facilitation for this project was provided through a strong partnership with Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) staff and was an outgrowth of the Sustainable Forests and Communities Collaborative, also sponsored by the SNC.
  • September 2013 - $250,000 Wood Energy Team grant.The Sierra Nevada Conservancy is part of a collaborative which was recently awarded a $250,000 Wood Energy Team grant  from the US Forest Service.  This funding will be used to enhance education and technical assistance to communities pursuing bioenergy facilities and to coordinate bioenergy activities state-wide.  The program will be managed by the  Watershed Training and Research Center under the guidance of the state-wide Biomass Working Group. This award was one  of only five that were awarded nationwide, and the only project awarded in California. See the full story here.
  • Summer 2013 - Community Wildfire Protection Planning. SNC has directly funded the development of CWPP’s in high fire-risk areas within Amador and Mariposa Counties, and remains engaged with Firesafe councils across multiple counties. Those plans have been endorsed by County governments and fire agencies, and serve as a basis for wildfire response and an educational tool for forest landowners.
  • June 2013 - California projects receive nearly 20% of available awards from the USDA Forest Service’s Woody Biomass Utilization Grant Program, including the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, in Plumas County, CA for $250,000, and Calaveras Healthy Impact Products Solution, in Wilseyville, CA, for $184,405. Both projects are key bioenergy projects in the Sierra Nevada.
  • 2013 - Forest Land Conservation. SNC recently completed a land conservation transaction, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Board and Pacific Forest Trust, to permanently protect the 2,170-acre Campstool Ranch, which is a working forest and serves as a strategic fuel-break for Northern Calaveras County due to the high-quality of the management activities undertaken by the landowner.
  • Summer 2012 - Whiskey Ridge Project Scoping Field Trips draw high levels of diverse stakeholder participation. This project started as an outgrowth of the Willow Creek Planning effort, described below. It is the largest project presently proposed in the Bass Lake Ranger District, at 18,000-acres. The Sustainable Forests and Communities Collaborative has played a central role in supporting this process, and participation in the field trips has been overwhelming, both drawing over 50 people. Feedback was especially focused on timber development, roads maintenance, range, water developments and habitat restoration. The project was designed to enhance collaborative elements within the existing NEPA process.
  • February 2012 - Willow Creek Watershed Planning Collaborative completes Willow Creek Watershed Analysis Update. The Sierra National Forest was given Regional and National direction to restore watersheds to normal function, and one step in this process was to update the Bass Lake Ranger District's out-of-date Willow Creek Watershed Analysis. This project was utilized as a collaborative opportunity to better engage the community and bring stakeholders together to discuss their visions and priorities for this watershed and to engage them in the process. The participation level was impressive, with between 20 and 50 participants at each meeting and field trip.

    The deliverables of this effort are: a living, guiding document developed by the collaborative which directs future Forest Service actions in the Willow Creek Watershed; a committed and engaged stakeholder group eager to continue its work with the Bass Lake Ranger District, such as the Whiskey Ridge Project described above; and a growing public involvement in public lands management.
  • February 2012 - Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack today announced two of the collaborative forest projects supported by the SNC have been selected for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFRLP) funding. The Amador-Calaveras Collaborative Cornerstone Project will receive $730,000 in funding and the Burney Hat Creek Basins Project will receive $605,00 this year. This year, 10 projects nationwide have been selected for funding. These two projects join the Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project on the Sierra National Forest which was funded under this program in 2010.

    This funding is a significant investment of new funds that will allow work envisioned under our Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative to move forward. Congratulations to all of our partners for their hard work in moving these proposals forward.
  • February 2012 - Work ongoing Amador - Calaveras Consensus Group (ACCG) Cornerstone CFLR Project Funded. SNC was a contributing author of the proposal, and has been engaged continually with a variety of stakeholders and coalitions to ensure ongoing funding commitments for the CFLR program.  SNC has also been able to advance key projects within the context of Cornerstone through providing matching funds and financial support for aspects not funded under CFLR, such as NEPA and direct administrative and capacity-buidling support for the ACCG collaborative.
  • Spring 2011 - Present: Yosemite-Stanislaus Solutions Collaborative (YSS) Established– SNC funded the Center for Collaborative Policy for a limited term to assist the Stanislaus National Forest in establishing a collaborative effort on the southern portion of the Forest.  With a charter in place and landscape strategy having been endorsed, this collaborative is well-positioned to advance projects in a cohesive, collaborative fashion.
  • January 2010 - January 2011 - Sustainable Forests and Communities Collaborative (SFCC) Core Leadership Team completes a year of training sessions. Through a capacity-building grant from the National Forest Foundation, one dozen core SFCC leaders learned new skills related to: meeting organization and facilitation, agenda development, notetaking, dealing with difficult people, leadership. The deliverables of this training were: Increased participation and leadership in the SFCC by its members; increased effectiveness of participants and leaders in their own organizations and projects; and increased capacity for the SFCC region overall.
  • Fall 2009 -  The Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative was unanimously endorsed by all 22 Boards of Supervisors in the SNC region, in addition to over 90 additional individuals/organizations

    The SNC leads, supports or participates in a wide range of local and regional collaborations striving to achieve the triple bottom line of environmental, social and economic health in our Sierra forests and the communities to which they are connected.