From Our Executive Officer
As we enter a new year, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s (SNC) mission to protect, restore, and revitalize California’s Sierra Nevada-Cascade region is more important than ever. Much of the Sierra-Cascade got a break from fire and smoke, but not from risk, as climate change and associated extreme weather and wildfire risks pose ongoing threats to our landscapes and our communities.
While California works to continue addressing the forest-health and wildfire crises statewide, the SNC and our dedicated team will remain focused on effectively and efficiently supporting the stewards of California’s Sierra-Cascade. The past year shows that determination, innovation, and teamwork can yield great benefits for the land, those who call it home, and all who depend on it for water, clean air, or access to its many splendors.
Angela Avery | Executive Officer
Record Funding Awarded, Even Greater Demand
Increased state budget investments have enabled the SNC to respond quickly to consecutive record-shattering wildfire seasons and ramp up investment in nature-based climate solutions. In 2022, we awarded a record $34 million in grants through our Watershed Improvement Program.
$23 million awarded to wildfire-recovery and forest-resilience projects:
- 18 forest- or community-protection projects
- 5 wildfire-recovery projects
- 24,000 acres to be treated
- 580,000 acres under planning
- 1 workforce-development project
- 1 biomass-utilization project
$11 million awarded to projects that advance California's 30x30 strategy:
- 5 fee-title acquisitions
- 4 conservation easements
- 14,000 acres to be conserved
- 16 recreation-access projects
- 160 miles of trail development or improvement
Oversubscribed Grant Programs
For the 2021-22 fiscal year, the SNC received $61 million from California’s historic wildfire and climate budget packages. We’ve received over $150 million in grant proposals for this funding. We awarded $31 million in 2022 and expect to award the rest by June 2023.
SNC’s grant programs continue to be in high demand, indicating that regional partners are ready for funding to advance priority projects. As always, SNC staff continue to work with unfunded applicants to find other funding opportunities for their projects.
Projects Deliver Success in 2022
We closed out nine implementation projects and nine planning projects in 2022. This includes two priority wildfire-resilience projects that were catalyzed by the historic 2021 state budget.
- Historic state budget investments protect communities, watersheds, and hospital
- Bootsole project using Dixie Fire to build resilience in Plumas National Forest
- Wildfire risk reduced near Scotts Flat Reservoir, Nevada City
- Landscape-scale project restoring forests and protecting Mammoth Lakes
Program Innovations to Scale Impact Across Entire Landscapes
Along with much of the western United States, California is playing catch-up to address a large backlog of restoration that is needed to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. Planning and acting at scale is essential if we are going to put a meaningful dent in the forest-health and wildfire crisis.
Landscape Investment Strategy
The current funding model is not set up to support projects across an entire landscape. New funding is often needed at each stage of a project’s life cycle, which leads to a piecemeal approach to large-scale projects that adds to administrative costs and delays.
Our Landscape Investment Strategy, launched in September 2022, will pool funding from multiple sources and deliver larger grants to landscape-scale restoration initiatives. This new strategy was developed in coordination with SNC’s implementation partners, who develop, plan, and implement restoration projects. We expect to award our first landscape grant in 2023.
Capacity Building with RFFCP
Unpredictable funding constrains investments in organizational and workforce capacity, ultimately increasing the time it takes to get work done. To date, we have used over $9 million from the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program (RFFCP) to strengthen organizational capacity to plan and prioritize projects.
In 2023, we plan to use RFFCP funding to support our Landscape Investment Strategy by funding landscape-scale planning activities and building a pipeline of projects.
2022 WIP Highlights:
Advancing State Priorities While Building Regional Resilience
SNC's investments through the Watershed Improvement Program align with state priorities articulated in numerous key planning documents.
SNC’s Watershed Improvement Program efficiently and effectively invests money in community-led projects that advance a wide range of state priorities. Wherever possible, SNC supports projects that advance multiple priorities and achieve multiple benefits. This approach is a core part of how SNC does business.
- Fuel reduction protected Markleeville during Tamarack Fire
- Advancing 30x30 conservation in the Sierra-Cascade
- Giant sequoia protection efforts underway in southern Sierra
- Sierra Nevada Journeys' ranch acquisition
- Forestry project complete at Feather River reservoir
- ’Inimim Forest restoration helps protect towns, wildlife habitat
- Wildfire-safety work done in South Fork Mokelumne watershed
- Sly Park meadow restoration boosts water quality, access
A Focus on the Future
In 2023, we begin the process to create a new strategic plan, which will guide us through the next five years in an ever-changing world.Stay tuned for opportunities to help shape our efforts to steward California's Sierra-Cascade region.