California Resilience Challenge Spotlight: High Tech Forest Resilience

This is one in a series of profiles of the 12 winners of the California Resilience Challenge, a first-of-its-kind statewide initiative of the Bay Area Council and a diverse array of partners. The Challenge recently awarded $2 million in planning grants for a variety of innovative projects in communities across the state to address the growing impacts of climate change, including drought, floods, wildfires and sea-level rise.

California’s forests and woodlands store carbon and provide habitat to an extraordinary diversity of plants and wildlife. These landscapes have coevolved with fire. Historical fire suppression and the ongoing climate emergency have placed these forests at risk. So far this year, 4,112 fires have burned over 28,000 acres of California land. The length of fire season is estimated to have increased by 75 days across the Sierras and will likely increase the extent of forest fires across the state.

With a grant from the California Resilience Challenge, the Humboldt County Resource Conservation District (HCRCD) is using advanced LiDAR geospatial technology to create forest carbon inventories to promote forest health and increase wildfire resilience throughout the North Coast. These forest inventories are designed to increase the development of climate and fire resilient structures while accelerating carbon sequestration.

“Forestry restoration work is hard and expensive. Reestablishing fire resilience while maintaining carbon sequestration rates is a significant technical challenge. To achieve these goals, we need better tools. We are proposing scaling the best available forest inventory technology to achieve widely shared natural resource goals on a regional scale,” said Tim Bailey, Forest Health Coordinator at HCRCD.

This project represents some of the most ambitious efforts to implement climate adaptation and climate mitigation strategies for forested watersheds in California and will have beneficial effects for decades into the future.

HCRCD will be partnering with several North Coast counties to protect rural communities from economic and natural disaster. There are also several First Nations communities that will directly benefit from the project. Collectively, HCRDC’s geospatial analytic technology will help reduce overall exposure to hazardous smoke, reduce economic disruption from wildfire, reduce risk for emergency fire responders, and improve ecological conditions in forests.

Special thanks to California Resilience Challenge funders PG&E, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Valley Water, Metropolitan Water District, Southern California Edison, Resources Legacy Fund, Alaska Airlines, SFPUC, SD Bechtel Jr. Foundation, and Pillsbury; and special thanks to Advisory Committee members AECOM, Pillsbury, Climate Resolve, Environmental Defense Fund, Ceres, and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.

To learn more about the California Resilience Challenge, please contact Policy Associate Anna Sciaruto.

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