Cal Fire gives nearly $1 million for fire safety in Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative plans fuel-reduction projects to reduce risk|

The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative has received a Cal Fire California Climate Investments Fire Prevention grant of $934,286 to fund an additional three years of hazardous wildfire fuels reduction and planning in Sonoma Valley, announced Joe Plaugher of Sonoma Land Trust.

“This grant builds upon the significant successful outcomes funded through an initial $1,055,575 Fire Prevention grant in 2018,” said Plaugher, the current director of the Collaborative, in a news release. “The proposed projects will reduce risks to life and property within the wildland urban interface along the Highway 12 corridor, including five communities at risk and over 9,000 habitable structures.”

The Collaborative has been working with Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit on a long-term strategy to accomplish hazardous fuel reduction priorities within the wildland-urban interface while increasing ecosystem resilience to wildfire and climate change. “Our partnership-based approach leverages state and local resources to support a long-term strategy to increase forest health and support ecosystem adaptation to climate change on a landscape scale,” Plaugher said in the release.

Among the local projects that will receive funding from the grant package is vegetation clearing along Pythian Road leading to Hood Mountain Regional Park, which will continue through the end of the month.

Other projects earmarked for action include thinning and retreatment of previously-thinned acreages in the Bouverie Preserve; clearing and maintenance at Jack London State Histoirc Park, and a shaded fuel break along Bennett Ridge at Trione-Annadel State Park. A total of 168 acres of hazardous fuel reduction, including maintenance on 111 acres in previously treated units and 57 acres of new treatments, are funded in this round of fire prevention grants.

“But counting just the acres sells it short because a lot of the money goes to capacity building, as well as all the prep work that supports the prescribed burning (which is a few hundred acres as well by this point),” Plaugher said.

The nearly $1 million going to the Collaborative is part of nearly $138 million in Fire Prevention Grants for 105 fire prevention projects state-wide. The grants enable local organizations such as fire safe councils to implement activities that address the risk of wildfire and reduce wildfire potential for communities. Funded activities include fuel reduction, wildfire planning and fire prevention education.

The 2021 grants build on an initial $1,055,575 Fire Prevention grant in 2018. In addition to the two grants from Cal Fire totaling $1.99 million, the Collaborative has also received a $319,364 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Resilient Communities program, and a $500,000 direct appropriation in this year’s state budget.

The Sonoma Valley Wildland Collaborative was formed in the wake of the 2017 Nuns fire. Plaugher is its new director, following Tony Nelson who left the Land Trust in July after 14 years. The Collaborative includes Audubon Canyon Ranch, which manages the Bouverie Preserve; the Sonoma Mountain Ranch Preservation Foundation; and the Sonoma Land Trust; as well as government agencies Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, Sonoma County Regional Parks, California State Parks, California Climate Investments and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

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