For Immediate Release
Board of Supervisors approves another $3 million in grants for vegetation management projects
SANTA ROSA, CA | June 15, 2023
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved another $3 million in grants for 17 vegetation management projects that will fortify thousands of acres against wildfires while expanding public access to tools that reduce the threat posed by wildland blazes.
The projects are the latest to be funded by the county’s Vegetation Management Grant Program with money from the PG&E settlement over the 2017 firestorm. With Tuesday’s action, the program has now awarded $11.3 million in grants to 63 projects since 2021.
“These projects will make our county safer by removing combustible fuels in critical areas, creating fire breaks and securing evacuation routes,” said Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “They also make our county smarter by teaching people how to create defensible space around their homes without turning them into moonscapes and how to use prescribed burns to improve both public safety and our environment.”
The board Tuesday approved $2.96 million in funding for 17 projects that have completed environmental reviews. It is set to consider awarding $202,708 in July to two additional projects still undergoing environmental analysis. Altogether, the 19 projects will treat 3,392 acres of land – more than doubling the 3,125 acres treated since the inception of the program.
The county grants will be matched with more than $1.8 million in funding from organizations implementing the vegetation management projects.
Among the grants approved by the board this week:
- $360,000 for a program launched by the Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District to expand a network of fire breaks and access roads in the hills west of Lake Sonoma.
- $280,000 for the Fire Forward program at Audubon Canyon Ranch, which teaches people how to safely conduct controlled burns that reduce hazardous fuels and improve ecosystems.
- $255,000 for a Fire Safe Sonoma project to expand a shaded fuel break along Calistoga Road, a critical evacuation route that also allows firefighters better access to respond to fires in the Mark West watershed north of Santa Rosa.
- $250,000 for a Fire Safe Sonoma program that educates property owners about best practices for creating defensible space and managing their landscapes.
- $232,000 to a Conservation Corps North Bay project that will reduce combustible fuels in the Shiloh Ranch area, protecting homes in the Mayacama, Wikiup and Mark West communities.
The Vegetation Management Grant Program is overseen by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space), which received 36 complete applications for grants before the April 20 deadline. The finalists approved by the board Tuesday were selected by an evaluation committee composed of representatives from Permit Sonoma, Cal Fire, Sonoma Water, Regional Parks and Ag + Open Space.
In 2020, the Board of Supervisors set aside $25 million of the PG&E settlement to fund vegetation management projects and support “generational change” in the county to reduce the threat and impacts of wildfires. Approximately $9.5 million still remains to be allocated from that initial sum.
In a related action, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday authorized Permit Sonoma to contract with local fire protection districts on projects to improve the region’s defenses against wildfires. The board authorized the agency to spend up to $900,000 annually over the next five years on contracts to provide chipper services, conduct fire safety inspections and remove hazardous vegetation from areas at risk of wildfires.
“Our relationships with local fire districts to help promote vegetation management, inspections and other fire prevention practices are critical to our efforts to reduce the risk of wildfire throughout Sonoma County, and I thank the board for voting to continue them,” said county Fire Marshal Steve Mosiurchak.