For Immediate Release
Sonoma County authorizes $2 million for fourth round of vegetation management projects
SANTA ROSA, CA | November 07, 2023
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors authorized another $2 million today for projects that protect residents from wildfires by creating fuel breaks, expanding defensible space around homes, and removing vegetation along evacuation routes and in fire-prone landscapes.
The Board of Supervisors also approved changes to the 3-year-old vegetation management grant program that will allow the county to prioritize projects that align with the objectives of local and state fire agencies and county departments.
“We are enhancing the county’s ability to support a wider and more successful range of vegetation management projects in the communities and landscapes that face the greatest threats from wildfires,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, vice chair of the Board of Supervisors. “Today’s $2 million investment, along with the changes to the vegetation management grant program, will make our county safer.”
The Board of Supervisors created the vegetation management program in 2020, setting aside $25 million from the county’s settlement with PG&E over the 2017 Tubbs fire. The program, administered by Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, has awarded $11.5 million in grants to 65 projects proposed by community organizations, fire districts and nonprofits.
In all, the first three rounds of grants have reduced fire danger on 3,045 acres by reducing fuel loads using prescribed burns, grazing, hand crews and equipment to manage vegetation. The grants have created defensible space around 630 homes, constructed 82 miles of shaded fuel breaks and reduced vegetation along 64 miles of roads that serve as critical evacuation routes. The program has approved five additional projects that will reduce fire risks on 45,621 acres under the state’s Vegetation Treatment Program, which provides for streamlined environmental review to expedite projects that protect the public from wildfires.
The changes approved by the board today will create a two-track approach to award the fourth round of vegetation management grants in 2024. Half of the money allocated for 2024, or $1 million, will be awarded through the existing competitive grant selection process that has been used since 2021. Requests for proposals will be issued in January and grants will be awarded in April.
The remaining $1 million will be awarded to projects identified through a series of workshops that began in September and will continue through June 2025. The Resilient Forests & Watersheds Workshops allow landowners to develop vegetation management projects with help from technical advisors from local resource conservation districts, Cal Fire, fire professionals and other partner organizations. This funding track will incentivize landowners to work with neighbors and community organizers to accomplish high-priority landscape treatments that are technically sound and fully compliant with the California Environmental Quality Act. A schedule of upcoming workshops will be posted in the coming weeks on the vegetation management grant program’s webpage.
The board extended the time-limited Vegetation Management Coordinator position at Ag + Open Space to continue to manage the grant program, coordinate the workshop series and support the Resiliency Coordination Team and technical advisory committees until October 2026. Ag + Open Space was also authorized to bring on a time-limited half-time administrative aide position to support the program. These positions are essential to support the ongoing work of the vegetation management grant program, and seek to continue to bring in additional funding for vegetation management across the county.