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For Immediate Release
Sonoma County to provide $1 million in vegetation management grants to reduce wildfire risk
SANTA ROSA, CA | February 06, 2024
Sonoma County is now accepting applications for $1 million in grants to fund projects that protect residents from wildfires by creating fuel breaks, expanding defensible space around homes, and removing vegetation along evacuation routes in fire-prone landscapes.
The Vegetation Management Grant program, now in its fourth year, was created by the Board of Supervisors to reduce the threat of wildfires by partnering with community organizations, fire districts and resource managers to accomplish landscape-level fuel reduction efforts across Sonoma County.
All grant applications must be submitted by 3 p.m. on March 28 to Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, which manages the program.
“This program has made our county safer by investing in projects that reduce fire danger,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “We look forward to distributing this new round of grant funding to projects that can expand upon this important work.”
Since its inception, the program has provided $11.3 million in grants to 65 projects that have reduced fuel loads on 48,666 acres by using prescribed burns, grazing, hand crews and equipment to remove vegetation.
The grant funding has helped to create defensible space around 630 homes, construct 82 miles of shaded fuel breaks and reduce fuels along 64 miles of roads that serve as critical evacuation routes. The county has also approved five 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 Board of Supervisors funded the vegetation management grant program in 2020 with $25 million from the county’s settlement with PG&E over damage caused by the 2017 wildfires.
Grant guidelines and an online application form can be found on the Ag + Open Space website. The Grant Selection Committee is looking to support projects in unincorporated areas of the county where the threat of wildfire is high and landowners are working together with sufficient technical assistance to carry out successful projects. Applicants will be required to enter their proposed project to Ag + Open Space and complete the Project Entry Portal survey on the Sonoma County Community Wildfire Prevention Plan Hubsite.
“We encourage groups to work together with local and state fire agencies and think of multi-beneficial outcomes that reduce wildfire risk,” said Kim Batchelder, vegetation management coordinator and program manager. “Also, for projects that are not fully developed, we encourage interested groups to participate in the Resilient Forests and Watersheds workshops throughout the county.”
Similar to past years, the grant funding aims to support:
- Access and egress: Projects that improve safe travel on identified priority evacuation routes and firefighter access during a wildfire, including roadside vegetation management. Local fire districts can provide information about critical evacuation routes.
- Defensible space and community risk reduction: Projects that modify vegetation to stop or slow wildfire up to 100 feet from structures and along driveways and private access roads or protect critical community infrastructure such as communications facilities, water supply, medical facilities, power grid, etc.
- Wildlands fuel treatment: Modify wildland fuels (i.e., fuel breaks, prescribed burning, understory thinning, etc.) to reduce wildfire risk and enhance ecosystem services, typically more than 100 feet from structures in undeveloped landscapes.
- Community education: Projects that provide education to increase understanding of wildfire and wildfire risk reduction, including defensible space, structure hardening, fire ecology, fire risks, ecosystem, and forest health.
- Environmental compliance: Preparation of environmental compliance documents, such as the California Vegetation Treatment Program, that increase safety and allow large land-holding managers and nearby residents to achieve mutually acceptable strategies for fuels management.
County staff are hopeful that the successful proposals can be finalized and awarded grant funding by the end of May. Grantees will have 18 months to complete their projects.