As the California Legislature wound down its 2021 session, lawmakers passed an unprecedented continuous allocation to wildfire prevention and forest health programs. The allocation, found in Senate Bill 155, not only adds an additional $1 billion to forest health programs, but also secures funding previously promised, but not continuously appropriated, in 2018’s Senate Bill 901 (Dodd) through 2023-24. The bill continuously appropriates $200 million annually from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which accrues revenues from the state’s Cap-and-Trade Auction program, through the 2028-29 fiscal year. SB 155 also requires the California Natural Resources Agency to report annually to the Legislature on the use of the funds, including the amount of funding spent on programs and the projects implemented by each program.
RCRC, along with several members of the Legislature and other key stakeholders, has been seeking such an appropriation since SB 901’s passage to secure continuous funding for wildfire mitigation and forest resilience programs. If signed by the Governor, the funding will be dedicated each year without a need for allocation through the annual State Budget package.
Senate Bill 170, known as Budget Bill Jr., also contained substantial funding for a number of forest health and wildfire prevention programs, including:
- $155.3 million to CAL FIRE from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for the Fire Prevention Grants Program, which provides funding for local community fire prevention projects;
- $100 million to CAL FIRE for near-term fire resilience activities;
- $67 million to CAL FIRE for longer term forest health programs, including assistance to non-industrial landowners and funding for the CAL FIRE nursery program to promote reforestation;
- $40 million for CAL FIRE’s Fire Prevention Grants program;
- $50 million to CAL FIRE for urban greening and urban forestry projects;
- $15 million for the California Conservation Corps Forestry Corps program;
- $67.8 million to CAL FIRE for near-term local post-fire recovery and restoration activities, along with forest workforce training and development;
- $19 million to CAL FIRE for tribal forest health grants;
- $20 million to CAL FIRE for a prescribed fire liability pilot program; and
- $61.1 million to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy for local assistance grants, which include wildfire prevention, climate resilience, and natural resource protection projects.
The SB 170 funding is additional to the funds approved earlier this year, and brings the total State Budget expenditures on wildfire and forest health to more than $1.5 billion this year.