Nearly all of the trees in previously forested areas within the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort were killed in the 2021 Caldor Fire. The SNC funded 15 different wildfire recovery and forest resilience projects throughout the Sierra-Cascade region at its March 2 board meeting, including roughly $1 million to help remove dead and dying trees from Sierra-at-Tahoe in the Eldorado National Forest. (Photo: El Dorado Resource Conservation District).

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy approves $27 million in Watershed Improvement Program grants 

At its March 2 quarterly meeting in Sacramento, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy Governing Board approved just more than $27 million in Watershed Improvement Program grants to wildfire recovery and forest resilience, recreation, and land conservation projects. The funds were awarded to 18 different projects throughout the Sierra-Cascade region.

“The Sierra Nevada Conservancy is proud of the 15 grants awarded to a remarkable group of wildfire-recovery and forest-resilience projects across California’s Sierra-Cascade,” said SNC Executive Officer Angela Avery. “They are part of the state’s all-hands response to a wildfire crisis that has hit our region hard. We have moved quickly to fund work that will protect iconic species like the giant sequoia, help forests damaged in recent fires recover, and build resilience on treasured landscapes that many thousands of Californians call home and millions more rely on for water, recreation, and clean air.”

The Watershed Improvement Program is a large-scale, holistic effort to restore resilience to forested landscapes and communities throughout the Sierra-Cascade. Money for the grant programs comes from recent state wildfire and climate budgets that made over $75 million available to the SNC to fund projects in its service area.

Forest-resilience grants help with Caldor Fire recovery, protect giant sequoia
The SNC’s Board awarded 15 of the 18 grants totaling just more than $24 million to projects that help with wildfire recovery and forest resilience in the counties of Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Madera, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Tulare.

The largest grant for just under $4 million was awarded to the Whitebark Institute for its Reds Meadow Two project, which will help reduce wildfire risk for the town of Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding landscape by reducing fuels on 1,538 acres. It is part of the larger Eastern Sierra Climate & Communities Resilience Project. A grant to the El Dorado Resource Conservation District for just over $1 million to remove dead and dying trees on Eldorado National Forest in and around the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort will complement ongoing restoration efforts within the Caldor Fire footprint.  ]

Giant sequoias in Tulare and Fresno counties will get critical wildfire protection with $3.3 million going to two separate projects in and around groves of the iconic trees, the largest being $2.7 million to Save the Redwoods League for its Alder Creek Sequoia Resilience project.

A full list of Wildfire Recovery and Forest Resilience grants and details about each project is available in the March Board meeting materials.

A fen containing a variety of wildflowers, including California pitcher plants, will be part of the 320 acres in the upper Sacramento River acquired by the Siskiyou Land Trust with the help of a grant for $2.1 million from the SNC. (photo: Siskiyou Land Trust).

Conservation grant helps preserve critical land in upper Sacramento River
The board also made three awards to land conservation and recreation projects in Madera, Siskiyou and Nevada counties. The largest grant, for $2.1 million went to the Siskiyou Land Trust to acquire 320 acres in the headwaters of the upper Sacramento River. The area, which contains mixed conifer forest, mountain meadows, springs, and streams that help with water quality and quantity entering the Sacramento River, was at risk of being developed.

Andy Fristensky, SNC Field Operations and Grants Division Chief, highlighted the importance of recreation and land conservation projects to the SNC’s holistic mission.

“Projects approved today will improve access, reduce the environmental impact of recreational use, and conserve strategic lands for natural resource management and open space,” he stated. “Recreation access and land conservation, done right, are important drivers of community and natural resource resilience, boosting economic opportunities in our rural towns and preserving valuable ecosystems.”

A full list of Strategic Land Conservation grants, as well as the one Vibrant Recreation and Tourism grant, and more details about each project, is available in the March Board meeting materials.