Forest Resilience Bond to help fund $4.6 million restoration project |

Forest Resilience Bond to help fund $4.6 million restoration project

Submitted to The Union

This summer, California experienced its largest fire in state history — the latest disaster in a growing trend toward hotter, larger and more destructive fires, according to a release from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

The Forest Resilience Bond, developed by Blue Forest Conservation in partnership with World Resources Institute, raises private capital to finance forest restoration today, to reduce the risk of severe fire tomorrow.

The Yuba Water Agency, a utility provider that recognizes the benefits of restoration to local water and power resources, has committed $1.5 million over five years to reimburse investors. In addition, the state of California has committed $2.6 million in grant funding to the project from the state’s Climate Change Investment program. The Tahoe National Forest will provide in-kind support and services and has provided all the resources associated with planning and permitting the project.

The National Forest Foundation serves as one of the project’s primary implementation partners, leading much of the forest restoration work on the ground.

The investment will kick off a forest restoration project protecting 15,000 acres of forestland in the North Yuba River watershed using ecologically based tree thinning, meadow restoration, prescribed burning and invasive species management — all specifically designed to reduce the risk of severe fire, improve watershed health and protect water resources. The restoration treatments are prescribed by the Forest Service, benefit from public comment, and rely on the work of existing restoration crews.

The board of the Yuba Water Agency “unanimously supported this project due to its benefits for Yuba County’s water quality, quantity, forest health, air quality, economy and environment,” Yuba Water Agency Vice-Chairman Randy Fletcher said in the release. “It could mean really big things for our ability to reduce the fuel load by thinning the forest in a healthy, responsible way, thereby significantly reducing the fire risk to our residents, while bringing great benefits to the Yuba watershed.”

As the prescribed forest management techniques are applied in the North Yuba River watershed, researchers from the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced and the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University will monitor the impacts on water supply and other ecosystem services, providing data to quantify the benefits of restoration activities undertaken. Findings from this research could help catalyze future investment in forest restoration by showing how healthy landscapes can reduce fire risks — and by identifying the best possible interventions.

“This pilot program not only demonstrates a new mechanism for funding forest health projects, but also highlights the collaborative nature of modern National Forest land management,” Eli Ilano, Tahoe National Forest supervisor, said in the release. “We are excited and honored to be part of a team that includes local and state agencies, non-profit partners, and organizations like Blue Forest Conservation and the World Resources Institute.”

With financing secured from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, Calvert Impact Capital, and CSAA Insurance Group, private capital will now fund the upfront costs of forest restoration, while multiple beneficiaries share in the cost of reimbursing investors over time. This marks the progression of the Forest Resilience Bond from an innovative idea to a tangible solution for scaling investment in forest health and mitigating wildfire risk.

Upon successful completion of the pilot project, Blue Forest Conservation and World Resources Institute plan to launch a second expanded phase of restoration work that covers a much larger area of the Yuba River watershed. The team is also working to identify other landscapes across the West in which the Forest Resilience Bond could play a role in promoting forest and watershed health, and mitigating wildfire risk.

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Source: Sierra Nevada Conservancy

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