Phase One allocates $1M for 11 grants to nine local institutions for forest management projects before next fire season and workforce development to diversify local economy
TAHOE TRUCKEE, CA— In response to the region’s series of catastrophic wildfires, The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF) today awarded grants totaling $1M for phase one of its three-year, $30M Forest Futures Campaign, a comprehensive playbook that can be replicated by other communities to align local organizations around minimizing the risk of extreme wildfires through better preparation, investment in forest health and infrastructure, and diversifying local economies. The first 11 grants were awarded to nine local institutions with forest management projects that will begin before the next fire season to protect the community and build infrastructure through workforce development.
The need is urgent. Last summer, the Dixie Fire—the single largest wildfire in California’s history—destroyed many cultural and natural resources, along with the historic town of Greenville just north of Tahoe Truckee, a region that houses some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world and provides nearly 60% of the state’s water supply. In 2021, over 2.5 million acres of California land burned, and 150 million trees died.
The Sierra Nevada region has become a tinderbox due to drought, a bark beetle infestation that killed more than 16 million trees, and forest overcrowding that drains vital water out of the ecosystem and covers the forest floor with flammable fuel. Simultaneously, the rural economies in the region have lost the economic engines that ensure basic infrastructure to manage forests, including saw and paper mills, and woody biomass processing facilities. CalFire has classified the entire Tahoe Truckee region as Very High or High Fire Hazard Severity Zones.
For more than a century, we have suppressed natural wildfires as communities expanded further into forests, creating complex, inter-related issues that affect the residents, the forest, infrastructure, sustainability, and economics. We have the resources, we just need to be smarter about how they are deployed. As stewards of this important ecosystem, we have created a comprehensive approach to address immediate threats to current residents of Tahoe Truckee and create generational impact for all who love this special place. We believe Forest Futures offers the bold, entrepreneurial approach that will turn risk into opportunity through a comprehensive, scalable strategy that creates infrastructure to protect the forests and the community and transform dead wood into new, sustainable businesses and jobs.
Stacy Caldwell, TTCF CEO
Forest Futures is the culmination of more than four years of work with 97 multi-disciplinary experts to form a strategy and action plan that addresses a variety of interrelated forestry issues. These include forest management; community education; incentives to protect the wildland urban interface (WUI); improving the local economy by funding infrastructure, jobs, and new market solutions; and transforming existing resources into long-term benefits by providing loans and investments, and establishing a community endowment.
The Program applies lessons learned from COVID to remove unnecessary hurdles to access funding and get dollars out quickly using trust-based philanthropy to prioritize long-standing relationships with organizations in the community.
Environmental permitting and planning processes for fuel reduction and restoration work can often take years, so many of Forest Futures’ projects help fast track planning for large scale fuel reduction work. This creates a pipeline of approved projects that can be executed on federal, state, and private land. Forest Futures also protects communities by prioritizing strategically located projects such as a partially completed fire break on the north side of Truckee on the edge of the WUI that ran out of funding last year. Simultaneously, the Land Trust Project on the west side of Truckee will create a fire break in the Donner Lake area, complementing the fire break to the north and other projects surrounding Truckee. The workforce programs help solve persistent labor shortages by training people with the skills necessary to plan and implement these projects to increase the number of experts and field staff to do the actual work on the ground.
Our planned budgets can’t predict unanticipated costs, such as skyrocketing gas prices that are leaving projects underfunded by 10 to 20%. That’s why it can be a huge asset to have a community partner like TTCF and Forest Futures to fill the gaps between federal appropriations and true project costs.
Eli Ilano, Forest Supervisor, Tahoe National Forest
The Foundation’s involvement helps us increase the pace and scale of our efforts by creating more consistent revenue sources, and gathering input from the community and other stakeholders to help generate solutions to the very complex issues surrounding fire mitigation. For 90% of fires, we can make a significant difference by creating firebreaks, defensible spaces, and reducing fuel to create a ‘halo effect’ around the community. But, when the cost of clearing land has risen from $2000 to $5000 an acre, we need economic solutions to ensure that wood from fuel management can be transported, sorted, and processed.
Bill Seline, Fire Chief, Truckee Fire Protection District
Phase one of Forest Futures awards a total of $1M in 11 grants to nine institutions for projects that include hazardous tree removal for critical evacuation routes; working with local community organizations in recovery efforts, including the indigenous led Maidu Summit Consortium, to preserve and protect ancestral lands; promote community engagement, education, and increase public awareness; and introduce urban and rural youth to forestry management.
Grants were awarded to the following (for more details on grantees, visit https://bit.ly/36LfVyu ):
- To protect communities through fuel reduction, grants were awarded to the National Forest Foundation for three projects (North Alder Fuel Reduction for 853 acres of forest treatment and small-diameter tree removal; Five Creeks Project for tree marking and fuel reduction; and planning acceleration project for the Tahoe National Forest for fuel reduction around the Alpine Meadows Community); Truckee Donner Land Trust for completion of forest restoration work in Billy Mack Canyon and hand thinning treatments on Creekside Woods properties; and Truckee River Watershed Council for a collaborative fuel reduction and forest restoration project that crosses federal, state and private ownership boundaries;
- To protect communities through restoration planning, grants were awarded to the Feather River Land Trust to support the Dixie and Beckwourth Complex Fire Recovery planning effort;
- For infrastructure and workforce development, grants were awarded to the Maidu Summit Consortium for workforce capacity building; the Sierra Institute to increase diversity in a forestry workforce; the Sierra Nevada Alliance to support continuation of the Sierra Corps Forestry Fellowship Program; and Great Basin Institute to support forestry workforce development programs.
- For infrastructure technology, grants were awarded to VP Data Commons– Land Tender to assess the health of the Tahoe National Forest.
TTCF plans to announce grants for phase two and three of Forest Futures before the summer. For information on how to support Forest Futures, visit https://bit.ly/3tRLMqd.
About Forest Futures:
Forest Futures is a three-year, $30M campaign to protect our communities from the devastation of forest fires by aligning local organizations around fire mitigation, and investing in forest infrastructure and innovation. Through trust-based philanthropy and an integrated approach, we’re investing in forest-health to keep communities safe, diversify the local economy and accelerate innovative uses for forest waste. By safeguarding the Tahoe Truckee region we protect a vital watershed and create generational impact for all who love this special place. Our model is a comprehensive approach for community action that can be adapted anywhere to mitigate the effects of climate change, turning climate threats into regional opportunities.
About The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation:
The mission of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF) is to connect people and opportunities, generating resources to build a more caring, creative, and effective community. TTCF was established in 1998 thanks to the vision of William Hewlett who loved and worked to protect the Sierra Nevada’s. In a little more than 20 years, TTCF has served the Tahoe Truckee region by identifying emerging needs and working collaboratively with regional stakeholders, donors and nonprofits to address them strategically. TTCF holds $34 million in assets and has distributed more than $30 million, in partnership with its donors, in local grants and scholarships.