Sonoma County Boosts Wildfire Defense with $2 Million for Vegetation Management Projects

Sonoma County Boosts Wildfire Defense with $2 Million for Vegetation Management ProjectsSource: Sonoma County Ag + Open Space
Tony Ng
Published on November 09, 2023

Sonoma County, California, continues grappling with persistent wildfires, prompting action from both local authorities and the community to lessen the damage. Recently, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved an added $2 million for a fourth round of vegetation management projects as stated on their official website.

The Sonoma County Vegetation Management Program was established in 2020, funded by the $25 million settlement with PG&E over the 2017 Tubbs fire. So far, the program, managed by Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, has used $11.5 million from the grants to fund 65 projects aimed at reducing wildfire risk. Such projects, proposed by community organizations, fire districts, and nonprofits, endeavor for fire prevention through the execution of fuel breaks, the creation of defensible spaces near homes, and the removal of vegetation from evacuation routes and fire-prone areas.

To pave the way for an enhanced grant program, the Board of Supervisors' approval placed emphasis on those projects that align with the objectives of local and state fire agencies and county departments. In a statement, Supervisor David Rabbitt expressed the board's commitment to the endeavor. He expressed hope that the investment, along with adjustments to the vegetation management grant program, will help to safeguard Sonoma County residents.

Currently, the program has successfully reduced fire danger on 3,045 acres employing techniques such as prescribed burns, grazing, and the use of hand crews and equipment for vegetation management. The grants have allowed the creation of defensible space around 630 homes, constructed 82 miles of shaded fuel breaks, and reduced vegetation along 64 miles of critical evacuation routes. Under the state’s Vegetation Treatment Program, an additional five projects have been cleared, covering a whopping 45,621 acres, signaling a strong commitment towards public safety.

In a bid to continue evolving, the board has approved a two-track implementation for the fourth round of vegetation management grants in 2024. In this system, half of the $1 million will be distributed using the existing competitive grant selection process, while the other half will go to projects identified through a series of Resilient Forests & Watersheds Workshops running through June 2025. Through these workshops, landowners will be encouraged to cooperate with neighbors and community organizers, with guidance from local resource conservation districts, fire professionals, and organizations including Cal Fire as detailed on the Sonoma County website.

The Vegetation Management Coordinator position at Ag + Open Space has been extended by the Board to ensure the smooth operation and success of the vegetation management grant program. This action was taken specifically to secure additional funding for ongoing vegetation management projects.