California bipartisan natural resource legislation passes unanimously | SierraSun.com

California bipartisan natural resource legislation passes unanimously

Submitted to Sierra Sun

As California's unprecedented wildfire season marches on, Sierra Nevada forests and watersheds stand at a critical point. Bipartisan legislation passed today, however, will increase the pace and scale of restoring the region's forests and watersheds.

AB 2849, co-authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) and Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle (R-Redding) and sponsored by Sierra Business Council (SBC), formally recognizes the Sierra Nevada Conservancy's (SNC) Watershed Improvement Program, broadens SNC's legislative partners, and ensures California tribes can apply for SNC grant funding.

The bill passed unanimously.

"While historic wildfires rage throughout the state, we must pass this bipartisan measure to protect our state's most important watershed in the Sierra Nevada region. This bill will help restore habitats, water sources, and local communities after the fires have been put out," stated Stone.

Under current law, SNC is able to grant funds and carry out projects that support the improvement of the environmental, economic, and social well being of the Sierra Nevada region.

The Watershed Improvement Program (WIP) is a collaborative effort designed by SNC, in partnership with the United States Forest Service and other government agencies, to restore the health of Sierra Nevada forests and watersheds by increasing the pace and scale of science-based restoration to decrease the occurrence of large wildfires and to prevent further degradation of these vital ecosystems.

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As a formally recognized program authorized by AB 2849, SNC can better implement the WIP to protect the source of 60 percent of California's developed water supply and ensure that the Sierra's forests continue to provide critical air, wildlife, climate and recreational benefits for all Californians.

Dahle noted the imperative timeliness of the bill, "After the historic Carr Fire and the constant threat of wildfire throughout my district, it's more important than ever to restore what's been destroyed and find ways to reduce how often these destructive wildfires happen here. That's why I urge the Governor to sign AB 2849; our communities and open spaces depend on it."

SBC President, Steve Frisch, says of the bill's victory, "Sierra Business Council congratulates Assembly members Mark Stone and Brian Dahle on the passage of this important bipartisan legislation that recognizes the Watershed Improvement Program as a critical new strategy to restore forests and watersheds and mitigate risk from future wildfire in the Sierra. We are also thrilled that the bill recognizes the critical role the Sierra plays in California's water supply by broadening the base of legislative representation in developing and implementing new strategies to reduce risk and by extending Sierra Nevada Conservancy program opportunities to all state recognized tribal entities."

AB 2849 moves next to Governor Jerry Brown's desk for signing.

Source: Sierra Business Council