Smartest Forest Fund
Partners: U.S. Forest Service, California Tahoe Conservancy, Nevada Department of Forestry, Tahoe Forest & Fuels Team, Tahoe Central Sierra Initiative
Fundraising Goal: $5,000,000
California and Nevada both experienced record-breaking wildfires this year. The Sierra Nevada forest is now home to more than 100 million dead trees. In the Tahoe Basin, we have seen tree mortality explode to over 160,000 trees in just the past few years. Many feel it is not a matter of if, but when we will face a catastrophic wildfire. We know the Camp Fire in Paradise, California could happen here. For all of these reasons, the Tahoe Fund has identified forest health as our number one priority.
The Tahoe Fund launched the Smartest Forest Fund, a sub-fund of our Environmental Venture Trust, in 2019 to use philanthropy to drive innovation through seed funding. With this Fund, we plan to invest in new ideas and pilot projects. Some will work; some may not. We know our efforts will help bolster the great work already underway by the US Forest Service, California and Nevada to accelerate the pace and scale of fixing our forest.
The Tahoe Fund wants to make Tahoe’s forest the Smartest Forest on the Planet, because we believe through innovation and technology we can significantly increase the pace and scale of forest restoration in the Tahoe Basin and beyond.
Supporting these efforts is the Tahoe Fund’s highest priority. Working together with our public agency partners, we know there is an opportunity to harness the power of philanthropy and the private sector to increase the innovation and technology needed to significantly increase the pace and scale of the restoration.
We have supported the following projects:
-A grant to the US Forest Service to develop an acoustic monitoring protocol and system to more effectively determine the value of habitat and the occurrence of the California spotted owl in project areas, and combined with automated recording device deployment, more efficiently detect individual owls and thereby shorten the existing process from two years to one year.
–A grant joined the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s support of Salo Sciences and Planet’s efforts to build the California Forest Observatory, an interoperable, aggregated data platform that will support dynamic, real-time wildfire risk mapping. If successful, it could significantly reduce the time needed for forest restoration planning, and also support emergency operations.
-A grant to Vibrant Planet for the Tahoe version of Land Tender, a software system that utilized hi def imaging (LiDAR) and AI to help reduce the time it takes to plan forest resilience projects from years down to months.
-The funding of a log resource study for the 75 mile radius around the Loyalton Biomass Facility.
-The Tahoe Fund is also supporting the efforts of the Nevada Division of Forestry to begin the process of re-starting the Carson City Biomass facility that is co-located at the Carson Prison, and to restart the Loyalton Biomass Facility. Once re-started, these will create new off-takers of excess timber from the Tahoe Basin.
We know there are still many barriers. Forest restoration permitting in the Tahoe Basin takes 5 to 7 years due to Federal permitting requirements. The projects are very labor-intensive and expensive. We lack a good market for excess fuel in our forest. The Smartest Forest Fund hopes to remove these barriers and others through technology and innovation.
-The Smartest Forest will dramatically decrease the time it takes to plan and approve restoration work.
-The Smartest Forest will use technology to enhance wildlife studies and harvesting plans.
-The Smartest Forest will find new outlets for the excess fuel in the forest.
-The Smartest Forest will prepare our community for wildfire evacuation.
-The Smartest Forest will find new financial tools to do more work more quickly.
Eventually, Tahoe Fund will launch a call for innovative project ideas to help us meet our goals. We will invite public agencies and private sector organizations to submit their ideas for funding. Through the Smartest Forest Fund, we will provide the seed funding needed to get these off the ground. We will also provide collaboration with the public agencies and an experimental forest in the Lake Tahoe Basin to test out the ideas.
We need your help to create the Smartest Forest on the Planet. We need your ideas. We need your pilot projects. We need your new way of thinking. We need your innovative spirit. We need your support. We hope you will join us.