New initiative will provide seed funding to public and private sector ideas for rapidly improving forest health in the Tahoe Basin
TAHOE CITY, Calif. (Aug. 20, 2019) – The Sierra Nevada forest is home to over 100 million dead trees, and in the Tahoe Basin, tree mortality has exploded to 160,000 in the past few years. At a dinner event attended last night by California and Nevada Governors Newsom and Sisolak, and Senators Cortez-Masto and Feinstein, the nonprofit Tahoe Fund launched the Smartest Forest Fund. Designed to use philanthropy to drive innovation through seed funding, the Smartest Forest Fund will invest seed funding in new ideas and pilot projects that will significantly increase the pace and scale of forest restoration, bolstering the great work already underway by the US Forest Service, California and Nevada.
“Many people believe it is not a matter of if, but when we will face a catastrophic wildfire in the Tahoe Basin,” said John Jones, Tahoe Fund Board Member who is leading the initiative. “We know the devastation that occurred with the Camp Fire in Paradise, California could happen here. For this reason, the Tahoe Fund has identified forest health as our number one priority.”
To get started, the Tahoe Fund announced it will support three projects:
- A $30,000 grant will be provided 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. Combined with automated recording device deployment, this will more efficiently detect individual owls and thereby shorten the existing process from two years to one year.
- A $35,000 grant will join 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 $35,000 grant to support the efforts of the Nevada Division of Forestry will be provided to begin the process of re-starting the Carson City Biomass facility. Once restarted, the facility will create a new off-taker of excess timber less than 20 miles from the Tahoe Basin.
Although significant barriers to forest restoration planning and implementation exist today, the intent of the Smartest Forest Fund is to remove those barriers through technology and innovation. Projects supported by the Smartest Forest Fund will:
- Dramatically decrease the time it takes to plan and approve restoration work
- Use technology to enhance wildlife studies and harvesting plans
- Find new outlets for excess fuel in the forest
- Prepare the community for wildfire evacuation
- Find new financial tools to do more, quickly
“We know that some of the ideas and projects the Smarter Forest Fund supports will work, and some may not. Working together with our public agency partners, we believe there is an opportunity to harness the power of philanthropy and the private sector to help fix our forest,” continued Jones.
This fall, in partnership with Tahoe’s forest management agencies, the Tahoe Fund will launch a call for innovative project ideas that align with the goal of increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration. Public agencies and private sector organizations will be invited to submit their ideas for funding. Tahoe Fund will also provide opportunities to collaborate with the public agencies and an experimental forest in the Lake Tahoe Basin to test out the ideas that are brought forward.