Sonora, CA — Tuolumne County officials in tandem with public, nonprofit and forest products industry partners are eagerly eying a multi-million dollar forest health funding pot.
So much so that yesterday a local delegation headed to Sacramento to proactively present a nearly $15 million grant proposal request to CAL Fire Director Chief Ken Pimlott.
In an interview with Clarke Broadcasting shortly after the meeting, Tuolumne County Supervisor Randy Hanvelt recounts that $200 million up for grabs is from Governor Jerry Brown’s budget from last year, which set aside cap and trade money for forest health projects. The move led CAL Fire to issue a request for proposals on how the funds should be spent. Subsequently, Hanvelt confides, “They got a ton of them…and we had not heard back from Chief Pimlott. so we asked how things were going.”
Time To Give The ‘Squeaky Wheel’ A Pull
The call to Pimlott, which Hanvelt made about ten days ago, revealed that the number and scope of the proposals had somewhat mired the review process. So Hanvelt suggested that the Tuolumne County proposal team would be more than willing to show up and personally defend its proposal and that others should, too.
Enthusiastically, he recounts, “I believe no one else has met with them before this. But we did and had a much longer meeting than we expected…presented our proposal…got a lot of good questions, a lot of hard comments — and the end result of this whole thing is that we were encouraged.” With fingers crossed he adds, “We believe we will make it to the next round — and we now have a lot of ideas on how to improve our proposal and win this thing. But for now it’s like kissing your sister, you know — nothing’s final — and while we feel reasonably good about where we are — we have a lot of work to do.”
Hanvelt says the $14.9 million proposal, involving a consortium that includes Tuolumne County, the U.S. Forest Service, Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions (YSS), Tuolumne River Trust and local industry leaders, includes 37 projects that would improve forest health and also set up for what he calls the next round of activity.
Planning Projects That Pay It Forward
“Most of the projects are on National Forest lands, because the work…would be already environmentally qualified,” Hanvelt stresses. Too, he points out, “The idea is to put this under the Master Stewardship Agreement where we can keep the money on the forest. If we can make any money off the commercial sale, we roll it into the next level of projects to get our forest healthy — right now it is very unhealthy and everybody knows that.”
Speculating on CAL Fire’s funding thoughts, Hanvelt muses, “They are being very cautious because they have to get meaningful results that improve the fire resiliency of the forest and in fact the state responsibility area.” Certainly, he maintains, “No proposals are perfect — and ours is not either — but we have lots of ways [to increase forest health], if in fact we get to the next level like we hope and expect, and we will be in much better shape to do this.”
Touting Tuolumne’s Track Record
Hanvelt says CAL Fire has not yet indicated when it expects to select the proposals that will make it to the next round but hears that some other groups will be making their presentations next week.
Proud of Tuolumne County’s record with CAL Fire and other state agencies, Hanvelt says its leadership has already demonstrated — most recently through the Tree Mortality Disaster Emergency through local and state Task Force activities — an action and results-oriented attitude along with teamwork and the ability to deliver on promises made.
That said, he maintains, “I am optimistic and encouraged that Tuolumne County will make something happen and start moving on our forest – and this has got to happen statewide for the maximum net benefit.”