SLC Awarded State Coastal Conservancy Grant to Train Wildfire Workforce and Reduce Fuels

SLC Awarded State Coastal Conservancy Grant to Train Wildfire Workforce and Reduce Fuels

April 26, 2023

By Alix Soliman, Communications & Outreach Coordinator

We’re thrilled to announce that the California State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) awarded the Santa Lucia Conservancy a $752,510 grant, funded through the California Department of Conservation’s Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program, to implement trainings that increase the region’s wildfire workforce, decrease fuels in high-risk transition areas, and support community risk reduction over the next three years.

The Santa Lucia Conservancy will work with the California Conservation Corps (CCC) and partner with the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association (CCPBA) to implement a fuel reduction workforce training program and manage over 1,000 acres of forest, chaparral, and grasslands in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. This program will instruct between 60 and 90 early-career conservation professionals in highly technical, hands-on fuel reduction skills. Trainees will assist the Santa Lucia Conservancy in reducing fuels from 125 acres of forest and removing 550 acres of flammable invasive species from chaparral and grassland habitats.

In addition, the Santa Lucia Conservancy and the CCPBA will plan four prescribed burns supporting fuel reduction in up to 350 acres of forest and mixed habitat. Preparation for the burns is made possible by capacity-building activities in this grant, but execution is funded independently. An estimated 110 attendees who are seeking Wildland Firefighter Type 2 (FFT2) Certification, including natural resource managers, ranchers, researchers, tribal members, foresters, park rangers, homeowners, and agency staff, will receive training at these burns. These burns will also create considerable opportunities for the regeneration of valley oak, blue oak, and coast redwood in areas that have not seen fire in over a century. Promoting natural regeneration through fire is an important mechanism to create a mixed-age forest stand, which builds long-term resilience in forest ecosystems.

“Mitigating the threat of catastrophic wildfire on the Preserve benefits the entire Monterey Peninsula community,” said Conservancy Executive Director Jamison Watts. “We are extremely fortunate to have the partnerships we do with the Preserve’s Community Services District, landowners, fire agencies, and now, the Coastal Conservancy to not only make the place we live, work and play safer, but more resilient to the effects of climate change including wildfire.”

Due to geography, weather patterns, and past fire behavior, the Santa Lucia Preserve functions as a wildfire buffer between the undeveloped lands of Big Sur to the south and wildland-urban interface (WUI) communities to the north and west including Carmel Highlands, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley. Governor Newsom declared the Palo Corona-White Rock Fuel Break, which runs along this transition zone on the southern edge of the Santa Lucia Preserve, an emergency fuel break project in 2019. The importance of fuel reduction in this area was exemplified during the 2016 Soberanes Fire, when 5,000 emergency responders were staged on The Preserve to prevent the fire from advancing through the property into more densely populated areas.

“The State Coastal Conservancy is excited to be working with SLC on this critical capacity-building project in the Central Coast Region,” said State Coastal Conservancy Project Manager Kostoula Vallianos. “The experience that trainees will gain from this program is foundational for building wildfire mitigation capacity in the Central Coast region, which we hope will be leveraged by local conservation and land management organizations in the years to come.”

SLC has a long history of guiding the development and implementation of fuel management to safeguard the Santa Lucia Preserve, which became a certified Firewise Community in 2021. Now, the effects of climate change and historical fire suppression have accelerated the need for a scaled-up approach that protects the region from catastrophic wildfire and strengthens the Central Coast’s fire preparation and response system.