Addressing Policy & Process Constraints Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program

By supporting partners and engaging with key policy makers, the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program (WIP) has been working to address policy and process constraints that increase the cost and complexity of restoration work.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) signed a Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) master agreement, which allows state entities within the CNRA to complement the work being done by USFS staff on California’s national forests over the next 10 years. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy has been in discussions with the Tahoe, Plumas, and Sierra national forests about the possible use of this creative governance tool to increase the pace and scale of restoration.

Caples and Independence Lake Prescribed Burns

In the fall of 2015, a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) was signed by state and federal land managers, non-governmental organizations, and prescribed fire councils committing to an increase in the use of fire for ecological and other management benefits. Together, signatories of the MOU are working to increase capacity of agencies to utilize fire for resource benefit, address policies that limit the use of fire, and improve education and communication around the beneficial qualities of prescribed fires and fires managed for resource benefit.

In fact, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Sierra National Forest have started to discuss the development of a first-of-its-kind combined National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)/California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis on the use of fire for restoration across the entire Sierra National Forest landscape. Fire, in the right place and at the right time, will be a key tool for increasing the pace and scale of restoration across the Sierra Nevada.

The importance of healthy Sierra watersheds, and the value of the WIP, have also been called out in a number of statewide plans and reports, including:

In addition, in the Fall of 2016, AB 2480 was signed into law, recognizing source watersheds as integral components of California’s water Infrastructure. This definition places upper watersheds on a level playing field with built infrastructure, and may make them more eligible for funding in the future.

The process used to identify and quantify forest and watershed restoration will be organized through the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program (WIP), with the goal of making California’s forests and watersheds more resilient to wildfire, climate change, and invasive species.

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