California’s forests are increasingly characterized by their high fuel loads, drought stricken stands, increasing rates of mortality, and therefore their supreme risk of catastrophic wildfire. As the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, said in a speech in August of 2009:
The threats facing our forests don’t recognize property boundaries. So, in developing a shared vision around forests, we must also be willing to look across property boundaries. In other words, we must operate at a landscape-scale by taking an ‘all-lands’ approach.
With the goal of restoring forests and reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire, collaborative, all-lands forest restoration offers an opportunity for collective learning, resource pooling, and solutions.
Sierra to California All-Lands Enhancement (SCALE)
Sierra Cascades All-Lands Enhancement (SCALE), is the mechanism for collaboration between eleven USFS Collaborative Forestry initiatives in California. SCALE initially consisted of California’s three Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Programs: the Burney-Hat Creek Community Forest and Watershed Group, the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group and the Dinkey Creek Collaborative. It now includes eight additional groups:
- (1) The Mid-Klamath River Communities Project (Klamath National Forest)
- (2) The San Bernardino and Riverside County Fuels Reduction Project (pdf, 309 KB | San Bernardino National Forest)
- (3) The South Fork American River Cohesive Strategy Project (Eldorado National Forest)
- (4) The Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (pdf, 639 KB | Six Rivers National Forest)
- (5) The Sagehen Project (Tahoe National Forest)
- (6) The Lake Tahoe West Collaborative (Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit)
- (7) The San Gabriel/Sierra Pelona All Landscape Restoration Project (Angeles National Forest)
- (8) The Trinity County Collaborative (Six Rivers and Shasta-Trinity National Forests).
These additional groups include Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnerships, supported by the Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Cohesive Fire Strategy Projects, selected by California Governor Jerry Brown. All eleven groups are united in their purpose to advance landscape scale, often times multijurisdictional, forest restoration while improving local socioeconomic conditions.
Since 2013, the Sierra Institute has worked with SCALE groups to identify and advance key issues that represent barriers to the groups’ success. Six identified issues are (1) local contracting; (2) social and ecological monitoring to advance triple bottom line (equity-economy-environment) work; (3) budget transparency to better achieve the collaborative’s goals; (4) securing administration and facilitation services; (5) advancing all-lands approaches and impacts, and (6) identifying lessons learned to be shared among the seven groups and beyond. In the first year, the Sierra Institute, with USFS Region 5 collaboration, resolved the budget transparency issue as well as the facilitation and administrative services challenge. Other barrier issues are being addressed through efforts such as identifying and advancing local contracting mechanisms, conducting research on national CFLR socioeconomic monitoring, and working with the National Forest Foundation on socioeconomic monitoring resources. One aspect of local contracting and local socioeconomic monitoring revealed a critical first step that these collaboratives must undergo in order to truly have community benefit: defining what is actually considered to be local. The Sierra Institute advanced that issue through another project, “Defining Local.”
The Sierra Institute is integrating additional Collaboratives into SCALE. The expansion of SCALE offers an even greater opportunity to share success and lessons learned, as well as the chance to explore and overcome shared barriers to success as the groups work towards effective landscape-level forest restoration.