Community Build

A 2-year project, helping communities throughout the Sierra utilize local biomass. The Community Build project is funded through the Sierra Nevada Conservancy by the state Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Fund.

About the Community Build Project

This project can help increase the pace and scale of forest restoration and create direct uses for woody biomass, such as wood chipping, firewood businesses, or biomass facilities that generate renewable electricity. 

If we develop local workforces and facilities to use biomass, rural communities throughout the Sierra can create new local jobs and housing, provide more public services, strengthen existing businesses and nonprofits, and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.  

Restoring Forests, Building Communities

Forests across the Sierra are at risk of a catastrophic wildfire after decades of fire suppression, lack of management, and increasing tree-die off from pests and drought. Unhealthy forests produce fewer economic and ecological benefits. To make these forests healthy and productive, Sierra Institute will assist partners in planning and developing local processing facilities.

Turning Waste into Work

Restoring forests generates woody material too small for a traditional mill. Shrubs, small-diameter trees, branches, and tops are typically burned in piles and not utilized. Also known as woody biomass, there is enough of this excess forest material to create local jobs, electricity, and other wood products that bring economic returns while decreasing carbon emissions.


Sierra Institute is looking for partners. Eligible partners include: 

  • Tribes
  • Fledgling or small NGOs
  • Small communities that may still lack a suitable organizational structure for receiving or managing funds
  • Local governments that have little experience in this area

Eligible partners may have started developing locations or may be merely talking about an idea. Developing goals and building community buy-in will be part of this grant program. 

We are not looking for county governments or well-established organizations or companies that already have a long track record of receiving funding and managing projects, though may be open to helping such organizations launch related projects if they lack experience or capacity in this particular field.

We are particularly seeking partners in rural, underserved parts of the Sierra where biomass infrastructure and forestry capacity is low. The Southern Sierra is of particular interest, as are areas struggling to recover from wildfire or the long decline of the timber industry. 

Work Involved

We are prepared to work with partners through several different steps. The first is to assess the status of the project and the capacity and needs of the organizations involved, typically utilizing (as one step) a one-day workshop. We will then work together to create a project timeline with clear objectives and steps for work over the life of this project and beyond.

If the community wants to develop a brownfield, such as an old mill site (which we encourage), we will work with them to secure funding from the US EPA Brownfields Program for site assessment and, if necessary, cleanup.

Sierra Institute can provide:

  • Ongoing logistical support
  • Networking and information sharing opportunities 
  • Leadership training
  • Technical and policy information (and other resources)
  • Limited funding for technical support


If you are interested in joining this program or know someone who might be, please contact Zoe Watson at Sierra Institute by email or phone at 530-284-1022.

Current Partners Include

Butte County Fire Safe Council (Butte County)
The Butte County Firesafe Council is working with community partners to advance bioenergy and other biomass utilization options in Paradise and elsewhere in Butte County. In addition to long-term objectives of facilitating forest management and reducing emissions, conversations have centered around integrating biomass utilization with Camp Fire recovery to provide a local outlet for burned forest material, local employment opportunities, and energy independence during PG&E outages.

Sierra Resource Conservation District/Auberry Mill site (eastern Fresno County)
The Sierra Resource Conservation District (SRCD) is leading an initiative called the Sierra Resilient Landscape Collaborative that aims to establish a biochar and bioenergy production facility at the former Auberry Mill Site. A wood products campus will utilize multiple technologies with multiple end products.

Alpine Biomass Collaborative (Alpine County)
The Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) is both a collaborative group and a nonprofit (both have the same name), both devoted to opening a biomass utilization facility in Alpine County. An all-volunteer group, ABC has already completed two feasibility studies with a third on the way, designed to assess the economics of two leading options, one of which is expected to proceed to implementation this year.