PG&E announces grant recipients for better management of forests and watershed lands

By on November 30, 2017

In support of projects that examine new and better ways of managing forests and watershed lands to help prevent wildfires, Pacific Gas and Electric Company has announced grants to two nonprofit organizations in northern California. Better Together Resilient Communities grants of $100,000 each have been awarded to Ag Innovations, based in Sebastopol, and Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, located in Taylorsville.

“We are committed to finding real, lasting solutions to climate change by helping California communities build resilience to wildfire risk. The organizations we have recognized with funding have been deliberate, focused and committed to studying real, tangible ways that we can tackle climate challenges together. It’s going to take time, which is why we are committing support over five years, but I’m confident that programs like these are what will lead to meaningful results,” said Geisha Williams, PG&E Corporation CEO and president.

Ag Innovations’ winning grant proposal will partner with the Sonoma County Water Agency. They plan to convene opportunities to bring together public agencies, private landowners, tribes, scientists, and forestry experts to develop collaborative solutions for managing vegetation in the Lake Sonoma Recreation Area (LSRA). The project will develop solutions that improve erosion and wildfire management while protecting the local water supply and forest health. LSRA is a critical source of water for more than 600,000 people in Sonoma County.

“The Sonoma County Water Agency is excited about the opportunities to reduce the threat of wildfire in the Lake Sonoma area. A major fire in this area could pose a serious threat to our drinking water supply,” said Shirlee Zane, chair of the Water Agency Board of Directors.

Joseph McIntyre, president of Ag Innovations, echoed Zane’s comment saying, “We are grateful that PG&E has chosen to invest in community-based collaborative solutions for the Lake Sonoma area. After the devastating fires of last month, it is critical that we find more effective ways to reduce fuel loads, improve watershed health, and protect the future of this crucial piece of Sonoma County’s natural infrastructure. We believe that the way to make true progress is by bringing together leaders from diverse groups to find higher ground. This grant will go a long way in helping us harness the collective knowledge in our community to make lasting change that we can share with others.”

Sierra Institute is initiating a project akin to Ag Innovations’ efforts as they work to reduce fire risk in the headwaters of the California State Water Project, including Upper Feather River, Upper Mill Creek and Upper Deer Creek areas, while continuing to support the local rural area.

The Sierra Institute’s Executive Director Jonathon Kusel, explained that, “This grant will support work with a powerfully diverse mix of local partners on some of the last free-running trout streams in California and across a landscape facing high risk of catastrophic wildfire. This work will help us contribute to California’s broader climate resilience and upper watershed improvement efforts. The Sierra Institute works with our partners to advance projects that benefit the environment and improve local socioeconomic outcomes and rural communities.”

Two earlier grant winners were announced in September: the University of California, Merced, and the Karuk Tribe of California were both presented with grant awards for their innovative examinations of ways to prevent and prepare for increasing wildfire risk. The awards to Ag Innovations and Sierra Institute represent an expansion of PG&E’s Better Together program, doubling its investment from $1 million to $2 million, or four $100,000 grants every year for five years.

“As the impacts of climate change on our planet become more apparent, we need creative strategies to assess, learn and share best practices on building climate resilience. PG&E’s Better Together Resilient Communities grant program is funding essential work toward these goals. By doubling the number of grantees, PG&E is demonstrating its commitment to a more resilient future,” said PG&E Sustainability Advisory Council member Heather Zichal, president of Zichal, Inc., a domestic and international energy advisory consultancy.  Zichal was a former climate advisor to President Obama.