Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program (RFFC)
In 2019, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) launched the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program (RFFC). This non-competitive block grant program, administered by the California Department of Conservation (DOC), invests in regions throughout the State to support forest resiliency planning, implementation, and capacity building. Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County is the regional grantee serving the San Diego County region.
Prior to this, our RCD and sister entity, the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County, had long been engaged in wildfire preparedness. For many years, our programs have focused on supporting homeowners in creating and sustaining defensible space and empowering residents to inform and protect their communities through the development of community Fire Safe Councils and Community Wildfire Protection Plans. The RCD and Fire Safe Council also conducted outreach through participating in safety fairs and community events and worked with agency partners to develop educational workshops. Over time our work transitioned to include larger landscape forest health projects, such as supporting vegetation management and addressing the Gold Spotted Oak Borer that has been so devastating in our county. Collaboration has always been at the heart of this work – we are stronger together.
Being part of the RFFC Program has allowed us to continue to evolve the nature of our work, develop and strengthen partnerships, and become better connected with regional and statewide efforts - and it comes at a critical time. Our changing climate, with longer droughts and more extreme weather, means that our fire season is now year-round and our already high wildfire risk landscapes are at greater risk. More communities are situated near wildlands, exposing residents to increased threat from wildfire. Our unique landscapes in Southern California have evolved with fire, but our ability to manage these landscapes has diminished due to lack of capacity and changing management practices. As a region, we are at a point where we need to learn to live with fire – to restore healthy forests and landscapes that are more resilient, to build up capacity among agencies, land managers, and land stewards to manage those landscapes, and to ensure our communities are resilient through structural hardening and defensible space.
The program goals include facilitating equitable collaboration, identifying opportunities for joint stewardship projects, providing resources for project and environmental planning, offering tools for prescribed burning and Gold Spotted Oak Borer (GSOB) management, and supporting workforce development opportunities.
Demonstration projects are implementation projects that were developed and are executed with partners through subgrant agreements, and each models a potential solution for an identified regional capacity barrier. Through round 1 funding, gaps and opportunities were identified to build partnerships and regional capacity, and then investments were made in demonstration projects with seven partners including non-profit organizations, tribes, practitioners, community Fire Safe Councils, and other community groups.
The demonstration project types funded through the first round of funding in the RFFC program include Indigenous workforce training programs, targeted GSOB management, and resources for planning and capacity building. In addition to investing in partner capacity, RCDGSDC also invested in strengthening the capacity of the program to increase outreach and engagement, development of systems for data collection and stewardship, and curating resource toolkits.
One outcome of this project is a Regional Priority Plan, which will be used as a tool in driving forward regional collaboration, prioritization, and project implementation. The first iteration of San Diego County's Regional Priority Plan was published in March 2023, you can read it below.
Stakeholders thoughout the region are encouraged to submit project plans for implementation activities that will advance wildfire and forest resilience project and initiatives.
You can participate to help inform the plan and its Priority Projects List using the online project submission tool.
The Priority Projects List map below is part of the RPP, and is a compilation of data received by participants in our first public data collection in 2022. Over 110 projects were submitted and mapped; while many projects have multiple activities required for success, for the purposes of this plan, we categorized projects by one main treatment type, which we understand as the primary implementation method.
The RFFC program also works to address elements of the State’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan. The plan was finalized in early 2021, and sets a comprehensive strategy for how the State will increase the pace and scale of forest management and wildfire resiliency. One key element of this plan is the recognition that California’s diverse landscapes and communities require regionally tailored strategies and actions and that State programs must recognize and enable regionally and locally-driven solutions in partnership with groups and leaders from these regions.