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SB-462 Community colleges: Urban and Rural Forest and Woodlands Restoration and Fire Resiliency Workforce Program.(2019-2020)



SECTION 1.

 Article 7.5 (commencing with Section 78305) is added to Chapter 2 of Part 48 of Division 7 of Title 3 of the Education Code, to read:

Article  7.5. Urban and Rural Forest and Woodlands Restoration and Fire Resiliency Workforce Program
78305.
 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Fire has shaped forest structure, renewed soils, fostered plant and wildlife habitat diversity, stabilized watersheds, and provided multiple ecological and social benefits to humans living on the California landscape for millennia.
(b) California’s diverse vegetation types have evolved in relationship with precipitation and fire prior to, and throughout, recorded history. California’s native vegetation has evolved with lightning ignitions and centuries of intentional Native American cultural burning.
(c) The increased focus on fire suppression in recent decades has contributed to a vastly changed and much more fire-prone forest and woodlands landscape.
(d) The fire associated forest and woodlands landscapes of California require careful wildfire planning that clearly interprets fire’s role in our diverse environments. Cultural attitudes are finally undergoing a vital reconsideration of the risks and costs of ignoring fire’s interaction with vegetation and homes. This was officially recognized in 2018 with legislation and funding directed toward an increase in prescribed burns that can reduce fire risk to communities and help restore a more fire resilient forest and woodlands landscape.
(e) Fire scientists using more than 30 years of research into fire’s role in California’s ecosystems have concluded that the surface and ladder fuels (woody material on or near the ground and smaller trees and shrubs), when at unnaturally high densities, constitute 80 to 90 percent of the driving force for dangerous potential wildland fire behavior.
(f) Given the importance of the contribution of surface and ladder fuels, the Legislature is concerned that the people of California, especially in fire-prone and high hazard areas, need a larger qualified workforce trained and equipped to focus particularly on the primary drivers of the uncharacteristic and destructive fire events that the state has been experiencing in the past several years.
(g) In addition, communities in fire prone areas and their homeowners will benefit from an expanded and concerted statewide effort to provide information on a variety of techniques and the latest scientific information that can help those communities and homeowners reduce the risk and damages caused by catastrophic wildfires.
(h) The overriding concern of the Legislature is the lack of an adequate workforce of the scale necessary to provide forest management assistance as well as to accommodate the demand for greater outreach and education to communities and landowners, which, if not provided, will render incomplete and ineffective California’s forest and woodlands landscape strategies for fire resilience and carbon sequestration benefits.
(i) It is important for the California Community Colleges to coordinate and provide appropriate fire science and forestland restoration accredited classes for students enrolled at its colleges, and to current and graduated California Conservation Corps and certified local conservation corps members, for the purpose of creating career pathways with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, other public agencies, and nonprofit and private employers.
(j) Currently, not only is the scale of the workforce inadequate to undertake forest and woodlands restoration work and to improve the fire resiliency of communities and structures, but it is also inadequate for purposes of helping homeowners with the necessary retrofits to make homes, and by extension, communities, safer from wildfires.
(k) California faces an urgent need to expand the unified statewide effort to provide the best available and accessible scientific information to communities and homeowners regarding making their communities and homes more fire resistant. The work of volunteer groups, fire safe councils, resource conservation districts, and other similar organizations needs to be enhanced, expanded, and coordinated across the state.
(l) Communities and homeowners have justifiable expectations that the state provide them with information regarding defensible space, retrofitting homes to be more fire resistant, techniques to remove fuels that can cause danger to homes, financing opportunities for retrofitting homes, public safety information regarding evacuation routes, and many other categories of information.
(m) The success of a statewide forest and woodlands landscape restoration effort depends upon the ability to bring together private landowners and resource professionals for training and preparation for restoration and maintenance burns, firewise community level collaboration, forest and woodlands restoration, weed abatement, defensible space attainment, and the critical ongoing maintenance of these restored ecosystems.
(n) Proper smoke management permitting and burning techniques are essential and must be offered by air quality specialists or trained fire advisers to ensure the proper protection of human health and community safety during fire restoration efforts.
(o) Absent the private landowners, fire resilience and forest and woodlands restoration will be hard to attain given the spatial arrangement of parcels in the urban-wildland intermix.
78306.
 For purposes of this article:
(a) “Chancellor’s office” refers to the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges.
(b) “Resilience” refers to the quality of an ecosystem or landscape to maintain its key features after a disturbance event, specifically homes, communities, or ecosystems and that can accept ecosystem-appropriate fire and its beneficial effects without significant change in the nature or component part of the system and retain the vegetation structure, biodiversity, composition, spatial arrangement, and natural processes. It is the intent of the Legislature that more communities in California shall become resilient communities so that they can withstand a fire event without loss of life or property.
(c) “Restoration” refers to activities at homes, at communities, and across landscapes that establish conditions for improved resilience against wildfires. It is the intent of the Legislature that homes should be retrofitted to reduce the risk of fire and should have regular defensible space inspections. Communities and forest and woodlands landscapes should have ongoing efforts to manage the vegetation that can create high severity wildfires while remaining able to accept low intensity fires designed to restore historic ecosystem function.
78307.
 (a) (1) The chancellor’s office, working in collaboration with the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, shall develop a forest and woodlands restoration workforce model curriculum and related vocational programs to be offered by community college districts commencing on or before July 31, 2021. The model curriculum shall reflect regional needs, and shall be developed in consultation with experts from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, University of California Extension, and nonprofit organizations with a demonstrated expertise in forest and woodland restoration and fire management.
(2) The chancellor’s office shall allocate funds appropriated for purposes of this article in the Budget Act or another statute to community college districts that offer coursework in accordance with the model curriculum developed pursuant to this article. The funds allocated to these community college districts shall be used for costs of implementing this article, including, but not necessarily limited to, costs of participation in vocational programs related to coursework offered in accordance with the model curriculum.
(b) The final contents of the model curriculum shall be determined solely by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, which may rely upon its internal course identification and numbering system. To the extent practicable and feasible, the model curriculum and the related vocational programs shall accomplish all of the following:
(1) Provide professional training in implementing prescribed fire projects, including the knowledge and skills necessary to plan and implement broad-scale surface and ladder fuel treatments within the wildland urban interface, wildlands, and urbanized areas, where appropriate.
(2) Include, but not necessarily be limited to, a focus on the ecological concerns, economics, and practices necessary to improve community safety and forest resilience.
(3) Train students in the retrofitting of houses, including the use of fire-resistant materials and the maintenance of defensible space measures required by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or local fire agencies.
(4) Train students in urban forestry consistent with the California Urban Forestry Act of 1978 (Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 4799.06) of Part 2.5 of Division 4 of the Public Resources Code).
(5) Train students in policies or guidance related to the management of vegetation near utility infrastructure and relevant portions of electric utility wildfire mitigation plans.
(c) It is the intent of the Legislature that certified graduates from the curriculum developed pursuant to this article shall be able to matriculate into the prescribed fire teams of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or into work with other compatible state and federal forest restoration efforts and other private professional restoration businesses and related apprenticeship programs.
78308.
 (a) (1) The California Fire Science Consortium, a part of the Joint Fire Science Program, may authorize its representatives from the University of California and the California State University to provide fire advisors, who may participate in community workshops on fire and forest and woodlands ecology, ecosystem function, live prescribed fire trainings, tools and equipment operations and maintenance, burn planning, smoke management permitting, worker safety, grant writing support, and natural resource restoration business practices.
(2) The fire advisors from the California Fire Science Consortium may also provide information on defensible space, the retrofitting of homes, the promotion of resilience in ecosystems, and the public safety components of making communities more resistant to wildfires. The fire advisors may also provide information to public agencies, and provide input into the appropriate land and resource management plans of those agencies.
(b) The chancellor’s office, working in collaboration with the California Fire Science Consortium, shall provide community college districts interested in offering the forest and woodlands restoration workforce course with information about fire advisors from the consortium who are qualified, willing, and available to be course instructors or to consult with those instructors.