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AB-2551 Forest and Wildland Health Improvement and Fire Prevention Program: joint prescribed burning operations: watersheds.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 07/03/2018 09:00 PM
AB2551:v94#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  July 03, 2018
Amended  IN  Senate  June 19, 2018
Amended  IN  Assembly  May 25, 2018
Amended  IN  Assembly  April 30, 2018
Amended  IN  Assembly  April 12, 2018

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill No. 2551


Introduced by Assembly Members Wood and Patterson
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Eggman and Limón)

February 15, 2018


An act to amend Sections 4629.6, 4795, and 4796 of, to add Article 4 (commencing with Section 4495) to Chapter 7 of, and to add Article 5 (commencing with Section 4665) to Chapter 9 of, Part 2 of Division 4 of, the Public Resources Code, relating to forestry and fire prevention.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2551, as amended, Wood. Forest and Wildland Health Improvement and Fire Prevention Program: joint prescribed burning operations: watersheds.
Existing law requires the Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention to implement various fire prevention programs intended to protect forest resources and prevent uncontrolled wildfires.
This bill would require the department to establish, implement, and administer the Forest and Wildland Health Improvement and Fire Prevention Program, as prescribed. The bill would require the department to take specified actions to implement and administer programs that are intended to promote forest and wildland health, restoration, and resilience, and improve fire outcomes, prevention, and preparedness throughout the state. The bill would also require the department, to the extent feasible, to collaborate with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to utilize correctional officers and conservation crews for vegetation management and fire prevention activities.
Existing law establishes the forestry assistance program, to be conducted by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which is required to encourage forest resource improvements and otherwise facilitate good forest land management through a program of financial, technical, and education assistance, as well as through applied research. Existing law creates the Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Fund in the State Treasury and requires that specified revenues received from a lumber or engineered wood products assessment, less amounts deducted for refunds and reimbursements, be deposited in the fund and, upon appropriation by the Legislature, used for specified purposes, including for forest resources improvement grants and projects administered by department.
This bill would provide that assessments deposited into the fund, less amounts deducted for refunds and reimbursement, be used, upon appropriation by the Legislature, for forest resources improvement grants, loans, and projects.
Existing law authorizes the director of the department to enter into an agreement with an eligible landowner pursuant to which the landowner will undertake forest resource improvement work in return for an agreement by the director to share the cost of carrying out that work. Existing law authorizes the director to make various types of loans, including loans to cover all or part of the landowner’s cost for the work. Existing law requires these loans to be made for a term not exceeding 20 years and bearing interest at the prevailing rate.
This bill would instead authorize the director to enter into those agreements with small nonindustrial landowners, as defined. The bill would delete the term and interest rate requirements relating to these loans and instead require the director to establish reasonable terms relating to the length of, and the interest rate for, the loans. The bill would also authorize the director to provide the director’s share of the costs described above in advance of any performed work if the eligible landowner agrees in writing to undertake the forest resource improvement work and agrees to the condition that any funds provided for uncompleted work shall constitute grounds for a claim and lien upon the real property owned by the landowner, as provided. The bill would require any money recovered from the lien to be deposited into the fund.
This bill would also authorize the director to enter into an agreement with the owner or any other person who has legal control of any property, any public agency with regulatory or natural resource management authority over any property that is included within any wildland, or any nonprofit organization to conduct joint prescribed burning operations that serve the public interest and are beneficial to the state. The bill would require the agreement to adhere to specified requirements and would require each prescribed burn to be for one or more specified purposes.
This bill would require the Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency, no later than January 1, 2020, to jointly develop and submit to the Legislature a specified plan for forest and watershed restoration investments in the watersheds that supply the Trinity, Oroville, and Shasta Reservoirs, as prescribed. The bill would also require those agencies, no later than January 1, 2021, to jointly develop and propose to the relevant policy committees of the Legislature a pilot project for the streamlined coordinated, multiagency permitting of specified watershed restoration activities.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) California’s forestlands and wildlands are our largest, safest, and most expandable carbon sink, also providing many other critical services including water supply.
(2) Current forest and wildland conditions across much of the state are unhealthy, unstable, and lack resilience to disturbance, with no historical precedent.
(3) Current forest and wildland conditions, combined with climate-driven drought and extreme weather events, also create conditions for uncharacteristically intense forest fires with adverse impacts to watershed health.
(4) The large quantities of smoke from these extreme fire events have a significant impact on air quality and public health, far greater than would occur under a more natural fire regime.
(5) Restoring health and resilience to our forests and wildlands is an urgent priority to protect water supplies, public health and safety, and to meet our climate goals.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to do all of the following:
(1) Coordinate policies, actions, and investments to restore and maintain resilience on the landscape to achieve state climate, water, public safety, and wildlife goals.
(2) Increase the use of prescribed burning in the state.
(3) Create partnerships between the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for year-round vegetation management and fire protection activities.

SEC. 2.

 Article 4 (commencing with Section 4495) is added to Chapter 7 of Part 2 of Division 4 of the Public Resources Code, to read:
Article  4. Burning with Cooperators

4495.
 The director may enter into an agreement with the owner or any other person who has legal control of any property, any public agency with regulatory or natural resource management authority over any property that is included within any wildland, or any nonprofit organization to conduct joint prescribed burning operations that serve the public interest and are beneficial to the state. The agreement shall establish guidelines for the cooperative management of joint prescribed burning operations and shall require the completion of a project agreement for each prescribed burn, which shall include all of the following:
(a) A list of all participants.
(b) A joint prescribed burn plan.
(c) A display of the project costs to be assumed by each participant.
(d) A summary of the benefits to be received by each participant.

4496.
 To be considered for the public interest and beneficial to the state, each prescribed burn, pursuant to Section 4495, shall be for any of the following purposes or any combination of the following purposes:
(a) Prevention of high-intensity wildland fires through reduction of the volume and continuity of wildland fuels.
(b) Watershed management.
(c) Range improvement.
(d) Vegetation management.
(e) Forest improvement.
(f) Wildlife habitat improvement.
(g) Air quality maintenance.

SEC. 3.

 Section 4629.6 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:

4629.6.
 Moneys deposited in the fund shall, upon appropriation by the Legislature, only be expended for the following purposes:
(a) To reimburse the State Board of Equalization for its administrative costs associated with the administration, collection, audit, and issuance of refunds related to the lumber products and engineered wood assessment established pursuant to Section 4629.5.
(b) To pay refunds issued pursuant to Part 30 (commencing with Section 55001) of Division 2 of the Revenue and Taxation Code.
(c) To support the activities and costs of the department, the Department of Conservation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Water Resources Control Board, and regional water quality control boards associated with the review of projects or permits necessary to conduct timber operations. On or after July 1, 2013, except for fees applicable for fire prevention or protection within state responsibility area classified lands or timber yield assessments, no currently authorized or required fees shall be charged by the agencies listed in this subdivision for activities or costs associated with the review of a project, inspection and oversight of projects, and permits necessary to conduct timber operations of those departments and boards.
(d) For transfer to the department’s Forest Improvement Program for forest resources improvement grants and loans, and projects administered by the department pursuant to Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 4790) and Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 4799.06) of Part 2.5.
(e) To fund existing restoration grant programs, with priority given to the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program administered by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and grant programs administered by state conservancies.
(f) (1) As a loan to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for activities to address environmental damage occurring on forest lands resulting from marijuana cultivation. Not more than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) may be loaned from the fund in a fiscal year pursuant to this paragraph. This paragraph shall become inoperative on July 1, 2017.
(2) Any funds deposited into the fund pursuant to subdivision (d) or (f) of Section 12025 or subdivision (b), (c), (e), or (f) of Section 12025.1 of the Fish and Game Code shall be credited toward loan repayment.
(3) Moneys from the General Fund shall not be used to repay a loan authorized pursuant to this subdivision.
(g) To the department for fuel treatment grants and projects pursuant to authorities under the Wildland Fire Protection and Resources Management Act of 1978 (Article 1 (commencing with Section 4461) of Chapter 7).
(h) To the department to provide grants to local agencies responsible for fire protection, qualified nonprofits, recognized tribes, local and state governments, and resources conservation districts, undertaken on a state responsibility area (SRA) or on wildlands not in an SRA that pose a threat to the SRA, to reduce the costs of wildland fire suppression, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote adaptation of forested landscapes to changing climate, improve forest health, and protect homes and communities.
(i) To the Natural Resources Agency to provide a reasonable per diem for attendance at a meeting of the advisory body for the state’s forest practice program by a member of the body who is not an employee of a government agency.

SEC. 4.

 Article 5 (commencing with Section 4665) is added to Chapter 9 of Part 2 of Division 4 of the Public Resources Code, to read:
Article  5. FOREST AND WILDLAND HEALTH IMPROVEMENT AND FIRE PREVENTION PROGRAM

4665.
 (a) The department shall establish, implement, and administer the Forest and Wildland Health Improvement and Fire Prevention Program.
(b) The department shall take all of the following actions to implement and administer programs that are intended to promote forest and wildland health, restoration, and resilience, and improve fire outcomes, prevention, and preparedness throughout the state:
(1) Identify funding sources that can be used to cover the cost of program activities.
(2) Evaluate existing statewide fire suppression goals and propose changes to those goals to promote a fire regime that restores and maintains healthy, resilient, adaptive forests and wildlands, including greater use of prescribed burns or joint prescribed burning operations under appropriate weather conditions, and evaluate the use of managed burns under appropriate weather conditions.
(3) Develop and implement training programs that use prescribed burns as a training opportunity as well as a fuel reduction and ecological restoration tool.

(4)Establish an interagency working group, including, but not limited to, members from the department, the State Air Resources Board, regional air quality management districts, landowners, conservation organizations, and Native American tribal representatives. The group shall investigate barriers to the use of prescribed burns and shall develop recommendations for actions that may be taken to restore more natural fire regimes.

(5)

(4) (A) Evaluate revegetation programs and emergency erosion control efforts to avoid spreading nonnative plants and focus on restoring natural ecosystems and enhancing fire resiliency in the state’s forests and wildlands.
(B) Emphasize use of native plants and actions to maintain and support native species.
(c) In implementing projects to restore forest health and resilience, as identified in Section 4799.05, the department shall prioritize investments that support one or more of the following purposes:
(1) Simultaneously advance multiple state goals that rely on resilient natural landscapes, including enhanced public safety, healthy watersheds, carbon-rich forests resilient to recurring fires, and habitat conditions that facilitate wildlife adaptation.
(2) Enhance the resilience and reliability of the source watersheds of greatest significance to the state’s utilized water supply, both urban and agricultural, under the climate conditions projected for the year 2100.
(3) Result in a durable commitment to manage for a climate-resilient condition, consistent with the requirements of Section 4799.05.
(4) Include and leverage funding beyond general obligation and state funding.
(5) Protect and enhance the resiliency and ecological function of rare habitats, including old growth forests and oak woodlands.
(6) Implement a geographically or spatially explicit forest or watershed restoration plan.
(d) To the extent feasible, the department shall collaborate with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to utilize correctional officers and conservation crews for vegetation management and fire prevention activities.

4666.
 In implementing programs to address forest and wildland health and community wildfire prevention, the department may allocate funding for any of the following:
(a) (1) Vegetation management, including mechanical thinning, prescribed fire, or the removal of materials for beneficial use on private, public, or tribal lands, and, where applicable, to implement projects pursuant to the federal Good Neighbor Authority.
(2) For purposes of this subdivision, the federal Good Neighbor Authority means an authorization set forth in the federal Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79), which authorizes the United States Forest Service to enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with any state or Puerto Rico to allow the states to perform watershed restoration and forest management services on United States Forest Service lands.
(b) Conservation easements that ensure the development of diverse, natural, climate-resilient conditions, including older native forest structure and composition, and prevent further fragmentation and rural sprawl.
(c) Community wildfire protection efforts funded through local assistance grants.
(d) Public education and outreach related to the activities identified in this section.

SEC. 5.

 Section 4795 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:

4795.
 (a) The director may enter into agreements with eligible landowners pursuant to which the landowner will undertake forest resource improvement work in return for an agreement by the director to share the cost of carrying out the work. The director is authorized to share up to 90 percent of the lesser of either:
(1) The landowner’s actual cost per acre to accomplish the work.
(2) The prevailing per acre cost as determined by the director pursuant to Section 4799.02.
(b) (1) The director may provide the funds for the director’s share of the costs, as described in subdivision (a), in advance of any work performed if the eligible landowner agrees in writing to undertake the forest resource improvement work and agrees to the condition that funds provided for any uncompleted work shall constitute grounds for a claim and lien upon the real property owned by the landowner that is subject to this section. Any such lien shall attach to the property regardless of whether the responsible party is insolvent. A lien established pursuant to this subdivision shall be subject to notice and hearing procedures required by due process of the law.
(2) A lien authorized under this subdivision shall continue in effect until such time that the liability for repayment of funds, or a judgment against the responsible party, is satisfied. However, if it is determined by the court that the judgment against the responsible party will not be satisfied, the department may exercise its rights under the lien.
(3) A lien imposed pursuant to this subdivision shall have the force and effect of, and the same priority as, a judgment lien upon its recordation in the county in which the property subject to the lien is located. The lien shall contain the legal description of the real property, the assessor’s parcel number, and the name of the owner of record, as shown on the latest assessor’s property tax assessment roll.
(4) All funds recovered pursuant to this subdivision shall be deposited in the Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Fund established pursuant to Section 4629.3.
(c) The director shall prepare a schedule of cost share percentages applicable to agreements undertaken pursuant to this section. Required landowner cost share contributions may be made in the form of materials, services, or equipment as well as funds. The cost share percentage schedule shall set forth the percentage of required landowner’s project cost share for various categories of forest resource improvement projects. The percentage of cost sharing required of the landowner may be decreased if the ownership contains less than 500 acres.
(d) The percentage of cost sharing required of the landowner may also be decreased to the extent that any of the following applies:
(1) The project or other actions of the landowner would increase recreational opportunities for the public.
(2) The project would provide relatively more employment opportunities than other proposed projects.
(3) Forest land conservation measures or fish or wildlife habitat improvements are included in the project.
(e) Consistent with the criteria set forth in subdivisions (c) and (d), the director shall submit a schedule further specifying cost share percentages to the board for its review. The schedule shall apply to all agreements made pursuant to this section unless the board acts to change the schedule within 75 days of its submission by the director.

SEC. 6.

 Section 4796 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:

4796.
 The director may make the following types of loans relating to forest resource improvement projects:
(a) The director may make loans for forest resource improvement work to cover all or part of a smaller nonindustrial landowner’s cost share payment required pursuant to Section 4795. The director shall establish reasonable terms relating to the length of, and the interest rate for, a loan made pursuant to this subdivision. In order to secure repayment of the loan, the forest resource improvement loans shall be secured by a mortgage or deed of trust upon the parcel of land to which the forest improvement project applies. The director shall record the mortgage or deed of trust in the office of the county recorder in the county in which the real property subject to the resource improvement loan is located.
(b) (1) The director may make loans for forest resource improvement work to landowners eligible pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (d) of Section 4797 for up to 100 percent of the lesser of either:
(A) The landowner’s actual cost per acre to accomplish the work.
(B) The prevailing cost per acre as determined by the director pursuant to Section 4799.02.
A loan made pursuant to this subdivision may be made for a term not exceeding 20 years and shall bear interest at the prevailing rate. In order to secure repayment of the loan, the forest resource improvement loans shall be secured by a mortgage or deed of trust upon the parcel of land to which the forest improvement project applies. The director shall record the mortgage or deed of trust in the office of the county recorder in the county in which the real property subject to the resource improvement loan is located.
(c) Any loan made pursuant to this section may be paid prior to the maturity date set forth in the loan agreement without an interest penalty being charged to the landowner.
(d) Payment of all or part of the principal and interest due under loans made pursuant to this chapter shall not be required upon a finding by the board that the parcel to which a forest resource improvement project applies, and that is subject to a loan, satisfies both of the following conditions:
(1) The parcel has been substantially damaged by fire, flood, insects, disease or other natural causes.
(2) The damage was not caused by the negligence or willful act of the landowner.

SEC. 7.

 (a) No later than January 1, 2020, the Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency shall jointly develop and submit to the Legislature, in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code, a plan for forest and watershed restoration investments to synergistically improve watershed function and resilience, water quality and supply reliability, forest carbon stores, wildfire wildlife habitat, and climate adaptation in the watersheds that supply the Trinity, Oroville, and Shasta Reservoirs.
(b) No later than January 1, 2021, those agencies shall jointly develop and propose to the relevant policy committees of the Legislature a pilot project for the streamlined coordinated, multiagency permitting of watershed restoration activities in the watersheds described in subdivision (a), as outlined in subdivision (c) of Section 108.5 of the Water Code.
(c) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2025, and as of that date is repealed.