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

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Date Published: 04/30/2019 09:00 PM
SB462:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  April 30, 2019

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill No. 462


Introduced by Senator Stern

February 21, 2019


An act to add Article 7.5 (commencing with Section 78305) to Chapter 2 of Part 48 of Division 7 of Title 3 of the Education Code, relating to community colleges.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 462, as amended, Stern. Community colleges: Forestland Restoration Urban and Rural Forest and Woodlands Restoration and Fire Resiliency Workforce Program.
Existing law establishes the California Community Colleges, under the administration of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges, as one of the segments of public postsecondary education in this state. Under existing law, the board of governors appoints a chief executive officer, who is known as the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges.
This bill would require the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges, working in collaboration with the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, to establish a model curriculum for a forestland forest and woodlands restoration and fire resiliency workforce program that could be offered at campuses of the California Community Colleges. The bill would require the chancellor’s office to distribute the model curriculum to community college districts no later than January 1, 2021, with the goal of enabling interested community college districts to offer the course to students beginning with the 2021–22 academic year.
The bill would provide that certified graduates of the forestland forest and woodlands restoration workforce course would be eligible 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 and woodlands restoration efforts and related apprenticeship programs, as specified. The bill would require the chancellor’s office, working in collaboration with the California Fire Science Consortium, to provide community college districts interested in offering the forestland 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.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

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


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. Forestland Restoration 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 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 at 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) 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.
(j) 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.
(k) 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.
(l) 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.
(m) 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.
(n) 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 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 forested 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) The chancellor’s office, working in collaboration with the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, shall establish a model curriculum for a forestland forest and woodlands restoration workforce program that could be offered at campuses of the California Community Colleges. This program shall provide professional training in implementing prescribed fire projects, including using the tools and operating the equipment necessary for broad scale surface and ladder fuel treatments within the wildland-urban interface and wildlands where appropriate. Students shall learn to operate forest and woodlands landscape restoration machinery, to work with tools such as chainsaws, pole saws, chippers, smaller biomass masticators, and small wood processors, and shall learn relevant forestland forest and woodlands restoration practices with a particular focus on the economics and operations of small-medium scale restoration businesses in California. The workforce program shall also train students in the retrofitting of houses with materials approved by the California State Fire Marshal, and with implementation of community defense techniques approved by the CaliforniaDepartment of Forestry and Fire Protection.
(b) The model curriculum established under this section shall include guidelines for the presentation of a forestland forest and woodlands restoration workforce course at community college campuses that opt to offer this course. These guidelines shall include, but not be limited to, recommendations for appropriate instructional materials and supplies and the qualifications to be required of course instructors. The chancellor’s office shall distribute the model curriculum to community college districts no later than January 1, 2021, with the goal of enabling interested community college districts to offer the course to students beginning with the 2021–22 academic year.
(c) Certified graduates of the forestland forest and woodlands restoration workforce course shall be eligible 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 and woodlands restoration efforts 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 forestland 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.