Newsom Proclaims Drought Emergency for Russian River Watershed
On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation declaring a state of emergency “in Mendocino and Sonoma counties due to drought conditions in the Russian River Watershed.”
Newsom announced the state of emergency from the parched lakebed of Lake Mendocino, which currently sits at 43% of its normal capacity.
The emergency proclamation directs the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Food and Agriculture to take numerous actions to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of drought in the Russian River Watershed. Of particular interest to ranchers in the region will be a provision in the proclamation enabling the SWRCB to “Adopt[ ] emergency regulations to curtail water diversions when water is not available at water rights holders’ priority of right or to protect releases of stored water.” The SWRCB previously curtailed Russian River Watershed water diversions in 2014 at the height of the last drought.
As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, on April 7 a bipartisan group of state lawmakers called on Governor Newsom to declare a statewide drought emergency. On Wednesday, however, Governor Newsom signaled that he is unlikely to do so. “We have to target our solutions regionally,” Newsom said. “Parts of the state are in extreme conditions like this; other parts of our state are not experiencing the kind of extreme conditions that we’re experiencing here in Northern California.”
Final Round of COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant Program Applications Opens Wednesday
The final round of funding for the California COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant Program administered by California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) open this Wednesday, April 28 at 9:00am. Both currently waitlisted and new applicants are eligible to apply.
The application period will close Tuesday, May 4 at 5:00pm, and award notifications will begin going out Friday, May 7.
Eligible businesses will have their grant applications scored “based on COVID-19 impact factors incorporated into the Program’s priority criteria.” Grant awards range from $5,000 to $25,000 based on the small business’s annual revenue.
More information on the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, including links to apply for the program, is available at https://careliefgrant.com/. For questions, Lendistry (the sole intermediary for the Program) can be reached via phone at (888) 612-4370 between 7am and 7pm or contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gov. Newsom Signs Legislation Providing $536 Million in Early Action Wildfire Funding
Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 85, approving a $536 million “early action” funding plan for wildfire resilience. Early action funding augments the current fiscal year budget and can be spent almost immediately on fuels treatment projects and other resilience initiatives. Governor Newsom signed the bill alongside legislative leaders at a fuels management project in the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area which helped protect a Butte County community from the 2020 North Complex Fire.
The agreement includes $198 million for funding wildfire fuel breaks, $283 million for forest health and resilient wildlands and $27 million for home and community hardening, among other funding. Altogether, the early action funding is more than $200 million greater than the amount initially proposed in Governor Newsom’s January 8 Proposed Budget.
CCA issued a statement praising the $536 million appropriation but noted that “this is only the beginning. More work needs to be completed to correct the mismanagement of our landscapes over the last 100 years.”
The move came just two weeks after Governor Newsom announced $80.74 million in Emergency Fund spending to support early action on fire fuels management and wildfire response efforts, enabling the hiring of 1,399 additional firefighters including “fire crews for fuels management.”
More information about the wildfire funding agreement is available in the April edition of Hot Irons and the May edition of California Cattleman.
USDA Designates All California Counties as Primary or Contiguous Natural Disaster Areas Due to Drought
As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on March 5 designated “50 California counties as primary natural disaster areas due to recent drought.” The natural disaster designation was justified by the U.S. Drought Monitor designating those counties as having Severe (D2) drought for at least eight weeks or Extreme (D3) or Exceptional (D4) drought at any time.
California’s remaining eight counties—Monterey, Orange, San Benito, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura—are immediately adjacent to counties designated as primary natural disaster areas, and thus have been designated as “contiguous natural disaster areas.” Counties in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon which are immediately adjacent to one of the 50 counties designated as primary natural disaster areas are likewise deemed contiguous natural disaster areas.
The primary and contiguous drought designations make ranchers in every county of the state eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), such as FSA emergency loans, and from the Small Business Administration (SBA), such as Economic Injury Disaster (EID) Loans. Applications for assistance from FSA or SBA under the drought designation must be submitted no later than November 5.
To apply for an emergency loan or inquire regarding other drought disaster relief resources available through FSA, ranchers should contact their county FSA office. You can find your county office’s contact information by clicking on northern California or southern California here and then clicking on your county. To apply for an EID Loan or other assistance from SBA, producers should visit SBA’s website, here, or contact SBA via phone at 1-800-659-2955 or via email at email@example.com.
CDFA Releases Draft Report on Farmer- and Rancher-Led Climate Solutions
In early February, CCA reported on stakeholder meetings hosted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to solicit insights regarding “farmer- and rancher-led climate change solutions.”
Earlier this month, CDFA released its draft report based on those stakeholder meeting. CDFA is soliciting public comments on the draft report to better inform the agency’s understanding of farmer- and rancher-led climate change solutions. Comments are due no later than this Friday, April 30 at 5:00pm and may be emailed to CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feedback received by CDFA will ultimately inform the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy developed by various state agencies as mandated by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-82-20, which also established the goal “to conserve at least 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030” (often referred to as the “30 by ’30” initiative).
USDA Seeks Information on Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry, Comments Due Thursday!
On March 16, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public input on the agency’s Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy. USDA’s Strategy is in furtherance of President Biden’s January 27 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.
The notice requests information on how USDA can “encourage voluntary adoption of agricultural practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ensure resiliency to climate change” and “utilize programs, funding…and other authorities to decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change,” among other issues.
In the wake of California’s worst wildfire season on record, there is much that the US Forest Service—an agency within USDA—can do to reduce wildfire risk on the 28.8 million acres of land the agency manages within the state. The agency must substantially increase its application of prescribed fire, remove deadfall accumulated during prior fire seasons and complete NEPA on vacant grazing allotments to ensure that livestock can remove fine fuels which would otherwise provide tinder for wildfires.
CCA and its national affiliate the Public Lands Council will draft detailed responses to USDA’s request for comment over the coming weeks. Interested CCA members can provide comments to USDA by clicking “Submit a Formal Comment” here. Comments are due no later than 8:59pm on April 29.
Public Lands Ranchers: Help PLC Share Your Story on Capitol Hill
The Public Lands Council (PLC) has designed two surveys to assist them with advocating for public lands ranchers in Washington, DC.
The “Sustainability: What does it mean to you?” survey is designed to get long-form feedback from public lands ranchers about terminology commonly used in policy and regulatory conversations about land and resource management. Click here to participate in this sustainability survey and please provide as much information as possible.
In a separate survey, The Grazing Permit working group will be collecting stories about permit renewal stories – successful, unsuccessful, and in progress. These survey results will be used in developing a permit guide for ranchers and other handy tools for permit administration. Give your input and take the “Grazing Permit Renewals: Let’s hear your story!” survey by clicking here.