State “Beneficial Fire” Strategic Plan Released, Identifies CCA as Key Partner
On Wednesday, the Governor’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force released its Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire. The strategic plan aims to expand the use of prescribed fire and cultural burning “to help both prevent the start of fires and mitigate the spread of wildfires,” according to a press release issued by Governor Gavin Newsom’s office.
Specifically, the strategic plan sets a goal of applying ‘beneficial fire’ on up to 400,000 acres per year by the year 2025. 300,000 acres are targeted for prescribed fires conducted by CalFire, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, state land management agencies, “Range Improvement Associations and the California Cattlemen’s Association” and “other land managers,” including tribes and cultural fire practitioners. An additional 100,000 acres or more would be treated by the US Forest Service and National Park Service managing fires for resource benefit.
According to the Governor’s office, the strategic plan is part of the plan “to treat 1 million acres annually in California by 2025,” memorialized in a 2020 Memorandum of Understanding between the State of California and the US Forest Service (the remaining 600,000 acre per year will presumably be treated through other vegetation management methods).
The strategic plan includes several initiatives to expand the use of prescribed fire, including an online permitting system to streamline prescribed fire projects, establishing a Prescribed Fire Claims Fund to reduce liability for private burners (which would be achieved through passage of CCA-support SB 926) and establishing prescribed fire training centers to train more prescribed burners.
CCA’s leadership and Fire Subcommittee worked to provide input to the Task Force’s Prescribed Fire Work Group as it developed the strategic plan. As a result, CCA is the only private organization explicitly identified in the strategic plan as a partner in achieving the state’s prescribed fire target. CCA’s Fire Subcommittee will work with interested ranchers to facilitate the deployment of prescribed fire on private lands over the next three years, and CCA will continue to work with CalFire and the Legislature to ensure the use of ‘beneficial fire’ is further expanded beyond 2025.
FSA Announces New Emergency Livestock Relief Program and Expanded ELAP Relief
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (USDA FSA) on Thursday announced the availability of its Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP), intended to provide additional aid to livestock producers who have been approved for assistance through the 2021 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP).
Ranchers who were approved for 2021 LFP either due to qualifying drought conditions or because their permitted grazing on federal lands was disallowed due to wildfire are eligible for ELRP payments. Producers will not be required to submit an application to receive relief under ELRP, but must have several forms (detailed here) on file with the FSA to ensure that payment may be properly calculated and disbursed to the producer.
Payments will be equal to a producer’s gross 2021 LFP payment multiplied by a payment percentage “to reach a reasonable approximation of increased supplemental feed costs for eligible livestock producers in 2021,” according to FSA. For most producers, the applicable payment percentage will be 75%.
Thursday’s announcement is merely “phase one” of ELRP. FSA has stated that it anticipates a second phase of the program, and “continues to evaluate and identify impacts of 2021 drought and wildfire on livestock producers to ensure equitable and inclusive distribution of much-needed emergency relief program benefits.”
FSA also announced last week that it has expanded relief available under its Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). As previously reported in Legislative Bulletin, FSA last year expanded ELAP coverage to reimburse ranchers for the costs of hauling livestock feed; FSA will now also provide payment to ranchers to help offset the cost of transporting livestock to available forage.
Livestock and feed hauling compensation under ELAP “will not only be retroactive for 2021 but will also be available for losses in 2022 and subsequent years,” according to FSA. An online tool for calculating ELAP reimbursement for feed hauling costs can be found here “and will soon be updated to assist producers with calculations associated with drought related costs incurred for hauling livestock to forage.”
Scholarship Opportunity for College Seniors and Graduate Students
College seniors and graduate students studying agriculture and planning to eventually manage rangeland or a ranch are eligible to apply for the 2022 Tate Jensen Memorial Scholarship offered by the Tavaputs Ranch. The purpose of the scholarship is to honor Tate’s legacy by awarding an individual who reflects the same values as Tate with a love of ranching and the lands involved. The scholarship is for $2,500 and the application materials are due June 15, 2022. For full details on the scholarship and requirements for applying click here.
SWRCB Issues Draft 2022 Russian River Emergency Drought Regulation
On Friday, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued a draft of its proposed 2022 Russian River Drought Emergency Regulations. Current emergency regulations for the Russian River were enacted last July and are set to expire this upcoming July (the current emergency regulation forms the basis for curtailments and curtailment suspensions routinely discussed in Legislative Bulletin). Because it “anticipates the need for continued curtailments in 2022,” the SWRCB is considering readopting the emergency regulation – with several amendments – in early May, prior to expiration of the current regulation.
According to the SWRCB, proposed amendments will refine the water availability methodology to better reflect “the hydrologic processes and supply situation” in the upper watershed; reflect the need for “targeted curtailment efforts to protect flows that benefit critical fish habitat” in four tributaries of the lower watershed; allow for rightsholders in the upper watershed to engage in voluntary conservation actions instead of ceasing to divert; and improve SWRCB administration of drought curtailments.
The SWRCB will hold a public workshop on the emergency regulation at 1:30pm on April 14 in Santa Rosa (with options for online participation). Written comments on the draft regulation are due no later than April 18. The SWRCB is expected to consider the emergency regulation at its May 10 meeting. For more information, see the SWRCB’s Russian River Drought Response webpage.
SWRCB Extends Curtailment Suspensions in the Scott River Watershed
This afternoon, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) renewed its temporary suspension of all curtailments in the Scott River watershed through midnight this Friday, April 8. The temporary suspension will remain in place only so long as minimum flow requirements are sustained at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Fort Jones gage (the minimum flow requirement throughout April is 150 cubic feet per second). If flows dip below the minimum flow requirements, diversions under the water rights included in the SWRCB’s “List A1” must cease immediately.
You can find more information on drought in the Scott River watershed on the Scott River and Shasta River Drought webpage and more information on drought conditions in the Russian River watershed at the Russian River Drought Response webpage. For any questions about curtailment notices or how to comply, please contact the Rancher Technical Assistance Program at (916) 409-6902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SWRCB Issues “Early Warning” Letter to Diverters
On March 21, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) mailed “early warning” letters to 20,000 water rightsholders throughout the state warning diverters to prepare for additional drought impacts due to ongoing dry conditions and warning that diverters “in the Bay-Delta, Russian River, Scott River, Shasta River, Mill Creek, or Deer Creek watersheds” should prepare for water curtailments to be issued earlier in the year than usual. For more information, see last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin. A copy of the early warning letter is available here.
Stories from California Cattle Country Episode “Communication Breakdown with Dave Daley”
On this episode, we hear from Dave Daley, a fifth generation cattle rancher in Butte County and past CCA president. Anyone who knows Dave knows his knack for communicating in an area where communication isn’t necessarily a strong suit. In this episode we address the perception of the cattle industry, common misconceptions and how to get through all the noise. To listen to the episode, click here. Stories from California Cattle Country is produced by the California Cattlemen’s Foundation with support from the California Cattle Council.
SLO County Modified Point of Origin Referendum to be Held April 12
The San Luis Obispo County Cattleman’s Association (SLOCCA) will be holding a vote to repeal the Modified Point of Origin (MPO) regulations currently in place in the San Luis Obispo County brand inspection area. Only cattle producers (beef and dairy) that are property taxpayers, lessees or residents of the MPO area are permitted to vote. Voting will take place on April 12 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Frontier Building at the Paso Robles Event Center (Mid-State Fairgrounds). For additional details, see the March 7 edition of Legislative Bulletin.
Participate in a Summit Rangeland Tour on April 27
Join the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, University of California Cooperative Extension and the California Rangeland Trust for one of many Summit Rangeland Tours happening on April 27. Each tour will showcase the value of rangeland resources and how the ranchers who steward them help address climate, conservation and biodiversity goals. Tours will be held in multiple locations in Sacramento, San Joaquin, Yolo and other counties at roughly the same time to give you the opportunity to join the one closest to you or another you’d like to visit. To learn more and register, click here.