The purpose of the Forest Legacy Program is to protect environmentally important forest land threatened with conversion to non-forest uses. Protection of California’s forests through this program ensures they continue to provide such benefits as sustainable timber production, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, watershed protection and open space. Intact forests also contribute significantly to the storage and sequestration of carbon.

Under this competitive grant program, CAL FIRE purchases or accepts donations of conservation easements or fee title of productive forest lands to encourage their long-term conservation. The primary tool CAL FIRE uses to conserve forest lands in perpetuity is permanent Working Forest Conservation Easements (WFCEs).

WFCEs do more than just restrict development and conversion on a property, WFCEs protect forest values by concentrating on sustainable forest practices that provide economic value from the land and encourage long-term land stewardship.

This program is entirely voluntary. Eligible properties include those with working forest and rangelands, where the property is managed for the production of forest products and traditional forest uses are maintained. Landowners who wish to participate may sell or transfer particular rights, such as the right to develop the property or to allow public access, while retaining ownership of the property and the right to use it in any way consistent with the terms of the easement and management plan.

Priority is given to lands that can be effectively protected and managed and that have important scenic, recreational, timber, riparian, fish and wildlife, threatened and endangered species, and other cultural and environmental values. CAL FIRE regularly partners with other funding agencies to select high value landscapes for conservation easement projects.

All projects are evaluated on four main characteristics:

  1. Importance – Does the land provide important economic, habitat, watershed, water supply, recreational, scenic, historical/cultural benefits?
  2. Strategic Value – How does the property relate strategically to other properties adjacent or in close proximity to it?
  3. Threat – How is the property threatened by development or conversion to other uses?
  4. Readiness – To what degree has due diligence been completed?

Project costs covered by the Forest Legacy Program grants include purchase of interests in lands, appraisals, land surveys, closing costs, establishing baseline information, title work, purchase of title insurance, conservation easement drafting and other real estate transaction expenses. Also included are funds expended to facilitate donations of land or interests in lands to a qualified and willing entity for Program purposes. 

The Forest Legacy program as administered by CAL FIRE is comprised of two separate but complementary programs:

1. The California Forest Legacy Program
2. The Federal Forest Legacy Program administered by USDA-Forest Service in cooperation with CAL FIRE.
3. The Federal Community Forest and Open Space Program

All three programs operate in a very similar way, with differences including the source of funding, requirements on the entity that holds the easement, and the application timeline and materials.

California State Forest Legacy Program

Status: There are no open grant opportunities at this time. Please check back for the 2023 grant solicitation, sometime in the spring/summer of 2023.

External Link

Federal Forest Legacy Program

Funding Status: Application open period is now open. CAL FIRE is accepting applications to the federal program for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2025 federal Forest Legacy Grant solicitation. It is expected all grants projects must be entered into the Forest Legacy Information System (FLIS) by August or September of 2023. Please have all applications to CAL FIRE by June 15, 2023. This provides CAL FIRE the opportunity to review applications prior to them being entered into FLIS.

The Federal Forest Legacy Program External Link is administered by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in partnership with state agencies (16 U.S.C. Sec. 2103c).  This competitive, merit-based federal program allows for conservation easements and/or fee title acquisitions with funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Prospective applicants apply through CAL FIRE. Interested potential applicants should contact program manager's John Ramaley or Kevin Kiniery (contact information listed below) to find out more about the program and program requirements.

Community Forest Legacy Program

The Fiscal Year 2023 Community Forest Program Request for Applications is now closed. For complete information on the program and application process, see the Final Rule and the Community Forest Road Map. Please reach out with any questions and share this opportunity.

The CAL FIRE Forest Legacy Program facilitates applications to the United States Forest Service (USFS) for The Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (Community Forest Program) on an annual basis.

The Community of the Forest Service offers a unique opportunity for communities to acquire and conserve forests that provide public access and recreational opportunities, protect vital water supplies and wildlife habitat, serve as demonstration sites for private forest landowners, and provide economic benefits from timber and non-timber products.

Program Basics

  • Full fee title acquisition is required. Conservation easements are not eligible.
  • Community Forests can be owned by local governments, tribal governments, and qualified nonprofit entities.
  • The program pays up to 50% of the project costs and requires a 50% non-federal match.
  • Public access is required for Community Forest Program projects.
  • Lands acquired through the program are actively managed in accordance with a community forest plan to provide community benefits.

Please see the USFS website for annual grant solicitation dates and guidelines.

John Ramaley

Forest Legacy Program Director
(916) 203-9755

Kevin Kiniery

Forest Legacy Program Coordinator
(559) 281-8479