Climate and Energy Program
Working to reduce the impact of Climate Change on California's forests
Healthy forests have an important role to play in addressing climate change. Trees remove carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas of concern, from the air and store it as carbon as they grow. Forest damage and loss caused by wildfires, insects, disease, or development can result in large carbon dioxide emissions back to the atmosphere.
CAL FIRE is working at local, state and national levels to protect and manage California forests so they maintain their ability to sequester carbon and are resilient in the face of climate changes already taking place.
Climate and Energy Program staff manage grant programs key to promoting healthy and resilient forests, contribute to state climate policy, and support the Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force.
- The Forest Health team administers Forest Health grants. Funded primarily by California Climate Investments, these grants support active restoration and reforestation activities aimed at providing for more resilient and sustained forests.
- The Wood Products and Bioenergy team administers Business and Workforce Development grants. These grants seek to maintain and enhance the wood products infrastructure of California to support healthy resilient forests along with the people and ecosystems that depend on them.
- Tribal Wildfire Resilience grants support California Native Tribes in managing ancestral lands, implementing and promoting Traditional Ecological Knowledges in wildfire resilience, and establishing wildfire safety for tribal communities. CAL FIRE manages these grants in collaboration with the California Natural Resources Agency.
- The Climate Change team supports key CAL FIRE climate programs in complying with the law, maintaining accountability to the public, and benefiting disadvantaged and low-income communities. The team’s information, analysis, and reporting advances the Department’s efforts to promote healthy, resilient forests and contributes to the state’s climate and biodiversity goals.
- The Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force was created by Governor Gavin Newsom to bring together an unprecedented coalition of the best available resources for preventing catastrophic wildfires by creating healthier, more sustainable natural environments.
- Learn more about the benefits of CAL FIRE's Forest Health program
Forest protection and management can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions primarily through the process of sequestration. Trees pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to cellulose through the process of photosynthesis. As part of the Governor's Climate Action Team, CAL FIRE identified and has begun to analyze potential opportunities for GHG mitigation from the following activities:
- Reforestation: Reforestation is the planting and re-establishment of trees on lands that were previously covered with native forests. Mature forests store more carbon than brush or grasslands, therefore reforestation of burned, diseased or harvested sites will speed up the rate of C02 sequestration and provide more mitigation benefits in the near term.
- Conservation: Forest conservation preserves forestland by preventing development of forests or conversion to other uses. This protects the existing carbon stored in standing trees and maintains the land's inherent capacity for sequestering maximum amounts of C02 into the future.
- Forest Management: Forest management includes activities to improve forest health and to increase productivity such as reforestation, stand thinning, removal of competing vegetation, fuels reduction and timber harvest. Actions that promote faster growth, bigger trees, and forest stands that are more resistant to insects, disease and fire can result in more rapid C02 sequestration and can reduce risk of emissions from mortality and wildfires.
- Fuels Management and Biomass: Fuels management is the reduction of tree density, brush or other vegetation to decrease fire hazard. Fuels management in high risk and high hazard areas may result in net mitigation benefits by preventing wildfires and reducing damage. When fuel biomass is used to generate energy rather than burned or directed to landfill, it provides additional benefits as an alternative to fossil fuel.
- Urban Forestry: Urban forestry is the planting and management of trees in urban areas. Urban trees that shade houses can reduce energy use for air conditioning in hot climates. They also sequester C02 as they grow. Finally, if urban wood waste is used to generate energy, it reduces the use of fossil fuels.