North Yuba Forest Partnership
The North Yuba Forest Partnership is a diverse group of nine organizations passionate about forest health and the resilience of the North Yuba River watershed. Together, the partners are working on an unprecedented scale to collaboratively plan, analyze, finance and implement forest restoration across 275,000 acres of the watershed.
The partnership includes: Yuba Water Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, South Yuba River Citizens League, Camptonville Community Partnership, Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe, National Forest Foundation, Sierra County, and Blue Forest Conservation.
Through ecologically-based thinning and prescribed fire, the partnership seeks to protect North Yuba communities from the threat of catastrophic wildfire and restore the watershed to a healthier, more resilient state. Restoration efforts are expected to take many years, if not decades to complete, with the most critical project areas targeted first, i.e. at-risk communities, emergency response, evacuation access routes and treatments to areas that have the potential to stop a wildfire from spreading.
The North Yuba Forest Partnership includes most of the North Yuba River watershed, which extends from Yuba Pass to New Bullards Bar Reservoir. The area includes thousands of acres of forest habitat, is an important source of water to downstream users, supports high biodiversity, is home to many communities and offers excellent opportunities for recreation.
The Yuba Project
The Yuba Project is a 14,545-acre project in Sierra County that encompasses Tahoe National Forest system lands within the North Yuba Forest Partnership area. Collaboration around financing the Yuba Project laid the groundwork for this regional partnership and was the catalyst for the establishment of the North Yuba Forest Partnership.
The Yuba Project is one that the U.S. Forest Service - Tahoe National Forest had already developed and completed environmental planning for, but had yet to identify funding for implementation. In 2018, the Forest Service signed an agreement with Blue Forest Conservation documenting their shared commitment to landscape-scale restoration. Later that year, the Forest Service and Blue Forest Conservation partnered to launch the Yuba Project Forest Resilience Bond to fund implementation. This was the first Forest Resilience Bond in the country and provides $4 million in private capital from four investors to finance ecological restoration treatments across 15,000 acres of national forest. The state and Yuba Water are repaying investors at contracted rates as restoration work is completed, with the Forest Service providing in-kind support and funding for project planning, development and execution.
With Forest Resilience Bond financing in place, the Forest Service is working with the National Forest Foundation to implement work on the ground through a Master Stewardship Agreement. The Forest Resilience Bond has made it possible for the Forest Service to accelerate work and complete the Yuba Project in just four years, instead of the projected 10 to 12 years with normal federal finance mechanisms.
The partnership plans to use the Forest Resilience Bond to finance more than $100 million of unfunded restoration work across the North Yuba River watershed.
Yuba II Project
The Yuba II Project is a project that combines two project areas that were previously planned and were considered implementation-ready by the U.S. Forest Service - Tahoe National Forest and will fund implementation through a new Forest Resilience Bond. The new $25 million Yuba II Forest Resilience Bond builds on the North Yuba Forest Partnership’s success with the Yuba Project to finance two more projects planned by the Forest Service. The Trapper Project will reduce the risk of a large damaging wildfire to both forests and nearby communities in the North Yuba River watershed and the Pendola Project will restore forest ecosystems previously impacted by wildfire. These 16,800 treated acres will protect over 48,000 acres of forestland across Sierra and Yuba County.
The Yuba II Project includes carefully designed restoration treatments, including general fuels reduction and underburning and prescribed fire.
Fuels treatments have been planned to complement strategic control points in the event of a wildfire. Removing fuels from the landscape while retaining large, fire-resistant trees creates a more fire-resilient landscape. Where possible, trees and vegetation removed as part of the project will be used for commercial products, supporting the local restoration economy as a co-benefit to wildfire risk reduction.
Underburning will restore fire back into a fire dependent ecosystem, improve forest health and reduce accumulations of small, dead and downed fuels. Similar to thinning, intentional burns reduce the risk of wildfires becoming large and uncontrolled.
Implementation of the Yuba II treatments will begin this year.