Forest Legacy Program

Community members and landowners within forested areas

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.

WORKING FOREST CONSERVATION EASEMENTS: 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.

ELIGIBILITY: 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.

PROJECT SELECTION: 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:

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

COSTS: 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. 

ADMINISTRATION: 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.

Both 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 Forest Legacy Program

Status: No longer accepting concept proposals for 2017/2018

CAL FIRE’s grants are currently financed with Greenhouse Gas Reductions Funds allocated by the legislature for California Climate Investments (CCI).

Eligible projects must meet the objectives of the Forest Health Grant Program as outlined in the Grant Guidelines.

Federal Forest Legacy Program

Status: Applications are due by 4:00 PM on June 30 of each year.

The Federal Forest Legacy Program 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 by following the project application instructions.

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