Tehama County, California Preliminary Resiliency Framework: Forest and Water Resources

In 2014, the Model Forest Policy Program (MFPP), Climate Solutions University (CSU), and the Resource Conservation District of Tehama County (RCDTC) worked together to create a climate adaptation framework for the forest and water systems in Tehama County, California. The RCDTC took the local leadership role to engage with CSU’s Forest and Water Strategies program to initiate the discussion of local climate resilience. The framework addresses specific climate risks based on local environmental and socio-economic conditions, and provides detailed guidance and strategies for adaptive planning.

In assessing Tehama County’s economic foundation of agriculture, forestry, limited light industry, and recreation activities, the stakeholders found that all are directly influenced by the services provided by its natural systems, and therefore all vulnerable to climate change impacts. This framework advocates coordinated approaches to protect productive farmland, well-managed forests, ample outdoor recreation, and access to quality drinking water.

Climate change will impact the County’s water resources that supply drinking, agricultural and industrial uses; as well as provide important fish and wildlife habitat for state and federally listed species; maintain economic stability; and cultivate the way of life locally as well as for downstream communities. It has already been determined that the current groundwater extraction rates in Tehama County actually exceed nature’s capacity to recharge the aquifer in select areas and have a high probability of occurring throughout the county.

The forestry risk evaluation findings suggest that agricultural and timber harvest practices followed by urban encroachment are non-climate based stressors upon Tehama County’s native grasslands, native oak woodlands and riparian woodlands. The function of these ecosystems are further at risk due to climate impacts such as higher temperatures, extended dry seasons, and catastrophic fire events. Though there are native species in these communities fit for drought tolerance, adaptive capacity has its limits where many species will not be able to adjust to extremes in a short period of time. The analysis also suggests that inadequate land management of public and private forested lands as well as human activity in the Wildland Urban Interface zone pose great loss of forest productivity and community resilience. The impacts are compounded in light of climate projections.

Forest and water resiliency stakeholder suggestions are detailed within the Framework. Many recommendations combine natural resource management strategies with community development and land use planning considerations: 

- Groundwater use restrictions will need to be developed and enforced by local government in a timely manner not only to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, but to preserve the rural lifestyle and livelihoods. Without attention to groundwater protection and conservation, a larger portion of the community risks losing access to quality water, and the rural culture that defines Tehama County is threatened.

- The structure and composition of natural areas and working landscapes play an important role in securing water supply locally and for the entire Sacramento River watershed. In exploring green infrastructure options, such as modified wetlands, is oftentimes a more cost effective method of filtering surface water and storage as groundwater than conventional grey infrastructures. This is not only a local resilience strategy, but a regional approach as downstream communities will also benefit from wetland filtering in receiving high quality, potable water.

- In Tehama County’s public forestlands, continuous application of fuel treatments (mechanical and low intensity prescribed burning) may achieve multiple management objectives, including the reduction of wildfire risk and associated carbon emissions and the creation of more diverse forest structure and composition.

- A majority of the forested lands are held under private ownership. In developing a small-scale landowner forest stewardship program focused on providing sound forest management knowledge and necessary resources for local property owners to make informed decisions about their forested land.

The Resource Conservation District of Tehama County (RCD-TC) is a non-regulatory public agency whose mission is “to assist citizens with managing, conserving, and improving the natural resources of Tehama County.”  The RCD-TC is governed by five Directors, appointed by the Tehama County Board of Supervisors; and by non-voting Associate Directors, appointed by the District's Board of Directors.

 

Publication Date: February 2015

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  • Adaptation plan

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