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LAO releases An Initial Review of the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program

The Legislative Analyst’s Office has just published the following report:

An Initial Review of the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program

Successfully implementing forest health and wildfire mitigation projects often requires public and private entities to work together, particularly in order to complete larger, more complex and cross-jurisdictional projects than if they work independently. The state created the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity (RFFC) Program in 2018 to support regional collaboration for forest health and wildfire resilience by providing block grants to various entities, each covering a different part of the state. The program is administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

In this report, we find that the initial activities funded by RFFC have been consistent with the intended goals of the program—supporting regional collaboration for forest health and wildfire prevention activities. Though promising, RFFC faces some key limitations. We find that regional priority planning—one of the primary RFFC activities—varies significantly across grantees due to a lack of specific state standards, making it difficult to assess whether the resulting plans are aligned with state goals and priorities. In addition, we find that RFFC has limited data collection and reporting, making it difficult to evaluate the program. There also is uncertainty about whether the boundaries of the regions are optimal and how projects prioritized through the regional collaboration efforts funded by RFFC will be implemented in the future.

We identify several steps the Legislature could take to improve program outcomes and oversight. In the short term, we recommend the Legislature (1) create state requirements for regional priority plans by defining which types of projects should be prioritized and requiring DOC to set state standards for regional priority plans consistent with those priorities and (2) adopt evaluation and reporting requirements, which would include assessments of the program on its processes, deliverables, and outcomes. In the long term, based on the value of the regional priority plans and the outcomes of future program evaluations, we recommend the Legislature consider options for providing funds for the implementation of projects identified in regional priority plans, as well as providing ongoing funding for RFFC coordination and planning activities.

This report is available using the following link: https://lao.ca.gov/Publications/Report/4482

This article was released by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.