Placer County 3Ps Wildfire Resilience Project: Planning > Protection > Policy

Host: Placer County Department of Agriculture, Regional Forest Health Program
Openings: 1
Project Focus: Climate Adaptation,Climate Mitigation,Ecosystem / Habitat Conservation,Forest Resilience/Wildfire Prevention
Skills Needed: Community Engagement,Public Speaking, Community Outreach,Stakeholder Engagement,

Remote or On-Site Placement


Service Needs & Plans

Three frightening statistics govern Placer County’s wildfire and climate mitigation efforts: 1.) Tree Mortality: Placer County had the third highest number of dead trees across California last year, and the Tahoe National Forest (43% of Placer County) had the highest number within the 19 California-based national forests; 2.) Habitable structures: Placer County has more habitable structures in the fire-prone wildland-urban interface (WUI) than any county in California; and 3,) Mosquito Fire: In September 2022, Placer County experienced its largest fire in recorded history, the 77,000-acre Mosquito Fire., which was also the state’s largest fire in 2022. It cost $150m+ to fight, destroyed 78 structures, put 11,000 people under evacuation orders, and directly affected public health, businesses, water and power infrastructure, transportation, habitat, and recreation for weeks if not longer. Its aftermath will be felt (and paid for) for years to come.

Forests and woodlands comprise more than half of the county’s land area, extending westward from Lake Tahoe to the wildland-urban interface areas and oak woodlands in lower-elevation western county. These forested lands face severe challenges, including overcrowding of vegetation, drought, and rising temperatures, which combine to negatively impact forest health, heighten wildfire risk, and threaten the county’s natural resources, public health, water supply, and community sustainability.

After the Mosquito Fire, County Supervisors directed the Regional Forest Health (RFH) program to: 1.) scale up forest treatment work from “thousands” to “tens of thousands” of acres per year; 2.) continue working on existing projects while concurrently planning for a prioritized pipeline of future projects; 3.) prioritize community and infrastructure protection; and 4.) determine how to support increased work to achieve community and forest resilience.

To meet the Supervisors’ direction, RFH created the 3Ps Wildfire Resilience Project: Planning > Protection > Policy. The project uses a cloud-based interactive risk assessment tool called Land Tender that employs curated data and geospatial mapping to identify key infrastructure and environmental assets – such as water/power distribution lines, water courses, special status species habitat, old growth/Sequoia/Aspen groves, oak woodlands, riparian areas, above-ground live biomass, etc. – then evaluates wildfire-related threats to those assets and creates mitigation scenarios and projects that can provide the highest return on investment for wildfire protection. The RFH team needs help engaging key stakeholders in the use of the tool to create wildfire protection scenarios and collaboratively identify a suite of associated projects that will achieve wildfire protection goals.

Project Description

1. Project Goals: The overarching goal of the 3Ps Wildfire Resilience Project is to increase community and landscape-level climate resilience and protect Placer County’s residents, visitors, businesses, infrastructure, and natural resources from the negative impacts of large, damaging wildfires.

2. Role of the Fellow: Based on our previous positive experience working with the CivicSpark program, the RFH team is seeking a 2023-24 Fellow to provide critical project support, community engagement facilitation, and issue research/strategy development that will allow us to meet the Board’s direction for the coming year. The CivicSpark Fellow will work under the guidance of RFH program staff to support advancement of existing wildfire risk reduction projects, help deploy the Land Tender tool with key stakeholders, use the tool to lead development of wildfire mitigation scenarios and a pipeline of associated prioritized projects, and help to identify and strategize around necessary policy interventions to support Placer County’s climate resilience work.

3. Desired project outcomes: Specific project outcomes include: a.) a 10-year action plan to reduce the threat of wildfire to key Placer County assets; b.) an associated pipeline of pre-identified wildfire mitigation projects designed to meet the goals of the action plan; c.) an activated network of agencies and community organizations empowered to help conduct the work; and d.) a specific schedule of activities (e.g. environmental compliance, permitting, fund development, partnership agreements, vendor procurement and contracting, project reporting, etc.) and a list of potential policy interventions that could help move identified projects through the pipeline from planning to implementation to completion to maintenance over time.

4. Increased capacity to address resilience challenges: Even before the Mosquito Fire, the Placer County Board of Supervisors identified forest management and wildfire prevention as one of its top strategic priorities, creating a first-of-its kind Regional Forest Health (RFH) program that launched earlier in 2021. There is great interest and will to act to protect Placer communities and resources from the ravages of wildfire. We know we need to do more work, but we don’t know where to do it to achieve the best return on investment. The expedited evaluation of different assets and resulting wildfire mitigation scenarios – and the resulting 10-year collaborative action plan and associated project pipeline that will be created with support of a Fellow during the 2023-24 CivicSpark term – will provide the scientific basis for determining where and when to work, and with which partners. Such a process would typically take years for a local government to complete; but with the Land Tender tool and deployment support from a CivicSpark Fellow, the 2-person RFH team can significantly accelerate the planning-to-implementation timeframe for improving community and landscape resilience to wildfire and other climate impacts.

Having worked to develop a prioritized project list and assemble a cadre of committed partners willing to collaborate on implementing the projects, the CivicSpark Fellow will have helped position the County to move projects forward that will protect lives, property, and critical resources throughout the County. The Fellow’s work will also augment that of neighboring jurisdictions that are undergoing similar planning processes using the same Land Tender tool, including the Tahoe National Forest and the Truckee Fire Protection District, both of which serve or manage land within Placer County. Note: there is no federal financial contribution to this project from the Tahoe National Forest

Desired Skills

The 3Ps Wildfire Resilience Project would be best served by a Fellow with some general science and/or natural resources background; but the primary focus will be on communications, outreach, research, and critical analysis, as well as public speaking skills with the ability to explain complicated processes to the general public. Some degree of exposure to/knowledge of forest health and wildfire impacts would be helpful. And an interest in reviewing and reporting on policy issues surrounding forest health and wildfire would be a plus.

In addition, we are looking for someone who has the ability and desire to:
 plan, manage, and facilitate community outreach and engagement through meetings and other community events;
 listen, communicate, problem-solve, and engage with fellow program staff and constituents;
 bring about change and assist the county in forest health and wildfire resiliency efforts to ensure the safety of residents/visitors, assets, and resources;
 gather and analyze data, create results, and present the findings to the appropriate audiences, within and outside County departments.

Organization & Workplace Highlights

Placer County is an extraordinary community in northern California characterized by a healthy and diverse economy, attractive business environment, and residents who benefit from high quality educational, safety, and healthcare infrastructure, as well as a wide variety of outstanding recreational opportunities. The government center, located in Auburn, is well-positioned 30 miles northeast of Sacramento, the State capital, which offers many opportunities to learn about and engage in statewide climate action issues and efforts. The County, whose total population is approximately 400,000, includes a mix of agricultural land and fast-growing suburban communities stretching from the Sacramento Valley to the forested foothills of California Gold Country, to the heavily forested and sparsely populated Sierra Nevada mountain range. East of the Sierra crest Placer includes the northern half of the Lake Tahoe Basin, a region of lakeside towns and world-famous recreational amenities.

Placer County is an Equal Opportunity Employer, placing a high value on diversity, appreciating the unique contributions of many perspectives, and growing as a community by embracing differences. The County’s departments and human resources staff have built a strong outreach and recruitment relationship with our local community college, Sierra College, which has a diverse student population in terms of ethnicity, social and economic demographics, age, etc. The County acknowledges the need and is working to develop more specific diversity, equity, and inclusion elements around both recruitment and retention.

Both County and Department of Agriculture leadership offer a welcoming environment where everyone is accepted and professional growth is nurtured. The County organizes many staff appreciation events throughout the year, and the Agricultural Department’s self-titled “Fun Committee” arranges team-building social events each quarter. As a team we are committed to serving the residents of Placer County through a positive, diverse, and inclusive work environment that fosters collaboration between personnel and supports positive relationships with our constituents.

Community Highlights

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