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The California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force Highlights Southern California

On April 14th, experts gathered at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, CA for the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force’s second Southern California Regional Meeting. While the Task Force’s first Southern California Regional Meeting, hosted in February 2023, focused on defining the region’s unique needs, this second iteration focused on finding cross-jurisdictional collaboration opportunities.

Escondido, CA
The camera looks over the shoulder of a panelist who is speaking to two members of the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force's executive commitee sitting to his left.

To start the day, Dr. Megan Jennings (SDSU) offered a refresher on Southern California’s ecology, which, unlike the other Task Force regions, is dominated by chaparral and coastal sage scrub, and the area’s natural fire regimes. Dr. John Battles (UC Berkeley) then discussed recent updates to the Southern California Regional Resource Kit, the Task Force’s regionally tailored suite of decision-support tools and data. The remainder of the meeting featured three panels focused on collaboration. The first panel was composed of local, state, and federal leaders and highlighted their recent successes in implementing landscape-scale, collaborative projects.

This was followed by an insightful panel on Indigenous stewardship which gathered cultural burn practitioners and Tribal resource managers to discuss the systemic barriers threatening Tribal sovereignty and the traditional practices of cultural burners. “It’s really important that we start actually supporting our cultural and traditional bearers and not creating that red tape for us to be able to do what we need to do now, today,” said Marlene’ Duseck, a Tribal member and Indigenous Stewardship Coordinator at the Climate Science Alliance. “It’s easier for these agencies to get out and burn. It’s easier for private landowners to get out and burn. But for the Tribes, it’s very difficult.”

An engaged crowd watches the day's speakers.

To round out the day, representatives from water, energy, and transportation utilities shared their agencies’ innovative strategies for mitigating and responding to wildfire in Southern California. For example, Greg Woodside discussed the San Bernardino Municipal Water District’s participation in the Headwaters Resiliency Partnership which has allowed them to undertake ten projects to reduce the risk of wildfire in their watershed.

To watch webinar recordings of the full program, visit the Task Force website.