Navigating the threat of wildfire is an ongoing reality of life in Sonoma County. From 2017 to 2020, fires burned more than 300,000 acres across the county, resulting in devastating losses to ecosystems, homes, communities, and human lives. Recent years of extreme wildfire events have transformed the land and shifted the priorities of the public, management agencies, and local governing bodies around the essential need for fire adaptation and mitigation.

In Sonoma County, where over half the land area is forest and woodlands, there has been a strong focus on vegetation management. This set of practices, such as thinning, grazing, clearing along evacuation routes, and prescribed burning, alters vegetation to reduce wildfire risk, promote public safety, and support healthy ecosystems. Vegetation management is important in light of decades of extractive land use patterns and fire suppression that have disrupted or altogether eliminated natural disturbance regimes. The removal of fire from California’s landscapes is inextricably tied to colonization and the criminalization of traditional fire stewardship practiced by Native communities for thousands of years.

With catastrophic and unnaturally intense wildfires increasing in frequency over the last few years, tens of millions of dollars are flowing in from the federal, state, and county levels as well as private funds for vegetation management, fire safe education, and local capacity-building efforts. We need to ensure that these funding mechanisms and grant-making entities center the needs and voices of frontline workers.

Read the full article about worker justice by Davida Sotelo Escobedo and Hannah Wilton at Northern California Grantmakers.