SACRAMENTO – AB 2169, a bill by Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D – North Coast) to reduce costs and eliminate redundancy in the Forest Legacy Program, is headed to the governor’s desk after winning final approval from the Assembly today. The bill will streamline the program and save money by clarifying that conservation easements acquired through the Forest Legacy Program should be treated the same as other easement acquisitions by the Wildlife Conservation Board, and not be subject to a duplicative review by the state Public Works Board.
The Forest Legacy Program was created by legislation Chesbro authored in 2000 when he served in the State Senate. The program helps forest landowners protect environmentally important forestland threatened with conversion to non-forest uses, such as residential subdivisions or commercial development, by allowing the purchase of conservation easements.
“Last year when CalFire acquired a conservation easement on Sonoma County’s Baxter Ranch for the Forest Legacy Program, the purchase was forced to go through State Public Works Board, which added $18,000 to the project,” Chesbro said. “When I authored the Forest Legacy Program legislation twelve years ago, it was not the intent to involve the Public Works Board in purchases.”
AB 2169 expressly exempts Forest Legacy Program conservation easement purchases from the Public Works Board’s process, and clarifies that these projects should go through the standard California Wildlife Conservation Board process, which is what the original legislation intended, Chesbro said.
“The Wildlife Conservation Board’s expertise on forestry-related projects makes it uniquely qualified to oversee Forest Legacy Program purchases,” Chesbro said. “Forcing them to go through an additional process is duplicative and adds unnecessary costs to the program.”
“There is no logical reason to treat conservation easements purchased with Forest Legacy funds differently than any other easement purchased by the Wildlife Conservation Board,” said Paul Mason of the Pacific Forest Trust. “The added cost and delay is pointless and wasteful. Ironically, the delays and dysfunction resulting from this duplicative process has harmed California’s competitiven