SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown today signed into law legislation authored by Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D – North Coast) that streamlines the process and reduces the cost of acquiring conservation easements under California’s Forest Legacy Program. AB 2169 ensures these acquisitions are not subject to needless duplicative review.
“Gov. Brown recognized this legislation accomplishes his goal of streamlining governmental processes while protecting the public’s interest,” Chesbro said. “His signature on AB 2169 helps ensure we can continue to preserve critical ecosystem habitat and maintain employment for rural communities under the Forest Legacy Program.”
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, through the purchase of conservation easements.
“Easements acquired through the Forest Legacy Program are a valuable conservation tool to preserve California's fish and wildlife resources while keeping timberlands available for harvest,” Chesbro said. “Not only do these privately owned forestlands create jobs, they also continue to generate tax revenue for the state.”
A problem arose last year when CalFire acquired a Forest Legacy conservation easement on Sonoma County’s Baxter Ranch. The purchase was forced to go through the State Public Works Board, which added $18,000 in costs to the project.
“When I authored the Forest Legacy legislation twelve years ago, it was not the intent to involve the Public Works Board in purchases,” Chesbro said.
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 added. “Forcing them to go through an additional process is duplicative and adds unnecessary costs to the program.”
"Sometimes little things make a big difference,” said Paul Mason of the Pacific Forest Trust. “Clarifying that Forest Legacy projects are treated the same as other conservation easements will save money, eliminate delay, and make California more competitive in the national competition for securing federal funds for these projects."
AB 2169 takes effect Jan. 1.
Contact: Andrew Bird, Chesbro communications director, (916) 319-2001