Forestry and Wildfire Resiliency
While fire is an essential and naturally occurring event in California's natural landscapes, fires across California are becoming uncharacteristically large, and undoubtedly pose a risk to the watersheds they affect. Wildfires can destroy vegetation which protects the land from erosion and prevents runoff of sediment into water bodies. This sediment runoff can damage water bodies by increasing the cloudiness of the water, also known as turbidity. This increase in turbidity results in less light reaching aquatic plants, which limits photosynthesis and can kill the plants, potentially opening the door for new invasive species to move in. Increases in turbidity can also raise water temperatures, resulting in lower levels of dissolved oxygen. Less dissolved oxygen in waters is detrimental to fish and can cause fish kills. When wildfires burn more urban areas, the debris and ash from manmade structures and objects can also run off into streams and water bodies. This debris and ash often contain heavy metals and toxic chemicals, which can contaminate drinking water sources and present additional human health challenges.
California Vegetation Treatment Program
The Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (BOF), in cooperation with the Water Boards and other state agencies, developed the California Vegetation Treatment Program (CalVTP) and an associated Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) to help speed up actions to reduce wildfire risk. To assist in these actions while also protecting water quality, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted the Vegetation Treatment General Order for vegetation treatment activities that are within the scope of the CalVTP PEIR.