Forest Resilience Investment to reduce wildfire risks.

By Todd Gartner (World Resources Institute), Nathalie Woolworth (Blue Forest Conservation), and Adam Connaker (Rockefeller Foundation)

The Yuba Water Agency (YWA) provides water, flood control and hydropower for communities in Northern California, and serves as a supplementary source for cities and farms across California in dry years through its water transfer program.

For the agency and everyone they serve, wildfires are bad news. In addition to endangering YWA’s workers and customers, sediment from a wildfire could clog the agency’s reservoir, damaging its infrastructure and increasing operating costs.

Wildfires are increasing in number, scale and intensity throughout California. Massive fires erupted recently to the west in Mendocino and to the southeast in Yosemite. YWA can’t help but wonder if their watershed is next.

Across the country, concerned groups ranging from utilities to transportation departments to water-dependent companies are wondering what they can do to reduce wildfire risk in fire-prone areas. These entities may soon look to Yuba to learn about a pioneering approach to financing risk reduction: This week, project developer Blue Forest Conservation (BFC) and World Resources Institute cemented funding for a $4.6 million forest restoration project through the first-ever Forest Resilience Bond (FRB).

The FRB is an innovative financing tool that raises private capital to fund interventions such as forest restoration that reduce the chances of fire. Investors provide capital to fund project implementation. Stakeholders that benefit from restoration—smaller fires mean lower costs—reimburse the investors over time.


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