As California’s fourth largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture is a massive part of the state’s overall carbon reduction plan. Climate-smart agriculture focuses on using regenerative methods to reduce emissions and improve the health and adaptability of farms, ecosystems, and communities as a whole. Some of these practices include crop rotation, mulching, and integrated crop-livestock management which simultaneously increases resiliency and productivity of the land. Here, farmers are incentivized through healthy soil programs, alternative manure management, and state water enhancement programs. Beyond regenerative agriculture, GrizzlyCorps addresses the food system holistically from land access to local food infrastructure and food security.
FOREST & FIRE RESILIENCY
As a framework for how forest management can sustain healthy productive forests, ecological forestry focuses on bringing forests together in structure, function, and composition to healthy stages of successional development. Careful stewardship by individual and community landowners can provide a sustainable supply of timber while simultaneously supporting ecosystem functions and connectivity. Mimicking natural processes, increasing structural complexity, and retaining native species diversifies the larger array of ecosystem functions. GrizzlyCorps understands the importance of forest resiliency for fire management to promote local prevention, mitigation, and preparedness against wildfire threats across California.
Why Regenerative Agri-Food Systems?
The progression and consequences of climate change are inextricably linked to high-polluting, energy-intensive industries and are influenced in several ways by practices in the globalized agri-food systems. Food systems are both a significant contributor to climate change, accounting for more than 13 percent of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and a victim of climate change impacts. The agri-food system contributes to the progression of climate change through GHGs, deforestation, soil degradation, food waste, and pollution from transportation and processing. These impacts, along with increased marketplace and economic instability threaten community resilience and will increase uncertainty for low-income and rural regions to be able to consistently access affordable foods.
Weather and environmental events will pose significant challenges to agricultural producing regions due to the rise of drought, pests, wildfire, and natural disasters, among other concerns. These challenges are compounded by the effects of soil degradation as well as resource constraints and competition making it more difficult to access land and adequate water for crops. In North America, agricultural lands are losing on average 5-tons of topsoil per acre every year, which has the resulting impact of losing 300-400 gallons of water per acre due to water-holding sediment loss from soil degradation. This is worrisome when you consider that soil erosion in many parts of the world is happening faster than it can be regenerated and that droughts are increasingly prevalent in agricultural regions across California. This can have devastating impacts on small-share farmers who depend on rainfall and reliable local water sources. According to Nierenberg (2018), soil degradation in the US cost $37.6 billion every year. While nearly 40 percent of land globally is used for agriculture and food production, over the last 40 years, 30 percent of arable land across the globe has become unproductive. These statistics are particularly worrisome for small-share farmers who are routinely pushed off of thriving farmlands by corporate land grabs. Land degradation and the associated corporate farming practices has undeniable repercussions on the food security and socio-economic stability of rural and farming communities. Small-share farmers also unjustly face the risks of climate change through financial hardship from crop loss or damage due to increasing environmental crises, compared to the risks faced by agribusinesses.
Despite the role of conventional agriculture in contributing to climate change, regenerative practices have the potential to be a leading solution, which not only eliminates the environmental impacts of conventional practices but can reverse emission by sequestering carbon back into the soil. In farm communities, regenerative agriculture can help reduce water and fertilizer demand while improving soil quality and carbon retention. Regenerative agriculture encompasses a broad scope of practices that aim to regenerate soil health through farming practices. These include improving on-farm efficiencies such as nutrient management and irrigation, rotational crop and grazing systems, composting, and ecological pest management, among others. Regenerative agriculture, ultimately, has the potential to alleviate climate impacts while addressing both social and ecological injustices in our food system. This is achieved through improved soil health, water retention, crop productivity, and resilience to weather extremes while improving regional food security.
Climate change and water challenges across California have underscored the urgency and importance of enhancing the adaptive capacity of agriculture. California is a global leader in the agricultural sector and produces more than 400 types of commodities. Despite being highly productive, current and future climate threats pose numerous challenges to the agricultural sector. While these environmental challenges to food producers are well-understood, consumers will face equally alarming threats related to food safety, food cost volatility, challenges to infrastructure and transportation, and economic barriers to food access. California has an opportunity to prevent and reverse some of the agri-food systems negative consequences by taking a holistic approach to regenerating our soils and an equitable food system that works for all.
GrizzlyCorps recognizes that agriculture and the food system at large are inseparable and that we must address climate disruptions up and down the agri-food system. In addition to regenerative agriculture, the broader agri-food system requires attention paid to the ways that our food systems and agricultural industries will be challenged and need to adapt to climate threats and disturbances. Additionally, regenerative agriculture is only as successful as it is capable of competing in the globalized and industrialized food system, making it important to look beyond farming practices to improve land access, food system infrastructure, and financial support for small-scale Californian producers. Aiming for a regenerative agri-food system encompasses building equitable and diverse food system infrastructure, particularly in rural areas and food deserts. Diverse food systems provide improved capacity for responding and adapting to food system disruptions and upholding community resilience.
 Canning, Patrick, Sarah Rehkamp, Arnold Waters, and Hamideh Etemadnia. The role of fossil fuels in the US food system and the American diet. No. 1477-2017-3953. 2017.
 Nierenberg, Danielle, ed. Nourished planet: Sustainability in the global food system. Island Press, 2018.
 Pathak, Tapan B., Mahesh L. Maskey, Jeffery A. Dahlberg, Faith Kearns, Khaled M. Bali, and Daniele Zaccaria. "Climate change trends and impacts on California agriculture: a detailed review." Agronomy 8, no. 3 (2018): 25.
Why Fire & Forest Resiliency?
Californian communities face severe and growing threats from climate change—perhaps the most prominent of which is the unprecedented rise of wildfires. In 2020 alone more than 4 million acres have burned, impacting nearly every region of California, and costing the state billions of dollars. The technical report, Wildfire Simulations: Projecting Changes in Extreme Wildfire Events with a Warming Climate, from California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment suggests that fire size and risk across the state may quadruple in coming years. Already, over 60 percent of California is facing long-term drought, increasing vulnerability to fire destruction and challenging our capacity to respond to and control burns. By the year 2100, if significant action is not taken, the frequency of extreme wildfires burning over 25,000 acres may increase by nearly 50 percent amounting to a 77 percent increase in the average statewide area burned. This projection would result in large scale damage, rising insurance and public investment costs, and severe impacts to livelihoods for Californian communities. It is now clearer than ever, that California must take urgent action to prevent these threats, which are already threatening residents on unprecedented scales each year.
The alarming trend of destructive wildfires has resulted through a combination of a long history of aggressive and misguided fire and forest management along with the exacerbation of heat and drought driven by climate change. Aggressive fire management practices which seek to extinguish all wildfires have prevented forests from clearing out dry, decaying, and flammable matter from old forest growth. The role of fire in ecosystem maintenance has been well understood by indigenous populations along the west coast for generations who have utilized fire to replenish vegetation and food sources. However, modern practices of wildfire suppression up and down the west coast have led to a fire deficit in our forests. Despite popular misconceptions, fire has upheld an important role in our forest ecosystems by re-introducing healthy new growth, which retain water in the soil and sequester larger amounts of carbon than old growth vegetation.
Rural and forest communities in California benefit from addressing the growing threats of wildfires through improved watershed, ecosystems, and soil health, as well as community preparedness and resilience. Ecological forest management can also promote resilience for rural and forest communities by protecting them from unprecedented megafires, drought, and insect and disease outbreaks in their forests. Unfortunately, to address the scale of fire destruction across California, solutions have so far been inadequate in scope and scale. Local efforts to mitigate fire impacts are often limited and resource-intensive leaving little capacity to diagnose new challenges or respond with emerging opportunities. The unprecedented scale and complexity of climate-driven threats require improved knowledge, innovative policy approaches, and more dynamic solutions that coordinate across disciplines while engaging local stakeholders.
For these reasons, GrizzlyCorps seeks to send qualified recent graduates into vulnerable communities that would benefit from improved knowledge in the fields of forest and fire resilience, climate change, ecology, sustainability, and policy and planning, among other topics. By focusing on the areas of fire and forest resilience, GrizzlyCorps is able to support local communities in a number of preparedness and resilience efforts to combat the threats of wildfire. Members can assist their host organizations in this process by developing fire management and mitigation plans, promoting responsible forest management, and improving education of fire safe practices in their communities. By identifying and responding to capacity gaps in their host organizations and the community at large, GrizzlyCorps members can enhance regional coordination and respond to the unique barriers to resilience faced by their communities.
 Westerling, Anthony Leroy. Wildfire Simulations for California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment: Projecting Changes in Extreme Wildfire Events with a Warming Climate: a Report for California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment. Sacramento, CA: California Energy Commission, 2018.
 Nylen, Nell Green, Michael Kiparsky, Dave Owen, Holly Doremus, and Michael Hanemann. "California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment." (2018).