By Roger Bales and Martha Conklin

Many of California’s 33 million acres of forests face widespread threats stemming from past management choices. Today the U.S. Forest Service estimates that of the 20 million acres it manages in California, 6-9 million acres need to be restored.

Forest restoration basically means removing the less fire-resistant smaller trees and returning to a forest with larger trees that are widely spaced. These stewardship projects require partnerships across the many interests who benefit from healthy forests, to help bring innovative financing to this huge challenge.

The California Wildfires in Photos

california wildfires

We are engineers who work on many natural resource challenges, including forest management. We’re encouraged to see California and other western states striving to use forest management to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire.

But there are major bottlenecks. They include scarce resources and limited engagement between forest managers and many local, regional and state agencies and organizations that have roles to play in managing forests.

However, some of these groups are forming local partnerships to work with land managers and develop innovative financing strategies. We see these partnerships as key to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration.

Under contemporary conditions, trees in California’s forests experience increased competition for water. The exceptionally warm 2011-2015 California drought contributed to the death of over 100 million trees. As the forest’s water demand exceeded the amount available during the drought, water-stressed trees succumbed to insect attacks.

Funding is a significant barrier to scaling up treatments. Nearly half of the Forest Service’s annual budget is spent on fighting wildfires, which is important for protecting communities and other built infrastructure. But this means the agency can restore only a fraction of the acres that need treatment each year.

The Benefits of Restoration

Forest restoration provides many benefits in

The announcement comes as tens of thousands of airline employees face the possibility of furloughs if Congress is unable to reach a deal to extend a separate grant program that gave airlines billions of dollars if they agreed to keep workers on the job through the end of September. While negotiations continue, a deal must be reached before midnight Wednesday.

“The payroll support and loan programs created by the CARES Act have saved a large number of aviation industry jobs, and kept workers employed and connected to their health care, during an unprecedented time,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “We are pleased to conclude loans that will support this critical industry while ensuring appropriate taxpayer compensation.”

Mnuchin also said Congress must extend the payroll support program, “so we can continue to support aviation industry workers as our economy reopens and we continue on the path to recovery.”

At least three other carriers, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines, which signed letters of intent to accept the loans in July, said they will no longer participate in the loan program. Their decision frees additional money for other carriers. Treasury officials said airlines would be eligible for up to $7.5 billion, or 30 percent of the $25 billion available under the program.

“Our national leaders did a tremendous job developing innovative and effective programs to support the aviation industry, which is critical to the U.S. economy,” Spirit Airlines chief executive Ted Christie said in a statement announcing the decision earlier this month. “Ultimately, as a responsible company, we’re all about self-help and we decided it was our duty to avoid burdening the U.S. taxpayer if we had access to viable alternatives in the private market.”

Not all the loan amounts were made public. Treasury officials said that