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Vegetation Management and Fuel Reduction

Vegetation Management is the practice of removing or modifying live and dead vegetation to reduce the potential spread of fire ignitions, overall rates of fire spread, flame lengths and severity.  Reducing fuels creates safer conditions for emergency responders to work during a fire, evacuations and other land management activities.  Fuels treatments are not one-time fixes, but are tools to restore natural ecosystem processes to our land.  Remember that there is no one-size fits all approach and some treatments will not work in some locations.  Reach out to a resource professional or UCCE Adviser if you need help determining the right treatment.  

Fuels Reduction Treatments



Fuel reduction through thinning, mulching and pile burning.

Read Forest Stewardship Series 15 on Wildfire and Fuel Management 


Recommendations for Managing Oak and Hardwood Resprouts

Hardwood managment

Learn how to control common invasive species in California

Fuel reduction and vegetation management strategies are just one goal and objective in the many a landowner may have.  It is important to think about the ecosystem as a whole and provide stewardship to benefit multiple aspects of the landscape.  Click here to learn about Stewardship in Oak and Coastal ecosystems.

Why you want a Forest Management Plan - UCCE_Forest_Factsheet_FMPs

Environmental Review and Permitting Fuels Reduction

Many fuel reduction activities can easily be done by hand or with hand tools do not require any environmental review or permit.  However, some fuel reduction projects are large scale or need heavy equipment, thus triggering the need for environmental review and/or permitting.  You may be required a permit or environmental review if you have one or more of the following of the following:

  • Government funding (Federal, State, or County) for your project.  This includes grants and cost-share programs or if an agency (i.e. CALFIRE) is doing the work for you on your property.
  • Removing trees for economic return (selling, trading, bartering. Includes fire wood).
  • Producing Smoke (Pile burning or broadcast burning) - Air Quality District Permits
  • Burning (Piles or Broadcast) - CALFIRE Burn Permits 

Contact your local RCD, Registered Professional Forester or UCCE Adviser to determine what environmental review your project might require.  

Decision Tree to determine environmental permit for tree removal for economic return. Planning and Permitting Forest Fuel Reduction Projects on Private Land. Valachovic et.al. 2022


Technical Assistance and Funding

Technical Assistance

Finding the right person, whether that be a Registered Professional Forester, environmental consultant, arborist, or other natural resource professional, can be a challenge.  Make sure that person or organization is listening to you and your goals and objectives. While the document below is specifically how to choose a Registered Professional Forester (RPF), the same criteria should apply for any resource professional you engage with.

  Tips for selecting an RPF 

Forest Stewardship Series 24: Professional Assistance - understand which natural resource professional may be able to assist you and where to find them.

Natural Resource Conservation Service

Post-fire assistance: provide technical assistance, financial assistance, and has helpful resources.  Each County has a local office.

Resource Conservation District

Each County has a local office that can provide technical and financial assistance.  

Sonoma RCD

Napa RCD

Marin RCD

Most management activities on forest lands will require a Registered Professional Forester (RPF).

CALFIRE RPF Registration - Learn more about RPFs: training, licensing and the role of an RPF

Registered Professional Forester and Certified Rangeland Manager Roster

Funding Sources

Fuel reduction work is not cheap, but there are different program available to help off-set some of the cost.  Some are State-wide and some are more local.

State-Wide Funding Resources 

County Resources

Sonoma County

1. Sonoma County Vegetation Management Grant Program - Ag and Open Space

2. Permit Sonoma Chipper Program

3. Fire Safe Sonoma Tool Trailer 

Napa County 

1. Napa Communities Firewise Foundation (NCFF)

Chipper Program 

Defensible Space Program - if qualified, can receive up to $3,500 in reimbursement for defensible space projects on your property.

Marin County

1. Marin Wildfire Protection Agency (MWPA)

Resident Grants - if qualified, residents can receive piratical reimbursement of their Defensible Space and Home Hardening modifications. 

Chipper Days 

2. Fire Safe Marin Grant Opportunities