Central Coast Regional Profile

Concluding Recommendations from Interviews

When interviewing experts who work on Central Coast land management related to wildfire resilience, we asked participants if they had recommendations for increasing community and ecological resilience to wildfire. In addition to the findings already shared pertaining to specific pillars of resilience, some key big picture themes emerged from interviews. We conclude by highlighting a few of those recommendations.

1) Increase public awareness of the need for proactive management to reduce wildfire hazard. Interviewees observed that there is a frequent misconception that the Central Coast region is not vulnerable to wildfire. While the region does not burn as frequently as other areas of California, these areas can occasionally burn severely and with the potential to be very devastating to densely-populated communities. This means that actions that mitigate risk, such as vegetation management to reduce fuel loads and hardening buildings to reduce the risk of ignition, will be increasingly important for protecting communities and conserving the rich biological resources of the region.

2) Support reliable, longer-term funding to sustain work. Nearly half of interviewees flagged funding as a key issue, especially for more rural counties without a large tax base to fund public work. There is a need for capacity building funding to develop longer-lasting programs, as well as maintenance funding for implemented projects to be effective. Consistent and secure funding can enable organizations to be less reactive to grant cycles and instead develop longer-term strategies and partnerships.

3) Address regulatory barriers to increase the pace and scale of ecologically-beneficial management. Regulatory barriers were the most frequently cited challenge to increasing resilience. Some interviewees felt that regulatory processes, such as the California Environmental Quality Act and Coastal Act, that were designed to regulate large, environmentally harmful projects like highway development were too onerous for small restoration projects like prescribed burning. Interviewees advocated for streamlining regulatory processes so that more environmentally-beneficial work could be accomplished and pointed to the state’s ‘Cutting Green Tape’ initiative as vital to these efforts.

4) Continue research to understand past, current, and future resilience of native ecosystems. There is still a lot that needs to be understood about natural disturbance regimes in this region which has been so formatively influenced by human activity from Indigenous stewardship to modern development. Emerging threats like climate change, novel pathogens, and exotic species are continuing to drive significant change, and it is not possible to set the clock back to historic conditions. Land managers and researchers must strive to understand what ‘resilience’ means for this region, and what actions should be prioritized to ensure that the multitude of ecosystem services that the Central Coast provides human and natural communities can persist.