Building Wildfire Resilience in the West: The Future of Wildfire, Climate Change, and Water in the West | Session 4

About this Series

Western landscapes have always burned and always will. The more we suppress fire and change the climate, the more catastrophic wildfires become. How can we make communities and wild lands more resilient in the age of megafire?


About the Session

Catastrophic wildfire intersects deeply with climate change and water. Forests in the western US often store more carbon than tropical forests with roots digging deep down to find water, pulling CO2 down with them. Over-fueled forests enable low intensity ground fire to become catastrophic canopy fire, releasing massive amounts of CO2, and increasingly burning so severely that carbon-storing forests never regrow. Climate warming exacerbates with tinder dry vegetation, higher temperatures, and more severe winds. The loss of Western forests also means the loss of the water storage and filtering services that forests provide us. Heavy rains post catastrophic fires lead to landslides, impacting water quality. Learn about the latest predictions on climate change, water, and wildfire in the West and what we can do to make communities and wildlands more resilient to the change.

Session Objectives

This session will focus on the intersection of wildfire, water, and climate change. 

  • Expand knowledge base on the impacts of wildfire to the climate and water supply
  • Discuss how philanthropic investments can help scientists and land managers scale resilience solutions
  • Clarify the role data, technology, and market innovation will play in moving landscapes toward resilience


Christina Burri, Watershed Scientist, Denver Water

At the watershed scientist at Denver Water, her role is to inventory, protection, and improvement to the region’s watersheds. Since 2010, Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service have worked together through the “From Forests to Faucets” partnership to manage Colorado’s forests and improve watershed health. Denver Water first became involved in From Forests to Faucets in response to damage caused by wildfires in 1996 and 2002. This damage, in combination with significant rainstorms, resulted in more than 1 million cubic yards of sediment accumulating in Denver Water’s Strontia Springs Reservoir. High levels of sediment can create operational challenges, cause water quality issues, and clog treatment plants. Following the fires, Denver Water spent more than $27.7 million on water quality treatment, sediment and debris removal, reclamation techniques, and infrastructure projects.

Jad Daley, President, American Forests

Jad joined American Forests in 2017 as Vice President of Conservation Programs and was named President & CEO in 2018 after a year of leading the organization forward on issues like climate change and society equity. From 2008 to 2017, Jad launched the Climate. Conservation Program at The Trust for Public Land and eventually served as Vice President for Program Development. Jad is widely published writer on conservation topics, including an active presence on Medium, and has played a leading role in authoring and enacting federal legislation to establish forest programs such as the U.S. Forest Service Community Forest Program.

Ellen Hanak, Vice President and Director of the Water Policy Center and Senior Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California

Ellen Hanak is vice president and director of the PPIC Water Policy Center and a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, where she holds the Ellen Hanak Chair in Water Policy. Under her leadership, the center has become a critical source of information and guidance for natural resource management in California. She has authored dozens of reports, articles, and books on water policy, including Managing California’s Water. Her research is frequently profiled in the national media, and she participates in briefings, conferences, and interviews throughout the nation and around the world. Her other areas of expertise include climate change and infrastructure finance. Previously, she served as research director at PPIC. Before joining PPIC, she held positions with the French agricultural research system, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and the World Bank. She holds a PhD in economics from the University of Maryland.

Daniel Swain, Climate Scientist, Institute of the Environment & Sustainability, UCLA

Dr. Daniel Swain is a climate scientist who studies the physics, dynamics, and impacts of extreme events – with a particular focus on how global warming is affecting the character of droughts, floods, and wildfires. As part of a novel collaboration between the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the Nature Conservancy, his present research focus is on the simultaneously rising risks of "megafires" and "megafloods" in the American West. Daniel engages extensively with journalists and other partners, serving as a climate and weather science liaison to print, radio, television, and web media outlets to facilitate broadly accessible but scientifically informed coverage surrounding climate change and natural disasters. Daniel also authors the Weather West blog, which provides real-time perspectives on California and western North American weather and climate. He can be found on Twitter (@Weather_West).

Allison Harvey Turner, CEO, Water Foundation

Allison oversees the foundation’s strategy, operations, and grantmaking and leads the staff in pursuing our mission to secure clean, reliable water for people and nature. As CEO, Allison supports philanthropy’s ability to convene, experiment with new ideas, and scale investment in transformative water solutions. The Water Foundation began in 2011 as a project of the Resources Legacy Fund and launched as an independent foundation in 2017. It has granted more than $50 million to organizations and coalitions to support safe, clean water for people, restored freshwater ecosystems, and climate resilience. To complement its grantmaking and build a broader constituency for water solutions, the Water Foundation also serves as a convener, field builder, and campaign strategist.

Allison Wolff, CEO, Vibrant Planet (Moderator) 

Allison’s expertise is strategy and narrative development, and building brand and product experiences. After overseeing the development of the Netflix brand and digital experience she advised corporate and nonprofit leadership teams on vision, strategy, and social and environmental innovation. Clients have included Google, eBay, Facebook, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Omidyar Network, Patagonia, Nike, HP, Drawdown, Conservation International, and GlobalGiving. After digging deep on the impacts of climate change and megafire on California’s forests, she is now leveraging her skills, network, and commitment to develop solutions for forest and landscape resilience and carbon drawdown.

Other Events in this Series

  • Session 1: The Megafire-COVID19 convergence Register > 
  • Session 2: Why Western forests are burning catastrophically Register >
  • Session 3: Addressing wildfire where it intersects with other key social issues Register >
  • Session 5: Catastrophic wildfire impacts on public Register >
  • Session 6: The economic opportunity in building wildfire resilience in the West Register >

Target Audience

This program is open to all funders (NCG, SCG, SDG members and non-funder members). 

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