SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San José) introduced AB 57 to establish the California Pocket Forest Initiative, a pilot program that would authorize CAL FIRE to provide demonstration grants for pocket forests to public and nonprofit entities. Pocket forests are small plots of urban land that have been densely planted with native plant species and offer communities access to healthy, self-sustaining natural green areas.
“Pocket forests are an efficient and effective way to address the scarcity of urban green spaces,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “They can provide crucial habitat for important native animal species, serve as pit stops for vital pollinators, and ultimately reshape the urban landscape into something more equitable for all. As deforestation continues around the world and we feel the effects of climate change with longer wildfire seasons and frequent extreme climate events, our state’s policies on preserving biodiversity and access to nature, as well as combatting climate change, need to incorporate innovative tools. I am proud to bring back AB 57 to create a pathway for more urban communities to enjoy the many benefits of natural green spaces and improved climate resiliency.”
Flourishing in just 2-3 years, pocket forests are designed according to the Miyawaki method, a style of tree planting that directs growers to emulate an area’s native ecosystem. In an effort to promote equitable access to nature, AB 57 directs CAL FIRE to prioritize grant applications for projects in disadvantaged communities and areas that lack easily accessible green spaces. Last year, Assemblymember Kalra introduced a similar bill, AB 2114, which was held by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“California ReLeaf wholeheartedly supports AB 57 and pocket forests for bringing more trees, biodiverse natural habitat, and a bit of wildland habitat to our urban neighborhoods and schools — and for prioritizing investments in underserved communities where trees are needed most. Pocket forests are different from other urban forest programs — we’re not planting linear street trees or tidy tree groves. For children who live in cities and haven’t had a chance to visit the woods in the Sierra or state parks, a pocket forest could be their first introduction to more natural, non-manicured wilderness,” said Cindy Blain, Executive Director of California ReLeaf, co-sponsor of the bill.
“The California Institute for Biodiversity believes that, even as we address accelerating climate and biodiversity crises, perhaps the greatest crisis we face is a growing perception that there is nothing to be done and no reason for hope. AB 57 is a defiantly positive assertion that yes, there are simple win-win actions we can take to save pollinators and wildlife, while ensuring all Californians have access to the benefits of nature,” said Daniel Gluesenkamp, Executive Director of California Institute for Biodiversity, co-sponsor of the bill. “AB 57 advances nature-based solutions to ameliorate extreme heat, address water air pollution issues, and reverse the decades-long mistake that is urban nature loss. We support this important effort to give people of all ages the chance to reconnect with nature that heals, restores, and renews within each of us our personal commitment to grow a better future.”
AB 57 is coauthored by Assemblymembers Mike Fong (D-Alhambra), Alex Lee (D-San José), and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland).
Assemblymember Ash Kalra represents California’s 25th Assembly District, which encompasses the majority of San José, including downtown and open space areas northeast of Santa Clara County. He was first elected in 2016, becoming the first Indian American to serve in the California Legislature in state history, and was re-elected to his fourth term in 2022. Assemblymember Kalra most recently served as Chair of the Committee on Labor and Employment and also served as a member on the Housing and Community Development, Judiciary, Transportation, and Water, Parks, and Wildlife committees.