Opening Keynote Speaker

Ellen Hanak
Director, Water Policy Center
Public Policy Institute of California

Ellen Hanak is 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.

Opening Session Panel

Todd Gartner
Director, Natural Infrastructure Initiative
World Resources Institute 


Willie Whittlesey

Project Manager, Lower Yuba River Management Team
Yuba Water Agency


In California, 2018 was the most deadly and destructive wildfire year on record. Wildfire destroys and degrades forests, contaminates water supplies, releases greenhouse gases, puts lives, property and infrastructure at risk, and negatively impacts local economies. Rising temperatures, drought conditions and a legacy of fire suppression in the West make wildfires worse, while an increasing amount of the Forest Service’s budget goes to firefighting, at the expense of preventing the next fire by restoring overgrown, stressed forest.

Now, a new financial instrument called the Forest Resilience Bond (“FRB”) enables private capital to invest in forest health restoration such as reduced wildfire risk and augmented water quality and quantity. The FRB raises private capital from investors to finance forest restoration today, to reduce the risk of severe fire tomorrow. The November 2018 inaugural launch of the FRB in northern CA’s North Yuba River watershed mobilized $4.6 million to restore forest health across 15,000 acres in the Tahoe National Forest. Yuba Water Agency, recognizing the risk to their infrastructure and operations, was a critical beneficiary of the pilot. The World Resources Institute’s Todd Gartner and Yuba Water Agency’s Willie Whittlesey will discuss the partners, investors, mechanics and benefits of the first pilot, key elements of the FRB mechanism, and ways other utilities across CA can explore fighting fire with finance in their watersheds.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker

Wade Crowfoot
California Secretary for Natural Resources
California Resources Agency

Wade Crowfoot was appointed California Secretary for Natural Resources by Governor Newsom on January 11, 2019. Crowfoot brings more than 20 years of public policy and environmental experience to the office, with expertise in water, climate and sustainability issues. He most recently served as Chief Executive Officer of the Water Foundation and led its transition into an independent organization early in 2017. Prior to joining the foundation, he served in Governor Jerry Brown's Administration as deputy cabinet secretary and senior advisor to the Governor, leading the administration's drought response efforts. He previously served as West Coast regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund and a Senior Environmental Advisor to then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.