In the main forest belt of California, fires seldom or never sweep from tree to tree in broad all-enveloping sheets ... Here the fires creep from tree to tree, nibbling their way on the needle-strewn ground... — John Muir, 1895
Conservation in the Sierra Nevada: Issues and Recommendations
In preparation for a new cycle of forest planning on national forests in the Sierra Nevada, Sierra Forest Legacy and our conservation partners have released a conservation strategy for the region to set a standard for conservation planning that befits the current era we are living in -- a critical time in the history of the region and the planet.
The Conservation Strategy contains background information and recommendations on a variety of topic areas, including:
- Ecological sustainability
- People and the Sierra Nevada
- Restoring Fire as an Ecological Process
- Structural Diversity of Forests and Adjacent Habitats
- Old Forest Habitats and Associated Species
- Restoring and Maintaining Aquactic Ecosystems
- Conservation of Species at Risk and Conservation Measures
- Species Movement and Habitat Connectivity
- Management of Invasive Species
- Roads, Trails, and Travel Management
- Protecting Roadless Areas and New Wilderness Areas
- Wild and Scenic Rivers: Evaluation and Recommendation
- Special Interest Areas and Research Natural Areas
- Forest Planning and Integration
- Adaptive Management and Monitoring
Managing Sierra Nevada Forests
New Technical Report (PSW-GTR-237)
North, Malcolm, ed. 2012. Managing Sierra Nevada Forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-237. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 184 p.
An Ecosystem Management Strategy for Sierran Mixed-Conifer Forests (PSW-GTR-220)
A new report from Pacific Southwest Research Station (with addendum, February, 2010)
We applaud this new technical report from the Forest Service Sierra Nevada Research Center, Pacific Southwest Research Station. Authors Malcolm North, Peter Stine, Kevin O'Hara, William Zielinkski, and Scott Stephens present a clearly articulated restoration strategy for the mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, based on synthesis of an important large body of recent research from a variety of scientific disciplines, including forest ecology, silviculture, wildlife biology, and fire science. This new platform for refining ecological restoration in the Sierra Nevada is precisely what is needed at this juncture.
The ecosystem management strategy presented represents an enlightened approach to managing Sierra Nevada ecosystems that is firmly rooted in core ecological principles.
Emphasis goals of the strategy include increasing heterogeneity at multiple scales, greater use of fire for multiple benefits, increasing connectivity (reducing fragmentation), and facilitating greater resiliency of forest landscapes to withstand climate impacts and other changes. The suggestions for thinning would move the agency away from reliance on outmoded and uniform silvicultural prescriptions, and would result in more diverse configurations of cohorts of trees in clumped spacing and retention of multi-aged stands. Guided by ecological thinking, the researchers suggest a management approach that mimics natural processes.
If implemented across the mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, the strategy should result in preservation and restoration of vital wildlife habitat for species like the imperiled Pacific fisher and California spotted owl, and the many associated plants and animals that require complex, old forest habitats. This ecological approach would also ensure the continuity of the entire succession of diverse plant communities and wildlife in Sierran forest landscapes.
Sierran mixed conifer forests today are highly disturbed and fragmented from overly aggressive fire suppression practices and forest management policies. The result has been an entrainment towards homogenous landscapes and loss of biodiversity. New, evolving fire policies and thoughtful ecosystem approaches to management are currently being debated and largely embraced by the conservation community. Increasing the level of ecology-focused scientific research that can inform management is a key goal for Sierra Forest Legacy and our partner groups.
The authors include a list of research and monitoring needs to further refine the strategy specific to Sierra Nevada forests. The report is a welcome breath of fresh air in the haze of ideological wrangling obscuring the urgency of reaching sustainable management goals for Sierra Nevada forest ecosystems.
North, Malcolm; Peter Stine, Kevin O'Hara, William Zielinski, and Scott Stephens. 2009. An Ecosystem Management Strategy for Sierran Mixed-Conifer Forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-220. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 49 p.
"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it does otherwise."