Forest Restoration

We at Sierra Forest Legacy implement our conservation mission through two integrated and dependent elements:  Forest Planning and Forest Restoration.  Program objectives in Forest Planning focus on ensuring that the Forest Service decision makers adopt policies and revised forest plans that achieve conservation of sensitive resources, support science-based restoration of ecosystems, and are based on ecologically sustainable resource management. The document National Forests in the Sierra Nevada:  A Conservation Strategy (August 2012) serves as our guiding document to promote sound forest management.

Program objectives in Forest Restoration focus on the engagement of Sierra Forest Legacy and other conservation groups as stakeholders in the implementation of the conservation and restoration objectives identified in the Conservation Strategy and promoting them to Forest Service leadership. Implementation of Forest Restoration objectives includes participation in the design of forest restoration projects, engagement in the design and implementation of monitoring and adaptive management programs, and participation in collaborative groups to implement restoration objectives.

Forest Restoration is the new model for managing forests in the Sierra Nevada. In this model, forest management practices have a clear objective to restore the healthy ecological functions and biological diversity of our forests. Fire is restored to its evolutionary role as the primary shaper of Sierran ecosystems. Restoring fire promotes the resilience needed for forests and wildlife to survive the impacts of future fires and climate change, while maintaining optimum conditions for adaptability. Restoration forestry work can provide ecologically sustainable wood fiber harvests that provide useful products for society, while helping to maintain stable community economies.

Sierran forests have evolved with frequent fire over millions of years. In adapting to fire, the forests of the Sierra Nevada have developed tremendous biological and structural diversity. Old growth forests are so well adapted that they are nearly impervious to the impacts of fire. This is what is meant by the term "resilient" in reference to Sierran forests. To return to that resilient, biodiverse forest ecosystem, we must increase the use of prescribed fire, wildland fire use (allowing some fires to burn on their own), reduce adverse impacts of fire suppression activities, and permit natural regeneration of forests whenever it is possible to do so.

We also work to protect public health by promoting appropriate smoke mitigation measures. Sierra Forest Legacy helps to protect communities from wildfire and build resilient forests through our involvement in the Firewise Communities USA program and our collaboration with local Fire Safe Councils. We also work to develop innovative community solutions to utilize the dense and ecologically unnatural concentrations of tree fiber that has accumulated in our forests due to years of fire suppression.

Sustainability

Giant Sequoia

How can we promote resilience, and ensure that management activities are truly sustainable and do not compromise the health of ecosystems? We know that biological diversity promotes resiliency and helps to maintain a buffer against habitats undergoing changing climate. Similarly, natural processes such as frequent fire in the Sierra have shaped these biologically diverse forest ecosystems and promote resiliency. In this new section of our website, we will explore the science and policy along with the issues surrounding the concept of sustainability.

Managing Fire

spot fire

Fire in the Sierra Nevada is an essential ecological process that can restore, revitalize, and renew the forest. Many different species of plants and animals live with fire and are adapted and dependent upon the diverse landscape it creates. Current fire science suggests that restoration objectives cannot be achieved without the continued and increased use of fire. Fire practitioners, air quality regulators, and others interested in conservation are partnering to foster changes needed to effectively restore a Sierra Nevada fire-dependent landscape while providing for public safety.

Community Protection

Men working with wood chipper

In the Sierra Nevada the threat of wildfire harming communities is growing as the population increases in the mountains and foothills. By using the Firewise Communities / USA program, using a Conservation Community Wildfire Protection Planning model, and continuing our involvement in several Fire Safe Councils we are working to increase the overall protection, education, and involvement of Sierra Nevada communities.

Biomass and Small-Diameter Wood Utilization

Forests in the Sierra Nevada contain a significant amount of small-diameter and underutilized woody materials. With little financial incentive to utilize small sized materials, timber harvests continue to focus on removing the last of the largest trees. This only makes the problem worse. Overstocked stands increase the risk of insect, disease, fire, and drought damage. Finding marketable uses for this material would alleviate these problems while providing opportunities for communities to offset forest management costs.

The Evolving West

The West has, and continues to, evolve. The era of economic dependency on resource extraction has long since passed. The logging industry has been a fraction of the economy of the Sierra’s rural counties for decades. Even in counties where significant logging industry infrastructure remains and where the economies are the least diversified, timber employment is a bit player. It makes sense to focus on a green future. We're supporting new models for sustainable use of natural resources -- like Sierra Green, our alternative certification for sustainably harvested Sierran wood products.