Ecologically-based Forest Management
The Partnership will work together to promote ecologically-based, landscape-scale restoration and management of the forests within the North Yuba River watershed. Ecologically-based forest management seeks to reduce the risk of uncharacteristic, high-intensity wildfire while also protecting and restoring watershed health and native biodiversity and promoting forest conditions that are more resilient to drought, climate change, and other disturbances. This approach aims to increase diversity of forest stand structure on a site-specific basis, and considers the inherent topographic features of the landscape, emphasizing the key ecological role that low-to-moderate intensity, beneficial fire provides in many conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada. Ecologically-based forest management, together with shaded fuel breaks, defensible space, land use planning, and other measures, can help protect communities from the impacts of high-severity wildfire.
Current forest conditions in the North Yuba River watershed, overstocked with small trees and brush, and at risk of high-severity wildfire (left). Mixed conifer forest stand effectively managed through thinning and prescribed fire (right). Photo credit SYRCL.
The partnership has engaged two science efforts already underway to serve as the foundation of the project design. The Historic Range of Variability study led by the Forest Service and the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative Science Enterprise co-led by the Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy are collaborating to ensure the proposed restoration work is based on the latest science on fire risk, forest structure, biodiversity, drought stress, and more. The on-the-ground implementation will be monitored and tracked by researchers to quantify the benefits of the restoration, informing future restoration work both here in the North Yuba watershed and beyond.
Ecological Forest Management Tools
Although historical logging practices caused some of the challenges our forests face today, strategic thinning offers a critical tool for restoring diverse forest structure that protects wildlife and biodiversity while supporting the eventual reintroduction of healthy fire. Ecological thinning targets smaller trees and shrubs, minimizing disturbance while increasing the long-term benefit of reduced risk of large, high-severity fires. The combination of thinning followed by prescribed fire presents a path towards restoring Sierra Nevada forests.
As a critical ecological process of the Sierra Nevada region, fire, provides many benefits including nutrient cycling, habitat and forage regeneration, the decrease of diseases and pathogens, and the reduction of ground fuels. Prescribed fire, the application of fire by a team of experts under specified weather conditions reintroduces these effects while reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Through prescribed fire, we can restore the mosaic of meadows, oak woodlands, and mixed conifer forest of the North Yuba watershed.
An innovative financing tool developed by non-profit Blue Forest Conservation, the Forest Resilience Bond enables private investors to finance forest restoration projects on public lands. By engaging investor capital to cover upfront project costs, the FRB increases the pace and scale of needed restoration work, thereby improving forest health and reducing wildfire risks.
The Many Benefits of Forest Restoration
The Tahoe National Forest and its adjacent lands, provide many ecosystem services, also known as nature’s benefits, including:
- Water filtration
- Recreational opportunities
- Carbon sequestration
- Wood products
- Renewable energy
- Jobs and value to local economies