2023 Central Sierra Western Slope Aspen Workshop

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On September 7th and 8th, over 30 aspen experts from all over the country and those involved in aspen restoration in this region came to San Francisco State’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus in the North Yuba to attend the 2023 Central Sierra Western Slope Aspen Workshop, coordinated by the South Yuba River Citizens League, the United States Forest Service, and the Western Aspen Alliance. The event was sponsored by Yuba Water Agency. 

Paul Rogers from the Western Aspen Alliance facilitated the workshop in the discussion of different aspen restoration techniques, new research on aspen restoration, and how the aspen stands on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada differ than those in the intermountain west and even on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  

The first part of the workshop was classroom learning and featured speakers on the following topics:

  • Quaking Aspen: Can We Manage to Monitor? — led by Paul Rogers from Western Aspen Alliance and Utah State University  
  • Asbestos Forests: Do Aspen Reduce Fire Activity? — led by Kristin Nesbit from Utah State University 
  • Biodiversity in Aspen Stands and the Value to Wildlife — led by Helen Loffland from The Institute for Bird Populations 
  • Aspen Research in the Central Sierra — led by Becky Estes from USDA Forest Service 
  • From Assessment to Treatment: Site Selection through Modeling — led by Anne Marie Holt from South Yuba River Citizens League 

The second part of the workshop was composed of Field Site visits. On September 7th, Jacob Burdick, USFS’s Hydrologist, and Alecia Weisman, SYRCL’s Watershed Science Director, led the group to Hwy 49 Aspen Restoration Treatment sites to discuss Meadows and Aspen: Treating in Sensitive Areas. 

 September 8th featured three site visits. 

  • Gold Lake Highway Field Sites: To Burn or Not to Burn? + Fencing in High Elevations – led by Marilyn Tierney, retired USFS Biologist  
  • Butcher Ranch: Treating Remote Aspen Sites – led by Lauren Hoyle, Assistant Wildlife Biologist at the Tahoe National Forest  
  • Packer Creek: Future Aspen Restoration in the North Yuba – led by Anne Marie Holt, Forest Conservation Project Manager at SYRCL) 

This workshop was a fantastic opportunity to have aspen experts visit the North Yuba landscape and provide updates on aspen research, restoration techniques, and showcase the North Yuba Landscape Restoration Project through a lens of sensitive habitat management. Since aspen stands on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada are unique in comparison to aspen locations in the intermountain west and on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, having a specialized workshop like this is needed to understand the particular management techniques for restoration in this location.  

Aspen can act as fuel breaks through their water sequestration and provide habitat for flora and fauna present in the watershed. Sierra aspen are hot spots for biodiversity, provide critical habitat for native birds, and are known for their beautiful fall color and the fluttering of their leaves on warm summer days.  

Aspen in the western Sierra are seral stands and need a disturbance event to regenerate. Over the last 100 years, fire suppression has removed the primary disturbance event aspen rely on for regeneration. With fire removed, the aspen stands have slow-growing conifers grow below and above the aspen, outcompeting them for sunlight. Aspen stands are primarily treated by removing conifers within and surrounding the aspen stand to open the canopy for additional sunlight.  

Through both formal and informal collaboration, the 2023 Central Sierra Western Slope Aspen Workshop provided the more than 30 attendees with the opportunity to gain more tools to better address aspen degradation. With a greater set of tools, more aspen can be regenerated, and their ecological and hydrological benefits can have a greater impact on the recovery of the ecosystem in the western Sierra. 

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  1. Very cool article. These areas suffer from dirt roads that alter hydraulic processes.

  2. I’m curious about the current project going on between Bassett’s and Yuba Pass. They are removing so many trees. Are Aspen going to be planted in these barren areas or are we going to wait for Mother Nature to do its thing?

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