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Restoring Our Forests: Managing the Recovery

Restoring Our Forests: Managing the Recovery

In the past few years we’ve had quite a
bit of research come out that has helped us guide how we actually manage the
land. And right now we’re really looking at a lot of the research on what we’re
going do about reforestation and recovery efforts related to this tree
mortality. We’ve lost over 300,000 acres of trees and we know that we’re not
going to be able to put trees back everywhere on the landscape, it’s just
not feasible. This level of mortality is shocking, but people should not be
surprised, because our researchers and our land managers have agreed for quite
a long time that this level of density, the number of trees we have, is out of
character with historic forests and predisposes it to this kind of event.
When it comes to restoring forest structure, we work with scientists who
look particularly at what the forest used to look like, and also what the
forest might need to look like in the future, relative to climate variability.
Forests used to be composed of incredible amount of variation. They were
composed of groups of trees, interspersed with gaps, lots of heterogeneity. We think
that structure made the forest resilient to fire, and it probably also made it
resilient to bark beetles. This area where we’re in at about 3,500 feet in
elevation was typically a Ponderosa Pine forest. We know that this forest is going
to actually transition into major brush fields. But without management, we will
have chaparral fields just like we see in much of Southern California. That
brush is going to out compete those trees without us actually physically
going in and removing brush continually until the trees can reach about
30 years of age. We’re looking specifically at what adaptive strategies
can we apply now going into the future to deal with this now very altered
landscape. And so, instead of just looking at, well, we’re just going to restore
everything, that may be possible but it is also very expensive and we have
limited resources, so how we prioritize restoration and reforestation.
At this point in time everything we’re doing is still public safety. We are
looking at the landscape though, and how we’re going to treat major watersheds to
work toward reforestation efforts and hopefully recovery efforts. By knowing
more about the physical features of the the landscape itself and within the
ground is where can we plant trees, where do we think the trees are going to grow best?
We want to create a forest that’s in sync, that is compatible with the water
availability, as well as what fire would have created in that forest historically.
What does that mean? It means that you have places in the forest that are
denser, that have larger clumps of trees, that have high canopy cover but they’re
focused on places where you have a lot of water availability, so that the trees
are reflective of that water availability and those are places where
you can have higher canopy cover and bigger trees. But if you move to another
location that’s much dryer, let’s say a Southwest facing slope or steeper ground
that doesn’t hold as much water, in those kind of situations you would want to
create a forest with fairly-low density, fairly open, dominated by species such as
pine that can deal with the dry type of forest conditions. We know that it’s going
to take a lot of work to get there, but much of the new research we’re seeing
is going to help us into the future. One of the things that we’re
working with the research station on, that’s really important right now, is the
identification of areas that we think, we hope we are going to retain what
green little green trees are left on the landscape. We’ve had those
conversations about how we can protect those little pockets of green trees. That’s
going to be our future large tree habitat. Those are going to be our
old growth forests here pretty soon. We’re really working closely with them
to define where those are on the landscape, how we can protect them,
how we can grow them, and keep them safe so we actually have habitat and green
trees in the future. What we’ve learned from monitoring the mortality in the Southern
Sierras, as part of our forest management activities, is that density matters. How
dense the forest is matters relative to how trees survive this event. If you
don’t manage your tree density, if you don’t manage in the face
of increasing variability, then these events, unfortunately, will take its toll
on our forests. What we’ve learned now needs to be translated into action and
implementation on the ground. We need to do that with a sense of urgency.
We know that this recovery effort is going to take a couple of generations. It takes
generally 80 years, at least, to be able to grow big trees. So, you may not see the
forest that you are used to, but we’re doing everything that we can and
working with our research station, and our partners and other
non-governmental organizations to be able to get this forest into
a recovery state.

7 thoughts on “Restoring Our Forests: Managing the Recovery

  • Piss poor management . For decades they ignored dead trees and underbrush that is fuel waiting for a spark or an idiot with a firework . Limited resources means watch your wallets ,fee increases on the way because they already wasted / exhausted the resources already allotted too them . There are so many unnecessary positions and Infrastructure within the forest service that don't do anything but waste our money so too me this is fraud against tax payers.

  • I hope you plant a variety of native species and not just fire resistance. Nature is a variety… Human's will never be as good at nature management as nature is.

  • We who have lived in the woods have been saying this for years!!! But whenever the forest service wants to do some treatments they get shut down… by the environmental groups in court. Environmental groups you own this!!!!

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