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Forests, wildfire and climate change:

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Forests, wildfire and climate change:

Ecological Restoration & Wildland Fire Management Initiatives

Wildfire is a critical issue in the western U.S. We work at local, ecoregional and national scales using state-of-the-art science to reform wildfire policies, restore natural fire patterns in forests and protect communities and prepare for climate change. We focus mainly on world-class ecoregions where periodic wildfire is essential to biodiversity, carbon cycling, and ecosystem dynamics. Fire restores and rejuvenates fire-adapted forests in these regions: fire in an old-growth forest is not the end, but in fact the beginning of a series of stages that forests routinely transition through, each one with its own unique attributes. Based on our ground-breaking science, we have demonstrated that fires burn most intensely in logged over landscapes, and that healthy forests are quite capable of self-regenerating after natural fires (via abundant conifer seedlings) that produce even the largest high severity (all trees killed) burn patches.

Fire in the Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada Conifer Forest ecoregion of California is a WWF Global 200 ecoregion with extraordinary levels of plant endemism, plant and wildlife richness, and carbon-dense old-growth (e.g., Giant Sequoia) forests. Fire is a naturally re-occurring architect of the region’s diverse ecology. However, decades of clearcut logging, fire suppression, and road building, combined with extreme-fire weather triggered by global warming and human caused ignitions, have all impacted natural fire cycles. The top threat to the region is logging, especially postfire “salvage” of dead trees used to promote carbon polluting bio-energy plants. We work with partners like the John Muir Project, in calling attention to the ecological importance of this region and it’s tight-knit association with wildfires through

Postfire salvage logging on the Stanislaus National Forest removes biological legacies (large dead trees) essential to forest renewal, damages soils, introduces weeds, and leaves flammable logging slash.

our comprehensive book The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix and related peer-reviewed publications – and by helping conservation groups oppose destructive thinning and postfire logging projects in the region.

We promote both passive (removal of human-caused stressors like roads and livestock) and active (some forms of small tree thinning and prescribed fire) restoration and we work with conservation partners in developing fire-safe planning for local communities that does not involve destructive logging, such as the massive postfire logging in the Rim fire area just outside Yosemite National Park where thousands of acres are being clearcut for woody biomass energy facilities that are as bad for the climate as burning coal.

Postfire salvage logging on the Stanislaus National Forest removes biological legacies (large dead trees) essential to forest renewal, damages soils, introduces weeds, and leaves flammable logging slash.

Fire in the Klamath-Siskiyou

Like the Sierra Nevada, the Klamath-Siskiyou is a WWF Global 200 ecoregion designated as such because of extraordinary levels of plant endemism, conifer richness, and wildlife diversity. It is also a potential climate sanctuary and wildlife corridor if it is not logged. The region is threatened by fire suppression, logging, road building and other developments. Wildfires in this region produce a mosaic pattern of mixed severity fire effects on vegetation when viewed at the landscape level. This includes everything from unburned to severely (most trees killed) burned small and large patches in the same fire complex. The creation of this diverse mixture of habitat types has been referred to as ‘pyrodiversity begets biodiversity.”

Wild Heritage works with dozens of partners in blocking egregious logging projects before and after wildfires, proposing robust conservation reserve designs, ecological restoration, and climate-responsible strategies that protect homes and lives so wildfire can be safely reintroduced into the backcountry.  We also propose alternatives to logging that protect home and lives by striving for coexistence with wildfires through climate and fire-ready home building and fire-safe communities. Under certain conditions, we support small tree thinning and prescribed fire.

View Wildfire Report 2018

View Fire Community Protection Alternative

In addition to our focus on these two ecoregions, we often are asked to provide science-based restoration recommendations to conservation groups and land managers in dry forests of eastern Oregon and Washington, California redwoods, Rockies, and east-coast fire-dependent forests and we engage in wildfire policy at the national level.

Snag or “charcoal forests” like this in the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion are as biodiverse as old-growth forests and are threatened by postfire logging.

Help restore degraded lands and manage wildland fires safely!

Help restore degraded lands and manage wildland fires safely!