Ecological Restoration & Wildland Fire Management Initiatives
Wildfire is a critical issue in the western U.S, ecologically, climatically, and socio-economically. Wildfire management is complex, filled with misinformation/disinformation, fear, and hyperbola about wildfire effects on ecosystems. Impacts to communities are worsening, driven by the increasing combination of extreme fire weather (high winds, historic droughts, unprecedented “heat domes”) caused by climate chaos and intensively logged landscapes that prime the fire pump for worse outcomes to both nature and people. Dumping even more money into fire suppression and logging will not only fail to reduce fire impacts to communities, but will put even more emissions into the atmosphere, worsening the fire problem.
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 from more wildfire via effective home hardening and defensible space. We focus mainly on world-class ecoregions where periodic wildfire of mixed severity effects on ecosystems 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, is the beginning of a series of developmental 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 landscapes, and that mature/old-growth forests are both resistant to most fires and quite capable of self-regenerating after natural fires (via abundant conifer seedlings) that produce even the largest high severity (all trees killed) burn patches.
- Accommodating mixed-severity fire in the Sierra Nevada – https://fireecology.springeropen.com/articles/10.4996/fireecology.130248173
- Throwing more money at logging and suppression won’t solve the fire problem – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320722000520
- Logging, not wildfire, is most likely driving spotted owl declines – https://phys.org/news/2022-10-wildfire-northern-owl-decline.html; https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4907/13/10/1730/htm
- Not much carbon is emitted from large trees killed by wildfires in California’s largest forest fires – https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4907/13/3/391; https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/huge-forest-fires-don%E2%80%99t-cause-living-trees-release-much-carbon-osu-research-shows
- Wildfire and community safety –https://kboo.fm/media/108445-light-my-fire;
- https://ktla.com/news/california/wildfires/carbon-still-in-trees-despite-big-forest-fires-study-says/; https://ashland.news/forum-answer-is-closer-to-home/; https://www.mailtribune.com/guest-opinion/2021/09/05/what-ive-learned-as-a-talent-resident-a-year-after-almeda/; https://www.ijpr.org/environment-energy-and-transportation/2021-01-09/this-isnt-going-away-climate-scientists-and-fire-officials-reflect-on-the-almeda-fire
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
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.
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 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.
Fire in the Southwest
The southwestern U.S. is a bio-culturally diverse region at risk of systemic collapse from widespread “fuels-reduction” logging and developments acting in concert with unprecedented droughts from climate chaos. The region would benefit from large-scale conservation planning that integrates effective climate mitigation with community wildfire-risk reduction, and the additional scientific expertise that would be brought in to assist local-regional conservation partners has been requested of Wild Heritage by donors and NGOs.
We are currently working with NGOs on a conservation blueprint design that lays out the key goals, stressors, and mitigation/adaptation priorities for moving the needle on conservation that is scalable and directly responsive to the global biodiversity and climate crises affecting the region. We are seeking investments for our role in the region with the potential to increase leverage and capacity in subsequent years. In the meantime, Wild Heritage has assisted groups like Wild Guardians, the Santa Fe Forest Coalition, and the Forest Advocate in responding to Forest Service logging projects with alternatives that focus on community safety first and foremost while getting more wildland fire back into fire-dependent forests safely.
- Wildfire and community safety in Santa Fe – https://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/my_view/forests-need-fire-communities-do-not/article_20e85f3a-5966-11ec-a6ab-2386ae3ce053.html; https://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/my_view/here-s-to-a-new-way-to-manage-forests/article_61f0c31f-a367-5f48-8867-fdc52042d137.html
- Commercial logging/thinning is not helping the forest – https://www.yahoo.com/news/forest-plan-near-santa-fe-150600991.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAEde5OBbLbJ6fLm-cBa1P_Khe3sdbU9n0_mgOmSxlgwk073hAnEevM1zZv5b9DWwsvTsfKAPbSlIGN6LCz39ZdVDP2GhSFNsui1ZcZi8Ncx3Tn-x6dN1NB1lnA2g3AV0q8IINtiCHo97TOQ_t-ge0TZyAn1IioGFviwk9oZTQH0V