California

In 2019 California experienced over 7,860 separate fires totaling an estimated of 259,823 acres (105,147 hectares) of burned land. Annual fires are increasing in size and strength across the state of California. We are committed to helping past and current fire recovery along with the help of Cal Fire and the US Forest Service.

In July 2007, the Antelope fire burned approximately 23,000 acres. Over 13,000 of those acres burned with high fire severity. Two months later in September of 2007, the Moonlight Fire burned into the Antelope Complex consuming an additional 65,000 acres. These two fires converted large portions of the landscape to shrublands with infrequent high severity fire regimes. Climate change, changing fuel dynamics and extreme fire behavior continue to put forested areas of the landscape at risk of comprehensive conversion to non-forest vegetation types. The project mission is to restore the forest structure, natural resources, and recreational/scenic values impacted in the Moonlight Fire area. The Plumas National Forest has embraced the challenge of restoring the forest area affected by the fire. A Restoration Plan for the fire area has been developed as a collaborative effort between the forest and community partners.

Total Trees Planted

Why California?

California's forests provide innumerable benefits, including clean water and air, recreation, timber, habitat, and beautiful scenery. Healthy forests also play an important role in addressing climate change. Five years of drought and a large-scale bark beetle infestation have seriously damaged California’s forests. 2017’s record-breaking wildfire season burned more than 1.3 million acres – an area the size of Delaware. Now, a record 129 million trees need to be restored in California.

The overarching goal of restoration in the Moonlight Fire area is to (1) increase awareness around forests devastated by wildfire and (2) maintain, create, and promote healthy and resilient systems, which may resemble the past, but are also better prepared for changing climates and human use patterns.

How did the Moonlight Fire affect these ecosystems? The 2007 Moonlight Fire burned approximately 65,000 acres (immediately west of Antelope Lake and northeast of Keddie Ridge) of Sierra conifer forests, hardwood stands, shrublands, meadows, and riparian areas. Known meadows and aspen stands on Forest Service land within the fire perimeter make up about 195 and 568 acres, respectively. The fire benefited meadows and aspen stands by eliminating many of the encroaching and overtopping conifers at many of the sites. However, not all meadow and aspen sites experienced high fire severity and so still have heavy conifer competition. Additionally, other pressures affecting the health and natural condition of many sites are still active. 

In July 2007, the Antelope fire burned approximately 23,000 acres. Over 13,000 of those acres burned with high fire severity. Two months later in September of 2007, the Moonlight Fire burned into the Antelope Complex consuming an additional 65,000 acres; of which 37,000 acres were burned by uncharacteristically high severity, stand-replacing fire. 

These two fires converted a landscape historically dominated by long-lived conifer tree species (yellow pine, sugar pine, red fir, etc.) and characterized by frequent low severity fire regimes; to shrublands dominated by montane chaparral species (i.e. Ceanothus and Arctostaphylos species) with infrequent high severity fire regimes. 

Climate change, changing fuel dynamics and extreme fire behavior continue to put forested areas of the landscape at risk of comprehensive conversion to non-forest vegetation types. The dramatic changes to the landscape from the fires also have impacted the fire area infrastructure. 

The fire and loss of vegetation has altered the hydrology; with increasing runoff, peak flows, and flooding in post fire precipitation events resulting in ongoing impacts to the fire area watersheds. In 2013, concern that post-fire conditions in the project area were impairing the resiliency of forest resources and infrastructure led to the development of the Moonlight Fire Area Restoration Strategy. 

The purpose of the strategy was to: provide a framework for restoration of natural resources, ecological processes, and human values affected by the Moonlight Fire.

The Impact

Restore Aspen Ecosystems

Aspen support significant levels of biological diversity, provide critical wildlife habitat, supply forage for wildlife and livestock, and provide highly desirable scenic and hydrologic values.

Landscape Restoration

Restore landscape diversity in terms of forest type, species diversity, forest structure, and forest age.

Viable Forests

Restore the long-term viability of appropriate forest types and reduce the potential for vegetation type conversion, including reforestation of high severity fire areas and establishment of a long-term seed source of desirable species.

The Trees

Our primary focus in California is long-lived conifer tree species that are native to the area. 

Quaking Aspen

Why do meadows and aspen stands need to be restored? Functional meadows act as regulators of water and sedimentation for the overall landscape, reducing downstream flooding and erosion. They filter out metals and pollutants, improving water quality. They provide habitat for many wildlife species and support greater biodiversity than the surrounding conifer forests. Aspen stands also provide critical wildlife habitat and support high avian and understory riparian biodiversity. Aspen add nutrient-rich litter to and help stabilize the soil. Meadow vegetation and aspen also provide nutrient-rich forage for deer and cattle.

Planting Process

1

Site Prep

Site preparation would consist of removing standing trees and snags that pose a hazard to workers, and reduce competition from chaparral vegetation. We would accomplish site preparation in a series of steps and could include: snag and hazard tree removal, brush pulling, hand or grapple pile, mastication, or pile burn. We would have standing trees and snags that pose a hazard to workers' hands or mechanically felled. Most burned snags are now unstable, so machinery would be used if conditions were unsafe for manual falling or if it is more cost effective. Felled material would be cut and piled. Material that is on the ground (downed logs) would be piled. Using mechanical equipment, brush would be pulled and piled. When site conditions are appropriate we may use mastication. We would burn piles when they are cured.

2

Planting

Following site preparation, we would plant native conifers using a mixture of planting arrangements and densities. Conifer species we prescribe for each unit would be at the appropriate elevation zone, and species would be appropriate for the site. In general we would plant conifer species such as rust-resistant sugar pine, Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, Jeffery pine, red fir, and incense cedar. Planting conifers would replace the seed sources of desired species lost during the fire.

3

Maintenance

After planting, we would consider areas with suitable tree survival and stocking for release treatments to enhance seedling survival. Release treatments can include machine pulling and piling, mastication, hand grubbing or herbicide treatments. In some locations we would apply herbicides to control competing vegetation (target species would be the shrub species ceanothus, manzanita, Chinquapin, and bitter cherry).

Other Types of Trees Planted

Sugar Pine

Pinus lambertiana is the tallest and most massive pine tree, and has the longest cones of any conifer.

Red Fir

It is a high elevation tree, typically occurring at 1,400–2,700 metres elevation, though only rarely reaching tree line.

Yellow Pine

Is a very large pine tree species of variable habitat native to mountainous regions of western North America. It is the most widely distributed pine species in North America.

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