Defenders Focal Forests: the national forests of the Sierra Nevada

The Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project Area on the Sierra NF (Photo: Pamela Flick)

California’s Sierra Nevada region is rich in biodiversity and hosts an incredible array of plants and animals, with 572 vertebrate species that spend at least some point of their life cycle in this iconic mountain range, including critically imperiled species like Pacific fisher and California spotted owl.  In particular, the ten national forests of the Sierra provide rich habitat worth protecting and restoring for current and future generations.  From the Sequoia National Forest southeast of Fresno to the Lassen National Forest near Redding, nearly half of the land base in the Sierra Nevada is managed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the National Forest System.

Defenders of Wildlife is engaged in a number of important processes happening now that will impact wildlife in the Sierra Nevada well into the future.

Over the next few years, most of the Sierra forests will undergo management plan revisions.  This means that new plans will be written, with public input and environmental review, to guide the management of the forests for the next few decades.  The development of ecologically sound plans will be of utmost importance, since the plans will impact all aspects of forest management for decades to come, including how key habitats will be managed to benefit the wide variety of wildlife found on national forest lands in the Sierra.

In addition, on the ground projects are enhancing wildlife habitat.  On the Sierra National Forest just south of Yosemite National Park, a pilot project is demonstrating how the restoration of forest ecosystems can improve habitat while creating jobs and protecting local communities.  The Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project was selected for funding under a new law, which established the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP).  Ten CFLRP projects around the country were selected, including the Dinkey Collaborative on the Sierra National Forest, to bring together local stakeholders to get restoration work done.  Over the course of ten years, thousands of acres of restoration treatments will be undertaken by the Forest Service with guidance from the Dinkey Collaborative, based on agreement and understanding among participants, leading to fewer conflicts and an increase in the amount of ecosystem restoration that can be accomplished.

Members of Congress are touting the success of the CFLRP model and are asking that the program continue to be fully funded, highlighting that the first ten CFLRP projects collectively created or sustained more than 1,500 jobs and reduced wildfire risk on 154,000 acres in just one year.

In a series of “Focal Forest” blogs, we will be highlighting the work we’re doing in the Sierra Nevada and the importance of protecting this special region for wildlife and for future generations.

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Pamela Flick is the California Program Coordinator for Defenders of Wildlife. Based in Sacramento, California, she works on a wide variety of issues, such as mesocarnivore and bird conservation, including Pacific fisher, San Joaquin kit fox, California condor and burrowing owl; federal lands management; and renewable energy development.

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dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.