Sierra Nevada forest health in rapid decline: drought adding fuel to the fire
A new report released this week shows that many Sierra Nevada forests are in critical condition and that natural benefits that these forests provide, such as clean air and water, are at risk from large, intense fire. Sierra watersheds are the origin of over 60% of the state’s developed water supply, and store significant amounts of carbon. Unfortunately, the current drought and a changing climate are rapidly intensifying the situation in the Sierra.
The State of Sierra Nevada Forests Report compiles current science and research that tells the story of a region of great value to the state in extreme danger. Sierra communities and forests are faced with unprecedented fire danger due to current forest conditions, and numerous other values such as air quality, water supply, wildlife habitat, tourism and recreation, and carbon storage are at risk. This report highlights the urgent need for an increase in the pace and scale of ecological forest restoration in the Sierra in order to protect these values.
The health of many of our Sierra forests is not good, and getting worse. Failing to understand the urgency of the situation and act appropriately will have devastating consequences to California’s environment and economy.
The 25 million-acre Sierra Nevada Region encompasses one-quarter of the state, and all or part of 22 counties. In addition to serving as California’s primary watershed and storing vast amounts of carbon, Sierra forests provide clean air, provide habitat for hundreds of wildlife species, and are a world-renowned tourist destination.
Research indicates that the size and severity of wildfires has been increasing, and with that comes increased post-fire erosion in Sierra streams and reservoirs, increased greenhouse gas emissions, higher levels of air pollution from smoke, loss of recreational opportunities, loss of critical habitat, and negative impacts to local economies. Impacts in the forested watersheds of the Sierra Nevada affect virtually all Californians.
The State of Sierra Nevada Forests Report identifies specific obstacles that need to be addressed in order to put Sierra Nevada forests on a path to ecological health and protect California’s air and water quality. This report also calls for a commitment from a variety of state, federal, and local entities to address these challenges.
Based on the conclusions in this report, the Conservancy is developing an Action Plan to address the issues. We intend to use a collaborative approach in doing so, involving state, federal and local entities, as well as a wide range of stakeholders representing various interests.
We need a dramatic increase of pace and scale of ecological restoration, especially on our federally managed lands. There is broad consensus on the need to act and to do so in an ecologically sound manner.
For more information on the State of Sierra Nevada Forests, or to download the full report, please visit www.sierranevada.ca.gov.
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