THE STATE OF THE SIERRA NEVADA’S FORESTS: FROM BAD TO WORSE
An update to the 2014 report, this version was released by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy on March 1, 2017.
When the first State of the Sierra Nevada’s Forests report was released in 2014, conditions in the Sierra Nevada appeared to be at their worst. The Region had just experienced its largest fire in recorded history, the 2013 Rim Fire, and the trend toward larger, more severe wildfires in Sierra Forests was already clear. Restoration efforts in the Sierra were grossly out of pace with what was needed, and overgrown forests were starting to show signs of stress from only two years of drought. When the 2014 report was released, tree mortality wasn’t even mentioned.
What came next poured fuel onto an already raging fire.
Three factors combined to create the perfect storm in the Sierra: overgrown, unhealthy forests; two more years of extreme drought; and one of the warmest winters on record. These three elements opened the door to a significant increase in the native bark beetle population, and led to unprecedented tree die-off across the Region. Between 2014 and 2016, 83 million trees died in the Sierra Nevada from overgrown forests, bark beetles, and drought.
Drought, warmer temperatures, and overgrown forests also fueled more large, damaging wildfires.
The 2014 King Fire consumed nearly 100,000 acres across the Upper American River watershed. Almost 50 percent of the fire area burned at high severity,1 leaving little to no living vegetation behind.
The Butte Fire in 2015 burned more than 70,000 acres within the Calaveras and Mokelumne River watersheds and destroyed 549 homes. Between 2014 and 2016 these fires, among others, added 30 million dead trees to the already unprecedented total in the Sierra Nevada Region.
ForestHealth, Sierra Nevada