Out of the Ashes: Landscape Recovery in the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region

This is a very interesting, eye-catching, and technologically splendid (IMHO) presentation by Region 5 on what they are doing post-fire. As an old person who worked at Placerville Nursery during its heyday (at a genetics lab then located in the seed extractory, to be specific) I’m not surprised to see that the spiral of learning has circled back to the need to plant trees. This spiral tends to recur almost predictably when everyone with expensively obtained experience has retired, and the infrastructure dispersed (remember Region 6 tree coolers?). And so it goes..

There’s many possible discussion topics but these caught my eye..

Critical Reforestation Needs

Over half the landscape burned at moderate to high severity.
500,000 acres prioritized for reforestation.
Estimated cost of 2020 of revegetation/site prep is over $585M.

Strategic Reforestation Investment

Long term reforestation strategy.
Modernizing our nursery.
Adapting tree species and revegetation to climate change.
~$2M Placerville CIP request.
$3.5M in grants, proposals and match.

Wildfires necessitate long-term repairs to trails, roads & streams.

Trail restoration – 1,600 mi
Estimated costs $9M
Road restoration & bridge reconstruction – 5,894 mi
Estimated costs $874M
Approved ERFO $10M
Watershed Restoration & improvement – 8,600 miles
Estimated costs $138M

Facility Replacement

Additional infrastructure recovery accounts for admin sites, recreation facilities, and bridges.
Estimated costs administrative sites – $15M
Estimated costs recreation sites – $19M
Estimated costs infrastructure design & contract admin – $298M

Strength Through Partnership

Trillion Trees & Expansion of Placerville Nursery.
CalTrans agreement for roadside salvage.
Matching dollars from NFWF, CAL FIRE, BLM.
State proposing $2B for wildfire and forest resilience.

And where there is fire and trees (and markets), there is salvage (both public and private, although private does not seem to be controversial).

Burned Timber

Burned timber from 2020 wildfires – 20x more than R5’s timber target.

Not all can be salvaged due to access and terrain
Mill & biomass facility capacity is limited and variable
Potential for saturated salvage market

Carbon in the Atmosphere

More than 112M metric tons of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere due to 2020 wildfires.
25% more CO2 than the average annual fossil fuel emissions.

I wonder whether both Oregon and California have the potential for a saturated salvage market, who will get in before saturation, and what will happen to the rest of the material. How the FS will determine priorities beyond hazard trees? What will happen to all the material that is removed but doesn’t find a market?

Anyway, great job, Region 5!

3 thoughts on “Out of the Ashes: Landscape Recovery in the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region”

  1. I want to know where the data is to support the following claims. Without that information, the assertions are suspect.

    “Carbon in the Atmosphere”

    “More than 112M metric tons of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere due to 2020 wildfires.”
    “25% more CO2 than the average annual fossil fuel emissions.”

    • Michael, after much digging, I discovered that the numbers were taken from a California Air Resources Board site, which has since been changed.
      The CARB report now compares the wildfire emissions to lumber in housing.

      So I went to EIA and it looks like they think 2018 emissions for CA was 363 MMT. If we divide 112 MMT into 363, we get 31%. if that denominator is correct, we could say..

      In CA, wildfires produced the same CO2 emissions in 2020 as 30% of the total CO2 emitted by annual fossil fuel use in 2018.

      Thanks for raising this question!


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