Restoration of fire-prone forests can promote resiliency to disturbances, yet such activities may reduce biomass stocks to levels that conflict with climate mitigation goals. Using a set of large-scale historical inventories across the Sierra Nevada/southern Cascade region, we identified underlying climatic and biophysical drivers of historical forest characteristics and projected how restoration of these characteristics manifest under future climate. Historical forest conditions varied with climate and site moisture availability but were generally characterized by low tree density (∼53 trees ha−1), low live basal area (∼22 m2 ha−1), low biomass (∼34 Mg ha−1), and high pine dominance. Our predictions reflected broad convergence in forest structure, frequent fire is the most likely explanation for this convergence. Under projected climate (2040–2069), hotter sites become more prevalent, nearly ubiquitously favoring low tree densities, low biomass, and high pine dominance. Based on these projections, this region may be unable to support aboveground biomass >40 Mg ha−1 by 2069, a value approximately 25% of current average biomass stocks. Ultimately, restoring resilient forests will require adjusting carbon policy to match limited future aboveground carbon stocks in this region.