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French Fire Reforestation Project Ends but the Work Continues


Contact: Robert Hopkins

Yosemite Sequoia RC&D Council

Phone: (559)877-8663


French Fire Reforestation Project Ends But The Work Continues

Reforestation Project in Eastern Madera County Wraps up

[North Fork, California January 30, 2020 —] In the summer of 2014, an abandoned campfire started the French Fire. Burning 13,832 acres of the Sierra National Forest, this fire provided a stark reminder that one seemingly small lapse in judgement can have a catastrophic impact on the forest. Fire disturbance is a natural forest process but climate change, human ignitions, and unnaturally dense forests have led to an increase in the frequency, size and severity of wildfires. In some areas, the forest was so severely burned that no trees survived. The need for post-fire reforestation is evident in these severely burned areas because without seeding trees nearby, natural recovery could be a very lengthy process.

Severely Burned Area Within the French Fire Boundary at Mile High Vista along the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

Post-fire reforestation has been underway on 3,000 acres of high-severity burned areas within the French Fire boundary to promote forest regeneration. In 2017, work began on the Eastern Madera Wildfire Reforestation Project (EMWR Project) administered by Yosemite Sequoia Resource Conservation and Development Council (Yosemite/Sequoia RC&D Council). Over 100,000 mixed conifer seedlings —ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, blister rust resistant sugar pine and incense cedar—were planted during this project. These seedlings, as well as surviving oaks and natural regeneration in low severity burned areas, will contribute to a more resilient future forest. As trees mature, they provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife species, improve scenery and deliver social and economic benefits. Reforestation also accelerates the conversion of severely burned areas to a forest habitat which may be beneficial for California spotted owls and Pacific fisher in the future.

Planted Ponderosa Pine Tree. Over 100,000 Mixed Conifer Trees Were Planted During the Project

A site visit was conducted at the EMWR Project area on January 15 2020. Pictured (From Left to Right) Robert Hopkins (Yosemite Sequoia RC&DC), Sarah Campe (Sierra Nevada Conservancy), Justine Reynolds (Yosemite Sequoia RC&DC) and Dave Smith (USFS Bass Lake Ranger District)

Post-fire reforestation has its challenges. Site preparation, which includes felling, pile burning and removal of burned trees, is hazardous work. As time goes on the danger only increases as trees dead from a combination of fire and beetle-kill become rotten and brittle. During the EMWR Project, work was slowed due to the hazard conditions and therefore costs increased. The steep rugged terrain and inclement weather also contributed to delays and difficulty in completing reforestation goals. The EMWR Project was however, completed on time in the fall of 2019 despite the numerous challenges.

This Incense Cedar Tree Survived Despite Being Scared by Flames

Post-fire reforestation of the French Fire continues even though the EMWR Project has ended. The Madera Projects – Southern Sierra All Lands Recovery and Restoration Project (Madera SSARR Project) aims to reforest 1250 acres of severely burned areas of the French Fire. The Madera SSARR Project, along with additional grants and federal funding will help fund the completion of planned reforestation treatments. With future funding, up to 1 million seedlings are expected to be planted within the French Fire boundary.

Funding for this project has been provided by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, an agency of the State of California, under the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) grant cycle and in support of the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program.

Seedling costs in 2018 and 2019 were covered by the Arbor Day foundation.

The Yosemite/Sequoia RC&D Council is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to natural resource conservation and economic development. It is the mission of the Yosemite/Sequoia RC&D Council to promote the quality and aesthetic values of our cultural, environmental, and recreational resources by improving the quality of life through sustainable, diverse economic development. The Council service area includes the rural and foothill communities of Fresno, Madera, Mariposa and Tulare counties.


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