French Meadows partnership completes third season of work – YubaNet
FRENCH MEADOWS, Calif. – For the third consecutive year, the partners of the French Meadows Forest Restoration Project (“Project”) concluded a new season of forest treatments in the Tahoe National Forest. Despite the challenges of an extremely dangerous fire season in 2021, the French Meadows Partnership (“Partnership”) safely treated approximately 1,000 acres using a combination of mastication, mechanical thinning, hand thinning and directed lights. Some of this acreage is on private land owned by the American River Conservancy, which has independently fundraised and treated 1,345 acres over several years. Together, this all-land collaborative watershed management project has treated more than 5,200 acres over the past three seasons.
“Despite another severe fire season, the partners have come together to initiate several important elements of our restoration plan,” said Kerri Timmer, Placer County Regional Forest Health Coordinator, who is coordinating the agreement. stewardship with the Tahoe National Forest.
An element of the project implemented for the first time this year was the use of prescribed burning to help clear understory vegetation. With support from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy, the United States Forest Service has skillfully treated over 130 acres of difficult terrain with prescribed burning. The use of fire as a treatment method has historically proven to be an effective tool for managing wildfires and is a crucial part of the Partnership’s ecological forestry model. When the 2021 Caldor Fire erupted in the El Dorado National Forest, areas managed similarly to the French Meadows Project were found to slow fire progress, reduce fire severity, and provide refuge for firefighters and wildlife.
As part of this season’s efforts, the Partnership also reforested 95 acres within the footprint of the devastating King Fire to restore the Siera Nevada’s mixed coniferous ecosystem. Reforestation consisted of planting approximately 200 trees per acre of one-year-old ponderosa pine, sugar pine and loblolly cedar seedlings in prepared areas in 2020.
To help offset restoration costs for the project, the partnership contributed more than 1.5 million board feet of overloaded woodfuel to a local sawmill and more than 195 tons of biomass to local renewable energy facilities. In addition, partners repaired over four miles of roadway and culverts to reduce sedimentation. Overall, this year the project has employed up to 20 local contractors.
“Year after year, this project continues to demonstrate its merit not only in improvements to the land, but in benefits to the community,” said United States Forest Service River District Ranger Mary Grim. “This project is a reminder of what can be accomplished with a shared sense of stewardship of our forests and natural resources.”
The catalyst for the French Meadows Forest Restoration Project was the King Fire of 2014, which burned more than 97,000 acres in the American River watershed, much of it at high intensity. In an effort to reduce the risk of future fires to hydroelectric assets, water quality and biodiversity, the Placer County Water Agency (“PCWA”) has partnered with Placer County, The Nature Conservancy (“TNC”) ), the United States Forest Service (“USFS”), American River Conservancy (“ARC”), Sierra Nevada Conservancy (“SNC”) and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute (“SNRI”) at the University of California, Merced , to form the French Meadows Partnership. The project spans more than 22,000 acres of federal land, nearly 7,000 acres of private land, and is a test of the Partnership’s effectiveness in improving fire resistance and overall watershed health.
To learn more about the French Meadows Forest Restoration Project, visit the project story map. Links are available on the partners’ respective websites.