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1.2 Million Trees Planted in California for Forest Fire Restoration in 2021

by Meaghan Weeden November 05, 2021 5 min read

1.2 Million Trees Planted in California for Forest Fire Restoration in 2021
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Planting Trees, Restoring Wildfire Damaged Ecosystems Across California

As wildfire severity has increased over the past several years, our post-wildfire restoration efforts have increased right along with it. Working with big partners like the United States Forest Service and CALFIRE and smaller ones like local Resource Conservation Districts and private landowners across the Golden State, we've planted over 4.4 million trees to date. We're dedicated to helping partners at any level and any location ranging from federal and state to public and private land, because everyone should be able to rebuild and restore after wildfires

Our California Wildfire Restoration Impact in 2021 

So far this year, we've planted 1,232,296 trees through 6 projects to restore burn scars from several forest fires across California. As these trees grow into maturity, they will help prevent invasive species from colonizing burn sites, develop richly layered habitat for native biodiversity, stabilize disturbed soils and control erosion, sequester carbon over time, protect critical watersheds, stabilize riparian zones, benefit local communities that have been affected by wildfires, and more. 

California 2021: The 6 Projects That Planted Trees for Wildfire Restoration This Year

1. Camp Fire Restoration in Northern California

A total of 814,200 native, fire-resistant conifer seedlings were planted to restore 1,630.5 hectares of land in the 2018 Camp Fire burn scar.Due to the severity of the fire, the native ecosystem would not have regenerated on its own.

The trees planted will restore this fire damaged landscape, support native biodiversity, improve air quality, improve water quality within an important community watershed, support healthy forest cover and sequester carbon over time.

As a result of the ecological benefits they provide, the new trees will increase property values in the Paradise, CA area, which was ecologically and economically devastated by the Camp Fire — one of the most destructive in California's history. In addition to long-term benefits, this project provided immediate benefits by stimulating the local economy through the influx of planting crews and professionals who participated in the restoration work.

2. Moonlight Fire Restoration

As part of a multi-year initiative, 177,575 Ponderosa Pine, Jeffery Pine, Sugar Pine, Incense Cedar and Douglas Fir seedlings were planted to restore 365 acres of land within Plumas National Forest.This land was severely damaged by the 2007 Moonlight Fire — which burned over 60,000 acres of the National Forest — and would not have regenerated on its own. 

As the seedlings gradually grow into mature trees, they will benefit the local economy and culture (including Native American communities in the region), absorb carbon, protect and restore a critical watershed that provides water to thousands of farmers and millions of Californians and more. 

Plumas National Forest is home to 6 threatened and endangered species, including the California red-legged frog, Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, gray wolf, Quino checkerspot butterfly, valley elderberry and the native longhorn beetle. Once the forest is restored, it will be able to provide habitat once again for its amazing native biodiversity. 

3. Yosemite Valley Restoration

127,060 native seedlings were planted as part of a larger project that planted trees across 188 hectares in Yosemite West, California.The trees were planted in the Ferguson Fire burn scar, which degraded a significant area of land during the late summer of 2018.

Due to the severity of the fire, it's unlikely that the land would have been able to regenerate on its own. Everything from the species chosen to the spacing of the planting was carefully planned to help reduce the risk of future fires. Planting native, fire-resistant tree species including Lodgepole Pine, Sugar Pine and Giant Sequoia is important because these species have evolved to withstand natural fires. Spacing the trees far apart also reduces future fire risk.

Surrounded by Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest, maintaining this land in a fire-safe manner is critical for protecting the region and community. As the trees grow along the steep slopes of this region, they will reduce erosion and protect downslope areas from landslides, flooding and earth flow. This erosion reduction will also protect several watercourses and springs that are important to health of the community and National Park.

4. RCD Restoration Project

99,491 Ponderosa pine, Red fir, Douglas-fir, White fir, Sugar pine, Coulter pine, Jeffrey pine and Giant sequoia seedlings were planted across 1,000 acres of land in Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Madera, Mariposa, Placer, San Diego, and Tuolumne Counties.All of these areas have experienced significant tree loss due to wildfires and other climate change impacts like invasive insects (bark beetles).

Tree seedlings were distributed to affected landowners so help them re-establish healthy forests on their land. Thanks to our partnership, many folks who might normally struggle to pay for the cost of seedlings were able to receive them. Projects like this are especially important because they help us reach private landowners that may not otherwise have access to reforestation opportunities — thus increasing habitat connectivity for native biodiversity, reducing future wildfire risk across the landscape, improving overall ecosystem health and more.

In addition to the community benefits, many varieties of birds, reptiles, mammals and insects will benefit from reforestation efforts. Reforestation in these areas also prevents erosion, helps produce clean water and increases the carbon sequestration potential of the land. 

5. Redwood Complex Fire Restoration

10,670 Douglas Fir seedlings were planted in Mendocino County's Potter Valley to restore 15 hectares of land damaged in the 2017 Redwood Complex Fire, which burned over 36,000 acres in Redwood and Potter Valleys.The vegetation in this area ranges from grassland to oak woodlands to native conifer forest. The fire, driven by extremely high wind speeds, burned with high severity, particularly in the native conifer stands. Due to the high severity of the fire, few conifers survived to set seed for a new cohort of Douglas-fir.

This project will help the burned stand recover by replanting native Douglas-fir to replace what was lost and help increase the soil stability of the steep, charred slope by increasing cover and reintroducing a rooting network. By maintaining conifers in the landscape, the project is increasing habitat diversity to better support a wide array of species.

6. Kinkade Reforestation

3,300 Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir seedlings were planted in the Pine Flat area of Sonoma County to restore 11 hectares of land that have been impacted by intense wildfire multiple times. Before planting, the land was at a high risk of conversion from mixed conifer/grass woodland to dense chaparral. Due to this, the native conifer forest would not have been able to regenerate on its own.

This project will bring back a founders stand of conifer that has historically been in place and was lost to the fires. Re-establishing the stand brings a sense of community as local volunteers worked together to improve the landscape.

In addition to community benefits, the trees planted will increase soil stability on a hill that is at risk for land slides, sequester carbon, reduce the risk of future fires and benefit several bird species and small mammals that rely on healthy conifer forest habitat.

Ready to Take Action for California Forest Fire Recovery? Here's How You Can Help

Thanks to climate change, historic deforestation and degradation, fire suppression, and settlement, fires are burning longer and more intensely than ever before, testing the ability of ecosystems to regenerate without human intervention. Check out our video series, The State of California, to learn more about why California's landscapes are uniquely a trisk of wildfires, and what we're doing to help. 

By planting trees once the forests are ready to recover, we’re able to give nature a leg — and a root — up. Want to join us? Plant a tree in California today!

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Meaghan Weeden
Meaghan Weeden

Meaghan works to share our story far and wide, manages our blog calendar, coordinates with the team on projects + campaigns, and ensures our brand voice is reflected across channels. With a background in communications and an education in environmental conservation, she is passionate about leveraging her creativity to help the environment!