About the Timberland Conservation and Fire Resiliency Program
CDFW's Timberland Conservation and Fire Resiliency Program (TCFRP) helps to conserve fish, wildlife, and plant resources on private and state timberlands by:
- reviewing timber harvesting and similar plans (THPs)
- preparing related permits
- completing consultations to protect sensitive forest species
- guiding forest habitat restoration
- developing ecological performance measures and monitoring approaches
- engaging in forestry sector policy and regulatory reform
TCFRP also helps to conserve fish, wildlife, and plant resources in all fire prone landscapes (including forests) by working with other agencies to approve plans and procedures for wildfire management activities, such as:
- clean up and restoration of burned areas
- vegetation treatments to reduce fuel loads in high fire hazard areas
- vegetation maintenance activities for utility rights-of-way
TCFRP staff are located in all CDFW regions except the marine region:
- Northern Region (Region 1)
- North Central Region (Region 2)
- Bay Delta Region (Region 3)
- Central Region (Region 4)
- South Coast Region (Region 5)
- Inland Desert Region (Region 6)
TCFRP Headquarters staff in Sacramento maintain a state-wide perspective to foster consistency, communication, policy direction, and technical information exchange among the regions and other CDFW programs.
Forests cover one-third of California's land area.1, 2 They are home to a diverse array of natural communities which include threatened and endangered species. In addition to providing habitat for California's fish and wildlife, forests contribute a variety of benefits to Californian's, including:
- supplying water
- maintaining water quality
- providing recreational opportunities
- sequestering carbon
- generating jobs and economic activity
Timberland is a forest that can produce commercial wood products and is not reserved. Reserved forests, such as National Park Service forests and other publicly owned protected forests, do not allow for timber harvesting but may be managed for other goals. Of the 32,101,515 acres of forest within California, 16,616,065 acres (JPG)(opens in new tab) are considered timberlands.2 The California Department of Fish and Wildlife's (CDFW) Timberland Conservation and Fire Resiliency Program (TCFRP) helps to conserve natural resources in privately owned timberlands.
Timber Harvesting Plan Review
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife's authority to review Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) comes from the Forest Practice Act and Forest Practice Rules(opens in new tab) and the California Environmental Quality Act. TCFRP is committed to maintaining forest ecological values in managed forests during the environmental review of THPs. THPs are both CEQA functional equivalent environmental documents and operational plans that detail how timber operations (e.g. felling and harvest of trees, related road construction and maintenance, and preparing ground for planting of seedlings) are to occur. A registered professional forester submits plan details including the potential impacts of timber operations on natural resources in the plan area. When TCFRP scientists review THPs, they focus on potential significant impacts to:
Species that are listed as threatened or endangered pursuant to the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) often take priority during THP review.
Specifically, TCFRP staff assess the likelihood that a THP would result in the take of a listed species and recommend measures to avoid such take. If take appears unavoidable, an Incidental Take Permit from CDFW is warranted.
A Lake or Streambed Alteration Agreement (LSAA) is commonly prepared by CDFW in conjunction with THPs. If a THP requires construction of road crossings over waterways, the diversion of water, or any flow obstruction or disturbance to the bed, bank, or channel, of a river, stream, or lake, the THP proponent must notify CDFW. Fish and Game Code 1611 allows for notification to occur within the THP document. Once notified, TCFRP staff will determine if an LSAA is necessary.
Other Review Entities
The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)(opens in new tab) is the lead agency for timber harvesting operations on private and state-owned forests. CAL FIRE considers review team agency recommendations and conducts final review and approval of all THPs. In addition to CDFW, review team agencies typically include the Regional Water Quality Control Boards(opens in new tab) and the California Geological Survey(opens in new tab). The Department of Parks and Recreation and local governments also participate in review when the THP may affect resources within their jurisdictions.
Fire in California
California's Fire Regimes and History
Wildfire is a natural process in many of California's ecosystems. Approximately 54% of the current land cover in California is influenced by a fire regime, meaning many of the plant species, and the fish and wildlife that depend on them, require fire for reproduction and persistence.3 A fire regime is the pattern of the frequency, severity, and type of fire that occurs within a large area of a specific vegetation type over long periods of time.4 When the frequency, severity, or type of fire falls outside the range species have adapted to (a shift from the fire regime), catastrophic wildfires can occur. Catastrophic wildfires pose a significant risk to human health and safety and can result in long-term impacts to species and the habitats they depend on.4
Recent California Wildfires
Over the past few decades, the size and severity of wildfires in California have increased.5 Accurate records of California's wildfire history began in 1932. Since that time, 18 of the 20 largest wildfires occurred in the last 20 years (Top 20 Largest California Wildfires (PDF)(opens in new tab)) and seven of the 20 most destructive wildfires occurred in 2020 and 2021 alone (Top 20 Most Destructive California Wildfires (PDF)(opens in new tab)). The shift towards larger and more destructive wildfires in recent years can be attributed to over a century of management actions, such as wildland fire suppression, human expansion into wildlands, and climate change.
Today, scientists and land managers are exploring ways to implement fuel reduction activities, including prescribed fire, to maintain and restore ecosystem health while prioritizing human health and safety. TCFRP helps to conserve natural resources in fire prone landscapes and engages with these wildfire management efforts.
CDFW Fire Resiliency Activities
While wildfire is a natural part of California’s geography, the increase in catastrophic wildfire is of great concern for all Californians. Wildfires have the potential to impact not only the lives, property, and health of Californians, but also the fish, wildlife, and plant resources that we depend on and enjoy.
Managing California’s lands with a focus on wildfire resiliency benefits people through reduced catastrophic wildfire and associated loss of human lives and property, improved air quality, and increased water storage. This type of management can also benefit California's diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend -- but the protection and conservation of these resources must be incorporated into planning and management efforts from the start. TCRFP staff are responsible for ensuring that CDFW’s mission is achieved during wildfire management efforts.
TCFRP staff work with other agencies to incorporate protection and conservation of fish, wildlife, and plant resources into plans and procedures for wildfire management activities. TCFRP staff also coordinate at the statewide level on plans and policies to reduce and combat catastrophic wildfire and its effects, through participation in groups such as the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force(opens in new tab).
- California's total land area, 99,698,700.8 acres, reported by the U.S. Census Bureau(opens in new tab).
- Forest acreage in California, 32,101,515 acres, and acres of timberland by land owner obtained from the U.S Forest Service Tools and Data - Forest Inventory and Analysis National Program(opens in new tab) Forest Inventory Data Online web-application version: FIDO 1.5.1.05c St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 2015..
- Neil G. Sugihara, Todd Keeler-Wolf, and Michael G. Barbour. “Introduction: Fire and California Vegetation”. Fire in California’s Ecosystems. University of California Press, edited by Jan W. van Wagtendonk, Neil G. Sugihara, Scott L. Stephens, Andrea E. Thode, Kevin E. Shaffer, and Jo Ann Fites-Kaufman, 2018, pp 1-7. .
- Neil G. Sugihara, Jan W. van Wagtendonk, and Jo Ann Fites-Kaufman. “Fire as an Ecological Process”. Fire in California’s Ecosystems. University of California Press, edited by Jan W. van Wagtendonk, Neil G. Sugihara, Scott L. Stephens, Andrea E. Thode, Kevin E. Shaffer, and Jo Ann Fites-Kaufman, 2018, pp 57. .
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife Science Institute. “Wildfire Impacts”. Science. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2022. Science: Wildfire Impacts (ca.gov)