Timberland Conservation Program


Map of California's Forests

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California's Forests

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, forests offer California's human population a variety of benefits, including:

  • supplying water
  • maintaining water quality
  • providing recreation opportunities
  • sequestering carbon
  • generating jobs and economic activity

Of the 32,101,515 acres of forest within California, 16,616,065 acres (JPG) are considered timberlands.2 Timberland is forest that can produce commercial wood products and is not reserved. By definition, reserved forests preclude timber harvest, such as National Park Service forests and other publicly owned protected forests. CDFW's Timberland Conservation Program (TCP) works primarily in privately owned timberlands.


Timber Harvesting Plan Review

CDFW Review

Northern Spotted Owl

The northern spotted owl, federally and state-listed as threatened, lives in California forests; CDFW photo by Mandy Culpepper.

The Timberland Conservation Program (TCP) helps to conserve natural communities on timberland. The TCP is committed to maintaining forest ecological values in managed forests, including during the environmental review of timber harvesting plans (THPs). THPs are both environmental documents and operational plans that provide information about where 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 describes in detail where the plan will take place and the potential impacts of timber operations on natural resources in the area. When TCP 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 review.

Siskiyou Mountains Salamander

Siskiyou mountains salamander, a state-listed as threatened species; CDFW photo by Joe Croteau.

Specifically, TCP staff assesses the likelihood that a THP would result in the take (hunting, pursuing, catching, capturing, killing, or attempting any of those activities) of a listed species and recommend measures to avoid take. If take appears unavoidable, an incidental take permit from CDFW is warranted.

A permit commonly prepared by CDFW in conjunction with THPs is a Lake or Streambed Alteration Agreement (LSAA). 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, staff recommends the plan proponent notify CDFW. This usually leads to an LSAA .

CDFW's authority to review THPs comes from the Forest Practice Act and Forest Practice Rules and the California Environmental Quality Act.

Other Review Entities

Timberland in Siskiyou County

Timberland in Siskiyou County; CDFW photo by Robin Fallscheer.

The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) 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 and the California Geological Survey. The Department of Parks and Recreation and local governments also participate in review when the THP may affect resources within their jurisdictions.

1 California's total land area, 99,698,700.8 acres, reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

2 Forest acreage in California, 32,101,515 acres, and acres of timberland by land owner obtained from the U.S Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis National Program Forest Inventory Data Online web-application version: FIDO St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 2015.



Guidance documents for fuels management, post-fire salvage projects, and water drafting are now available.

CalTREES is a new online Timber Harvesting Plan review and submittal platform from CAL FIRE and the California Natural Resources Agency.

Meeting notes and survey results from the 2021 NSO Stakeholder Forum are now available.

Four bumble bee species are candidate species under CESA.

Northern California Summer Steelhead is a candidate species under CESA.

Upper Klamath-Trinity River Spring Chinook Salmon is a candidate species under CESA.

Cascades frog is a candidate species under CESA.

Foothill yellow-legged frog (FYLF) is a candidate species under CESA.