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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)(opens in new tab) 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 and Fire Resiliency Program (TCFRP) works primarily in privately owned timberlands.
California's Fire Regime and History
Timber Harvesting Plan Review
TCFRP helps to conserve natural resources on timberland. The TCFRP 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 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 review.
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(opens in new tab) and the California Environmental Quality Act.
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 Resiliency Activities
Wildfires impact more than just human health and safety, they impact wild spaces, vegetative communities, and sensitive species. TCRFP staff are engaging with wildfire issues to ensure that CDFW’s mission is considered in conjunction with concerns for people and property.
While wildfire is a natural part of California’s geography, the increase in catastrophic wildfire is of great concern for all Californians. Managing California’s lands to reduce catastrophic wildfire will benefit not only people through reduced loss of life and property, but also through 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 management must consider these resources from the start.
TCFRP Regional staff work with other agencies to approve plans and procedures to:
- clean up burned areas in an environmentally friendly manner
- conduct vegetation treatments to reduce fuel loads in high fire hazard areas
- approve maintenance of utility rights-of-way
TCFRP staff also coordinate at the statewide level on plans and policies to reduce and combat catastrophic wildfire and its effects through groups such as the California Wildfire & Forest Resilience Task Force.
1 California's total land area, 99,698,700.8 acres, reported by the U.S. Census Bureau(opens in new tab).
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 (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.(opens in new tab)