Sierra Foothill Forest Climate Resilience Project

What

The purpose of this project is to improve forest health and wildlife habitat by treating 625 acres of Sierra Nevada foothill forest through a combination of targeted hand-thinning and mastication of shrubs, small trees, and invasive species; application of prescribed fire; planting native species; and targeted herbicide application to increase duration between treatments. The native plant species will be selected based on their capability to withstand projected drought conditions under a changing climate.

The project is designed to create a variety of vegetation arrangements, such as “clumps” and “gaps” or vegetation islands within the forest to reduce wildfire severity and to enhance wildlife habitat. The goal is to develop more forestland habitat with the ability to withstand and recover from disturbances such as pests, like bark beetles, fire, and drought. Targeted treatments have been developed specifically to address the needs of each property. 
 
All 85 private landowners within the project footprint will be consulted before implementation to discuss treatment descriptions and how they align with best forest ecology practices. Additionally, Sierra Streams Institute will develop research plots with the Nevada County School of the Arts to offer educational opportunities to students around native and non-native species management experiments, as well as land stewardship principles. The community at large will be invited to participate in upcoming virtual and in-person events, hosted by OES, to share more about the project and provide progress updates. 

Where

The Sierra Foothill Forest Climate Resilience Project is located in rural western Nevada City, north of Highway 20 and south of the South Yuba River, centering on 39.27125, -121.11527. This project footprint includes 300 private parcels within the Jones Bar Firewise Community, in addition to three outdoor schools and Bureau of Land Management property. Each of the schools is positioned within a priority location in Nevada County. Shady Creek Outdoor School is located within the footprint of the proposed South Yuba Rim Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project. Nevada City School of the Arts is located within the footprint of the Lobo Fire and the Deer Creek watershed. Lastly, the Woolman School is located within the Jones Fire footprint and the South Yuba River watershed.

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Pleasant Fire Scar (2022), in the Jones Bar Firewise Community. Facing the South Yuba River. Proposed planting site.

Sierra Foothills Forest Resilience Project Map

Sierra Foothills Forest Climate Resilience Project Timeline

Phase I

Phase I of this project involved securing funding from the California Wildlife Conservation Board to include landowners directly in the planning process and treat multiple properties within the community as one connected forest. This community-driven approach sets a new standard for how healthy forests can be stewarded together.  

An exciting outcome of Phase I is the Resource Toolkit for Landscape-Scale Management in Western Nevada County. This toolkit, designed by SSI, is intended to provide community members more information about forest health, fire, and stewardship options to reduce the likelihood of high-fire severity on personal property and maintain healthy forest.

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Phase II

Phase II of this project will involve hiring and overseeing contractors to complete hand-thinning, mastication, and targeted herbicide application. In addition, volunteers will be recruited for prescribed burning and planting/seeding.  

Students from each of the schools will be involved in the stewardship activities as they learn about forest management for future climatic conditions.  

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Impact

  • Treat 625 acres on more than 120 private and public parcels
  • Thin to promote understory plant species diversity and improve wildlife habitat
  • Thin to decrease tree stress in overstocked forestland which will reduce susceptibility to pest infestation and disease.
  • Reforestation with climate-smart tree and shrub species 
  • Return fire to the landscape to abate non-native species, improve species diversity and encourage nutrient cycling (among many other benefits!)
  • Educate students and future stewards via engaging stewardship and monitoring activities

* We treat not with the goal to prevent fire, but rather to invite low severity fire

Roadmap to Resilience

This project contains many of the actions recommended in the following planning documents, such as public education around forest health and wildfire, strategic fuels reduction, and working across jurisdictions and property boundaries to increase impact. 

Project Funders & Partners

The Nevada County Office of Emergency Services (OES) is acting as the fiscal sponsor for this project, while Sierra Streams Institute (SSI) is facilitating the on-the-ground education and implementation. Funding for this project is provided by the State of California Wildlife Conservation Board. The Bureau of Land Management, private landowners, and the following schools are partnering with SSI to implement treatment on land under their purview and conduct educational coursework with their students: the Woolman School, Nevada City School of the Arts, and Shady Creek Outdoor School. Sierra Foothills Forest Climate Resilience Project