Megafires resulting from a century of fire exclusion are impacting communities and ecosystems in the Western Klamath Mountains at a rapidly increasing pace and scale. While the majority of these burned areas are ecologically beneficial, proportionally more areas are burning at high severities than ever before due to accumulated fuels, climate change, and fire suppression policies.
Wildfires on the edges of fire season are suppressed, while only 3% of fires in the hottest months of summer have burned more than 97% of the landscape. We are maximizing the negative impacts of fire at the landscape scale and putting communities and firefighters at greater risk. Vast swaths of critical habitat for Spotted owls and key watersheds for coho salmon have been severely degraded in recent wildfires.
Forests in the Western Klamath Mountains are in serious need of ecological restoration treatments based on restoring fire process and function. Restoring fire processes can create resilient landscapes, providing integral resources and services to ecosystems and communities. It would lead to increased water quality and yield, healthy streams and aquatic populations, increased wildlife and plant diversity, cultural revitalization and a sustainable supply of wood products. The public depends on our forested land for ecological, social, and economic benefits. Restored landscapes are not only more capable of producing these benefits in a sustainable manner, but also are more resilient to stressors, which range from extreme wildfires, invasive species infestations to climate change and drought. Since much of the headwater regions are in public ownership (primarily the U.S. Forest Service), the opportunity to pursue significant large-scale ecological forest restoration is unique.
BENEFITS OF RESTORATION
· Large areas of National Forest System land are at risk from the effects of a changing climate, including catastrophic wildfire, insect and disease, and other stressors. The potential restoration treatment needs on these lands are between 65 million to 82 million acres.
· Restoration of diverse landscapes nationwide is critical to maintaining and enhancing the functions needed from productive, resilient forests and grasslands to support thriving communities and economies.
· Restoration helps to ensure that forests and grasslands continue to provide the goods and services that Americans want and need, including clean air and water, wood products, energy, recreation opportunities, carbon management, and fish and wildlife habitat