June Mountain Ski Area Whitebark Pine Restoration

June Mountain Ski Area Whitebark Pine Restoration

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Project Goal:

Protect the water resources that sustain native trout and provide drinking water by removing dying trees across 518 acres of National Forest System lands. Remove excessive dead wood, implement longitudinal study on forest health, determine the optimal use for harvested wood.


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Project Stages

Impact Study

Monitoring

Implementation

Outreach

Post Monitoring

Estimated Completion Date:
Ongoing

Project Funders

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)
Wells Fargo /NFWF Resilient Communities Program
Alterra Corporation
Pacific Gas & Electric Company

Fish Affected:

Threats:

Project Description

Recently, California has been ravaged by an uptick of intense wildfires. 15 out of the 20 largest wildfires in the state have occurred since 2000. In 2018, more than 8,400 wildfires scorched nearly two million acres across California, the most in recorded history. In the aftermath of another devastating wildfire year for the Golden State, many were left asking, "Is this the new normal?" After a century of fire suppression aimed at protecting people, property, and valued timber resources, Sierra Nevada forests have become densely packed and overloaded with dead wood that is primed to burn intensely and cause fires to spread quickly under hot, dry, and windy conditions.

Climate change has intensified the risk. In addition to concern over fire threats to life and property, the massive die-off is of major concern to conservationists. The trees hardest hit by drought and subsequent beetle infestation are the area's keystone whitebark pines. Whitebark pines can live for 1,000 years or more near mountaintops and is considered a keystone species because of its ecological importance. Its large and nutritious seeds attract and feed chipmunks, squirrels, bears, and over a dozen different birds.

CalTrout, Inyo National Forest and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area are working together to remove beetle-killed whitebark pines to bring the ecosystem back into balance and to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the Rush Creek watershed. By mimicking the effects of the natural fire regime, mechanical thinning is clearing out patches of dead forest and understory and producing less dense and multi-aged pine stands.

The healthier forest benefits the June Lake community, California’s iconic biodiversity, native trout populations in connected waterways, recreation opportunities, the area’s significant natural resources and downstream water users.

This project is now entering Phase 2 to thin out patches of dead forest on 216 acres. Phase 2 is funded by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Board. Phase 1 funders included National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Fuels Program, Wells Fargo Resilient Communities Program, and the Alterra Mountain Company, which removed ~11,175 dead whitebark pine from 110 acres.

Total treatment area on June Mountain is 326.5 acres strategically restored to protect area resources. A biomass processing feasibility study is underway, funded by NFWF, to determine the most cost effective and environmentally friendly process to remove the downed trees from the mountain, and calculate water and Greenhouse Gas benefits from regional fuels reduction projects.

Project Partners:

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

The Coastal Conservancy

Santa Clara River Steelhead Coalition

Stillwater Sciences

CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Santa Clara Trustee Council

Inyo National Forest

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

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