Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News VOLUME 31, NUMBER 1, SPRING/SUMMER 2022


Written by Aaron Ferguson1


Over the past several years, a consensus has formed around the idea that decades of fire suppression have resulted in overly dense and less resilient forests throughout California.2 Deterioration of California’s forests has been exacerbated by wildfires, weather extremes, drought, invasive species, and human population pressure.3 Restoration of forests can provide opportunities for timber production and recreation, as well as improvements in water supplies, water quality, and wildlife habitat.4 However, without increasing the pace and scale of forest management activities, California risks the loss of these potential benefits.5

Given the federal government’s vast holdings of forestland throughout California, it will continue to be a key player in forest management. For example, forests occupy nearly 40% of the 15 million acres "headwaters region" in California, or about 6 million acres.6 Federal agencies own about two-thirds of these forests, or about 4 million acres.7 Recognizing the integrated nature of forests, communities, watersheds, and wildlife, and the varied incentives for protecting and managing these resources, in August 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service (Forest Service), initiated the Shared Stewardship Investment Strategy and committed to work closely with states to set landscape-scale priorities for fire risk treatments.8

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