More than 10,000 acres of Sierra Nevada forest will become a living laboratory for scientists to study forest restoration and wildfire-reduction techniques. That’s thanks to a deal finalized last week by The Nature Conservancy, American River Conservancy and Northern Sierra Partnership to acquire the land, which connects the North Fork American River with the Granite Chief Wilderness.
In addition to restoring habitat in the forest for the endangered spotted owl, scientists plan to study the impacts of forest thinning on wildfires, water quality and drought.
Ed Smith, The Nature Conservancy’s forest ecologist , will help lead the team’s research and restoration plan. He explains the purpose of thinning.
"By opening the forest canopy, you can reduce the amount of snow that gets trapped in the trees and evaporates," says Smith. "And those openings that are created on the forest floor will allow more snow fall and rainfall to hit the ground and percolate into our aquifers and also recharge the rivers and streams.”
He says the research done there could have implications for forest management throughout the state of California.
Called the American River Headlands, the new wilderness tract will play host to scientists from the Nature Conservancy, American River Conservancy and University of California at Merced in the coming months.