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Making History in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

As part of a 2007 settlement between ConocoPhillips and the state of California, the Texas-based energy company pledged $2.8 million to American Forests to develop and implement a wildfire forest recovery project under California’s emerging protocols, the Climate Action Reserve (CAR), which allow public lands like Cuyamaca Rancho State Park to receive funding from companies through carbon offset programs. In 2010, after years of effort from California State Parks officials, the Cuyamaca reforestation project was the first of its kind to be approved for funding through carbon offset programs. This meant that the California State Park system was able to sell carbon offsets accrued by its forested lands and use the proceeds to restore Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

Allowing public lands to participate in carbon offset programs was a historic achievement, as this practice had previously been limited to private lands owned by nonprofits. To draft the protocols of this new carbon offset program, California State Parks representatives conferred with landowners, environmentalists, scientists and government agencies to determine how this type of program could be carried out to achieve maximum results. The Cuyamaca project is the first example of a fire recovery project only made possible by the funding from this new program. In addition to a faster recovery, the project also highlights the important carbon storage benefits that forest restoration will provide. The reforested land will reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a rate of one to three metric tons per acre per year and will have the potential to store more than 200 metric tons of carbon dioxide per acre.

The fire recovery project at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is being conducted by the California Department of Parks and Recreation through partnerships with American Forests, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, San Diego State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. The fourth and final phase of tree plantings will be completed in March 2012.

The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park Interpretive Association provides the most current information about the park on their website at

Seedlings in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Seedlings are planted throughout the burned area in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and covered with protective mesh to increase their chances of survival.

One Comment

  1. Georgia C. Koenig September 27, 2014 at 12:14 am - Reply

    Hi – just a native Californian here who visited & spent quality time in Cuyamaca before the devastating firestorms of 2003. I cried during & after the fires, with others, over the devastating loss of the lush beautiful forests, for all the homes people lost & for all the innocent wildlife displaced & also burned to death in the firestorm. A real true tragedy! It is certainly encouraging to read of the reforestation projects & all the thought & planning going into these projects. As climate change progresses & droughts cause more wildfires, we need to have projects, studies & plans like these, in order to try to restore/maintain our beautiful forests & all the many associated & interrelated benefits they provide. It would have been an equally terrible tragedy to do nothing & to merely allow the ravaged forest lands to be overrun with ground covers & alien grasses that would not support wildlife & that would have completely changed the landscape forever, preventing the possible re-establishment of hardwood & conifer forests. I hope the folks in power up in the Yosemite area & other fire regions in Northern California are made aware of what is being done to reforest Cuyamaca. With all the fires that have been burning up there, they are going to need all the help they can get.

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