In 2003, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park was nearly entirely destroyed by the biggest wildfire in California history. Twenty-seven thousand acres were burned — an area almost half the size of Washington, D.C.

Much of the park’s wildlife died in the fire. What remained was a surreal landscape of fields of blackened shards where forest once stood. The soil was so damaged that little natural regeneration occurred, other than some scrubby underbrush.

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, California

The biggest wildfire in California history scarred 27,000 acres of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

But right from the beginning, Cuyamaca’s staff, CalFire and the California Parks Department were determined to restore this badly damaged ecosystem. In 2009, American Forests made a $2.6 million commitment to help bring this park back to life. Today, new oak and pine saplings dot the landscape. Wildlife is returning. And, hikers once again walk the trails. A place that, nearly a decade ago, was as damaged as you could possibly imagine, today — in 2016 — is a place that is once again teeming with life.

The journey to restore threatened places, like Cuyamaca, is often long and difficult. But, at American Forests, we’ve learned that together we can make a difference in restoring even some of the most damaged ecosystems back to health.

American Forests is working to restore communities and ecosystems like this one that have been ravaged by wildfire.