Fire in the American River Watershed

The Eldorado National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, is a 600,000-acre landscape of conifer forests, lakes and mountain meadows. The Eldorado is one piece of a vast watershed that supplies water to millions of Californians, as well as farms that grow half the nation’s fruit and vegetables.

Despite the Eldorado’s vital role, its future is at risk. Wildfires in this region are growing bigger, hotter and more destructive due to the effects of climate change and a legacy of forest mismanagement.

In 2014, for example, the King Fire burned nearly 100,000 acres in and around the Eldorado National Forest. More than 30,000 acres burned so intensely that few trees survived, making the King one of the most ecologically damaging wildfires in California history. With few mature trees left alive and the seed bank in the soil incinerated, severely burned parts of the forest will not regrow without our help.

Climate-Smart Reforestation in the Eldorado

Since 2006, American Forests has planted more than one million trees in the Eldorado. These trees are planted according to our climate-smart principles, a suite of forestry techniques to restore forests that can better withstand drought, fire and other climate stressors.

American Forests’ work includes managing reforestation projects through partnership agreements as well as monitoring current and past plantings and controlling shrubs that compete with growing seedlings.

American Forests actively monitors and evaluates the success of our reforestation work in the Eldorado and other sites in California. Through this, we refine our climate-smart planting techniques and identify the best practices for wildfire recovery.

Our Partners in the Eldorado

American Forests has partnered with the Eldorado National Forest, the Bella Vista Foundation, the Sierra Nevada Alliance, the Wildlife Conservation Board and many others to restore healthy forests in the Eldorado. We do this by creating public-private partnerships and using tools, such as our existing Master Stewardship Agreement, to share the reasonability of these restoration efforts.

American Forests also funds and manages a Sierra Corps Forestry Fellow stationed in the Eldorado. This fellow works with the national forest’s scientists to study, design and implement reforestation projects, and to fill other gaps in capacity and expertise. American Forests also holds community outreach events and recruits citizen scientists to monitor planting plots.