“Sky Islands” Under Threat

The San Bernardino Mountains, located in southern California, encompass a vast, wild region of rugged peaks and mountain forests. An island of green in an arid landscape, the mountains are an important source of drinking and irrigation water for surrounding communities.

As with other forests in California, the landscapes of San Bernardino are at risk. A century of aggressive fire suppression has fostered an overgrowth of fire-prone underbrush, along with dense stands of thin, weak trees that fight each other for water and sunlight. Unhealthy forest conditions, compounded by never-before-seen heat, drought and pest infestations, are fueling wildfires severe enough to kill even mature trees of fire-adapted species.

With no mature trees left to reseed burned landscapes, whole regions are at risk of a permanent shift to shrubland and grassland, which provide little of the carbon storage, erosion control or water filtration that a healthy forest offers.

Reforesting Mountain Communities

American Forests has been restoring wildfire-ravaged forests across California’s San Bernardino Mountains for nearly two decades. Healthy pines and oaks, some now 15 feet tall, are beckoning back mule deer and mountain lions to slopes that were once charred and lifeless.

American Forests’ work focuses on reforesting private lands intermixed with surrounding public lands, particularly areas that were hard-hit by bark beetle outbreaks and wildfires in the early 2000s. We provide the funding, expertise and capacity that small landowners often lack — making this work particularly important to overall efforts to keep the San Bernardino’s forests alive and thriving.

Since 2004, American Forests has planted more than 700,000 trees in local communities across the San Bernardino. We use a diverse collection of fire-resistant pine species and give each seedling the elbow room it needs to thrive.

In addition to our reforestation work, American Forests is developing a regional climate adaptation plan in collaboration with residents, researchers and government agencies. In 2022, we will also begin to conduct climate-smart seed collection to ensure reforestation can continue for years to come.

This photo, taken in 2012, shows an American Forests planting in the Hubert Eaton Scout Reservation in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Nagy

This photo, taken in 2018, shows an American Forests planting in the Hubert Eaton Scout Reservation in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The same planting in 2018.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Nagy

Our Partners in the San Bernardino 

Over the last two decades, American Forests has worked with diverse local, state and national partners to restore forests in the San Bernardino Mountains. These include the Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District, local landowners, Cal Fire, the United States Forest Service, the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and more.