The Little Hoover Commission released its report, “Rethinking Forest Management in the Sierra Nevada.” In this report, the Commission recommends a series of actions to address the crisis surrounding California’s forests. Poor management policies that interrupted the natural and historical cycle of fire, combined with a changing climate, have left forests in California vulnerable to disease, insects, catastrophic fire, and drought. The report concludes that decades of mismanagement have caused 129 million trees to die, bark beetles to take a heavy toll, and wildfires to become more frequent and destructive.

While there is commitment to long-lasting forest management changes at the highest levels of government, this commitment has not yet spread down through the state’s massive bureaucracy and law-and policy making apparatuses to the general public. Additionally complicating the matter is that the State of California owns very few of the forests within its borders, as most are owned by the federal government or private landowners. Given this, the Commission urges the state to take a greater leadership role in collaborative forest management planning at the watershed level. Instead of focusing solely on fire suppression, the state must institute wide-scale controlled burns and other strategic measures to reinvigorate forests, inhibit firestorms, and help protect air and water quality.

Specifically, the Commission recommends taking the following actions: 1) using prescribed burns to thin forests and decrease fuel loading; 2) using removed wood in a manner that helps the economies of forest communities; 3) increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration; and 4) turning the Tree Mortality Task Force into a full-time forest management entity with dedicated funding. These recommendations have been submitted to the Governor and the California Legislature for their consideration, and hopeful action.

The full report can be found HERE.