- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
California needs to increase the pace and scale of efforts to improve the health of its headwater forests — the source of two-thirds of the state's surface water supply. Management techniques including prescribed fire, managed wildfire and mechanical thinning can help rebuild resilience in these forests and prepare them for a challenging future.
These are among the key findings of a report released today by the PPIC Water Policy Center.
Decades of fire suppression have increased the density of trees and other fuels in headwater forests to uncharacteristically high levels and resulted in massive tree die-offs and large, severe wildfires. Improving forest health will require reducing the density of small trees and fuels on a massive scale.
This will require changes in the regulation, administration, and management of forests. Many of the recommended reforms in forest management can take place at low or no cost. But implementing them will require vision, determined leadership by state and federal officials, and the backing of an informed public.
“Actions to arrest the decline in forest health will take place far from urban centers,” said Van Butsic, a coauthor of the report and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. “But all Californians will benefit through continued supplies of high-quality water, natural environments, forest products and recreational landscapes.”
Changing the way forestry work is funded — and in some cases securing new funding — will also be needed to help expedite forest improvements. The authors suggest reforms that will enable the private sector and government agencies to use existing tools and funding opportunities more effectively and collaborate more easily on larger-scale management projects. One key recommendation is to find opportunities to combine revenue-generating timber harvesting with other management work to help offset the costs of efforts to improve forest health.
“Making forest health a top land management priority for public and private lands would be a critical first step in reversing the degraded condition of the state's headwater forests,” said report coauthor Henry McCann, a research associate with the PPIC Water Policy Center.
The report, Improving the Health of California's Headwater Forests, was supported with funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the US Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to Butsic and McCann, the coauthors are Jeffrey Mount and Brian Gray, both senior fellows at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Jodi Axelson, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley; Yufang Jin, an assistant professor in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources at UC Davis; Scott Stephens, professor of fire science and co-director of the Center for Forestry and Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley; and William Stewart, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist and co-director of the Center for Forestry and Center for Fire Research and Outreach at the UC Berkeley.
- Posted By: Brenda Dawson
- Written by: Janet Byron, (510) 665-2194, firstname.lastname@example.org and Janet White, (510) 665-2201, email@example.com
October 10, 2011
Private owners of California’s forests and rangelands value their land mostly for its natural amenities and as a financial investment, according to a new study published in the October–December 2011 issue of the University of California’s California Agriculture journal. About 42 percent of forest and rangeland is in private ownership.
“A variety of reasons were reported for owning land,” reports lead author Shasta Ferranto, Ph.D. candidate in UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.
“To ‘live near natural beauty’ was the objective ranked by most landowners as important. Other popular reasons included ‘appreciation in land value,’ ‘escape from city crime and pollution,’ ‘financial investment’ and ‘live in a small community.’” The research article, and the entire October–December 2011 issue, can be viewed and downloaded at http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org.
Thirty-four million acres of California’s forests and rangelands are privately owned. These lands represent 34 percent of the total land in the state and provide important ecosystem services such as pollination, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration (removal of carbon from the atmosphere and storage in carbon sinks such as forests). However, little was known about the people who own and manage the land until this recent survey by UC Cooperative Extension and UC Berkeley scientists.
Many of the more than 600 forest and rangeland owners in 10 counties who completed the 17-page survey reported they had been approached to sell their land for development. Other findings include
- Owners of large properties (500 or more acres) were more likely to carry out or be interested in environmental improvements than owners of small properties.
- Only about one-third of landowners had participated in conservation programs; few had conservation easements.
- The majority of the landowners were primary residents.
- Only one-third reported earning income from their land.
- Asked about what reasons would influence a hypothetical future decision to sell their land, almost 20 percent reported they would never sell their land. Of the remaining 80 percent, just over half chose “it is too much work to maintain,” followed by “can’t afford to keep it” and other financial concerns.
“What will happen when privately owned forests and rangelands change ownership — either through generational transfer of land or sale — is unknown,” say the researchers. “California forest and rangeland owners are 62 years old on average, with a high proportion retired, and many more nearing retirement.” The survey results establish a baseline for understanding how the owners of a significant part of the state’s ecosystem services “might change over time, or with interventions of information, policy or financial resources.”
Also reported in the October-December 2011 issue of California Agriculture:
- A wireless communications system and wetting-front advance model have eliminated tail water drainage in alfalfa irrigation.
- Tree shelters and weed control have increased the growth and survival of natural blue oak seedlings and are more cost-effective than a previous approach to regenerate blue oaks stands by planting nursery-grown saplings.
- Hedgerows of native California shrubs and perennial grasses are enhancing beneficial insects on farms in California’s Central Valley.
California Agriculture is the University of California’s peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources. For a free subscription, sign up at http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WRITERS/EDITORS: To request a hard copy of the journal, email email@example.com.
- Posted By: Brenda Dawson
- Written by: Pam Kan-Rice, (530) 754-3912, firstname.lastname@example.org and Tong Wu, (510) 643-5429, Tongwu@berkeley.edu
October 4, 2011
The University of California is hosting a two-part workshop series, “Ties to the Land,” to help forest landowners pass their land and its legacy on to the next generation.
The first workshop is being offered at 11 locations throughout California. All workshops will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Family forests create many benefits through their stewardship actions, but the legacy can fall prey to the confusing details of land titles, permits, and inheritance if families have not crafted a succession plan,” said Bill Stewart, UC Cooperative Extension forestry specialist and organizer of the series. “This is especially true for owners who do not live in the county where their forest is. Their heirs have probably spent little time on the land and the lack of shared goals can become a problem.”
During the first workshop, participants will learn the steps needed to plan for passing land along to their heirs. An important first step in this process is clarifying the current owners’ goals and values for their family forest or ranch. This allows landowners to start the discussion with heirs about their long-term vision for the property. Participants will also learn about the financial impacts of ownership transfers across generations.
This first round of identical workshops is being held before the holidays, to allow time for families to get together during the winter holidays and discuss their goals. Locations and dates for the first workshop are as follows:
- Nevada City, Tuesday, October 11
- Placerville, Monday, October 17
- Sonora, Wednesday, October 19
- Redding, Tuesday, October 25
- Yreka, Wednesday, October 26
- Quincy, Thursday, October 27
- Ukiah, Tuesday, November 8
- Garberville, Wednesday, November 9
- Eureka, Thursday, November 10
- Berkeley, Tuesday, November 15
- Rohnert Park, Wednesday, November 16
The second workshop will be held after the holidays and will cover the financial and legal approaches and tools such as trusts, limited liability companies, and easements used in succession planning as well as specific planning approaches used to manage land and resources. Dates and times of the second workshop will be announced later.
Registration for the workshop is $25 per family to cover costs of the family workbook and DVD. Multiple members of each family are encouraged to attend both workshops and can attend the workshop location nearest to them as the curriculum will be the same.
To register for the workshop or for more information on locations or the workshop series, please see the University of California Forest Research and Outreach website http://ucanr.org/tiestotheland.