Sierra Nevada Regional Profile

Concluding Recommendations From Interviews

Interviewees were asked to share recommendations for increasing community and ecological resilience to wildfire. In addition to the findings already shared pertaining to specific outcomes, the following big-picture themes arose:

  1. Recognize it is not possible to eliminate fire from a frequent fire landscape.

California has a long legacy of fire suppression which has altered both the historical disturbance regime and humans’ relationship with fire. Indigenous communities in the region used cultural burning to promote landscape health for thousands of years before this practice was suppressed. Interviewees discussed how we now need to find ways to get beneficial fire back on the landscape, including through prescribed burning and managed wildfire. As noted in the ‘Air Quality’ and ‘Resilient and Fire-Adapted Communities’ sections, this is going to require increasing public tolerance for smoke, as well as additional efforts to prepare communities for living with fire.

  1. Reducing wildfire hazard through active forest management requires a cultural shift.

In the past, forest management primarily focused on timber as an economically valuable resource. Today, forest management is being reframed to achieve multiple socio-ecological values that encourage both community and ecological resilience. Interviewees noted that effective communication will be key to increasing social acceptance of active forest management and to engaging the public as partners in this important work. This also requires changing how we measure and communicate the impacts of wildfires to help the public understand that sometimes fire burns in a way that is actually beneficial to the ecology of the landscape. One suggestion was to shift away from “numbers of acres burned” to metrics that better measure the impacts of fire, such as structures burned, high-severity patches, and public health impacts.

  1. Permanent increases in capacity are needed to respond to the current pace and scale of threats. Interviewees frequently noted that forest treatments are not happening at a fast enough pace or a large enough scale to keep up with current wildfires. Many solutions that interviewees proposed to address this were already highlighted in the preceding Outcome sections. However, the value of longer-term, permanent, or otherwise more stable funding for forest health work was consistently raised. Organizations are competing for short-term grants, which make it hard to plan large projects. Permanent and secure funding would enable partners to coordinate efforts, hire permanent staff, and treat landscapes at ecologically meaningful scales. An ability to plan for larger timescales can also be critical for encouraging investment in infrastructure and workforce development.
  2. Increasing broad awareness of the value the Sierra Nevada region provides is important.

Interviewees noted that the region provides many resources that are important to the state, including to many people that do not live in the region but rely on water that falls as snow on Sierra Nevada mountains or visit the region for recreation. However, the burden for caring for these resources often rests on local residents. Increasing public awareness of the values that are threatened by climate change and wildfire can serve to mobilize greater support to address challenges, making the region and its resources more resilient.