State Demonstration Forests

Department: CAL FIRE

Program Description: The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) operates nine Demonstration State Forests totaling approximately 72,000 acres. The forests represent the most common forest types in the state.

These living laboratories focus on applied research and testing the best forest management practices for carbon sequestration, forest health and fire resilience. Demonstration forests provide answers to some of the most difficult forest management questions that we currently face under a rapidly changing climate, from stand-density to ecological co-benefits to better understanding forest hydrology.

With the ability to conduct decadal-long studies, the demonstration forests inform updates to the forest practice rules governing the 8 million acres of commercial timberlands in California. The forests also provide research and demonstration opportunities for natural resource management, along with recreation opportunities, fish and wildlife habitat, and watershed protection.

Program Impact: In addition to supporting operating costs, this $10 million investment is critical to help modernizing the mission of the demonstration forests. Activities will include:

  • A carbon sequestration study
  • Prescribed fire research
  • Fuel reduction work to enable prescribed fires
  • Upgrades to trails and recreational facilities
  • Improved community communication programs
  • Resources to support tribal co-management

Mountain Home: The 2020 and 2021 fire seasons killed an unprecedented number of monarch giant sequoias in California. However, the grove of old-growth Giant Sequoias at Mountain Home were protected from catastrophic loss during the 2020 Castle Fire due to a decade of active management, including timber harvest, fuel reduction, and prescribed burning. Funding supported removal and burning of post-fire woody debris to prepare approximately 400 acres for reforestation. 212,000 seedlings, including 25,000 giant sequoias were planted in 2022. Another 10,000 giant sequoia seedlings are being grown at the LA Moran Reforestation Center for planting in 2023 to complete post-fire reforestation efforts.  Mountain Home Giant Sequoia Grove Post-Castle Fire (2020) statistics:

  • 2022 Re-inventoried Giant Sequoia: 4,483
  • Mortality: 335 (7.5 percent)

Jackson Demonstration State Forest: Understanding the role forests play in watersheds is crucial, especially during California’s ongoing mega drought. The Jackson Demonstration Forest has been conducting one of the most comprehensive forest hydrology studies in the nation with data going back to 1962. CAL FIRE just executed a 100-year Memorandum of Understanding with the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station to continue the Caspar Creek Watershed Experiment. The third experimental harvest in this study occurred in 2018. Specific plots were harvested at different densities to track the water yield relative to the forest density. The 2018 harvest is starting to yield preliminary results on the influence of forest stand density reduction on watershed function and yield. This is critical to understanding how forests can help protect watershed and mitigate drought conditions.

Advancing Scientific Understanding of Forests, Fire, and Climate Change: The following scientific studies are being undertaken on Demonstration State Forests to contribute to our knowledge of forests as a nature-based solution to climate change and demonstrate resilient forest landscape conditions to private landowners.

  • Adaptive Management Experiment for Coastal Redwoods: Led by Dr. Sarah Bisbing, University of Nevada Reno, this study will develop three foundational silvicultural treatments to prepare forests for disturbance events exacerbated by a changing climate. Resilience treatments will facilitate recovery of pre-disturbance forest structure. Resistance treatments will allow for the recovery of ecological functions of a forest though the structure and composition may change. Transition treatments will help forests adapt to a changing climate when the forest cannot recover without active intervention. This replicates an ongoing study in the Sierra Nevada forests.
  • Potential Elite Tree Identification: Led by Dr. Stephen Sillett, Cal Poly Humboldt, this study will help us understand traits of individual redwood trees in managed forests with the greatest capacity for carbon sequestration and long-term carbon storage.
  • Mitigating Wildfire Hazard in the Redwoods: Led by Dr. Pascal Berrill, Cal Poly Humboldt, this study will evaluate the effectiveness and tradeoffs of six common fuel treatments in coastal redwood forests. This funding will facilitate the pre-treatment of approximately 300 acres with mastication and hand crews prior to the reintroduction of prescribed fire. This will contribute to the knowledge of the safe and effective reintroduction of fire into coast redwood forests.
  • Cultural Burning for Tanoak Improvement: This study is being conducted in coordination with a local Native American Tribe in Mendocino County to reduce the incidence of acorn weevils and improve acorn production within a coastal redwood forest.