Supporting Fire Restoration in the Eastern Sierra
The Inyo National Forest (INF) is busy implementing the new Forest Plan and one of their first steps is an ambitious proposal to approve up to 200,000 acres of the Forest, outside of designated wilderness, for prescribed burning and associated fire restoration. Typically each prescribed fire project needs to go through its own environmental review, reducing the ability to increase the pace and scale of restoration activities. Under the Eastern Sierra Fire Restoration and Maintenance Project the Forest would be approved to implement prescribed fire and fuels treatment projects for a ten year period in Jeffrey pine, mixed conifer, aspen, and some red fir and lodgepole pine stands. Current fire science suggests the forest should be burning about 140,000 acres per decade across the project area.
At Friends of the Inyo we support the agency’s objective to restore the healthy ecological functions and biological diversity of our forests. Fire is an essential missing piece of this complex puzzle. Restoring fire promotes the resilience needed for forests and wildlife to survive the impacts of future fires and climate change, while promoting adaptability. The eastside of the Sierra has not had the prolonged history of fire suppression that other Sierra forests have experienced. Fire has only been absent on our landscape for about the last 50 years, compared to 100 years or greater on other parts of the Sierra Nevada. We have a unique opportunity to act now to restore the fire regime to different Forest communities on the eastside, likely starting with the Jeffrey Pine dominate forests along and east of highway 395. We welcome the new the INF is planning now for landscape level burning and managing fire for ecological benefit. This project will provide the INF the flexibility to implement prescribed fire where it is most needed and most feasible to implement, such as locations which will serve as anchor points for additional treatments, and buffers to protect highly valued resources and assets from future wildland fires.
Friends of the Inyo hopes to work with the forest in the design of prescribed fire projects, and particularly with the implementation of monitoring and adaptive management programs, and participate in a collaborative group to implement the proposed action. A major focus of our work will be ensuring sensitive resources of the forest are protected through proper design of each burn plan, and dispelling some of the myths around living with fire and smoke management to our communities.
You can learn more about this project on the Forest’s planning page and read our scoping comments.