Helping forests heal and deal with flames
There was a time when North America’s great forests required no help from us.
Wildlife and indigenous communities flourished in these vast and varied woodlands, from towering stands of redwood and ponderosa pine in the West to the rolling hardwood forests of the Northeast and open longleaf pine savannas of the Southeast.
Seasonal wildfires and timber-toppling storms were necessary components of forest health, creating pockets of open canopy that allowed sunlight to fuel explosions of new growth and biodiversity. Forests could heal themselves while steadily adapting to changes in climatic conditions.
Today, this is no longer the case. Even the most remote sections of forest now face existential, man-made threats. Temperatures and weather patterns are changing faster than these ecosystems can adapt. Invasive insects are wreaking havoc on forest structure, leaving mountainsides of dead trees to erupt in catastrophic wildfires. Dramatic population growth in fire-prone areas has led to the suppression of wildfires that would have normally moved through and burned off excess fuels. Much of the nation’s forests have been degraded by development, depriving wildlife of essential habitat and migration corridors while degrading the natural infrastructure we depend on to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere.
NFWF and its extensive network of funding partners and grantees recognize the urgency of the situation, as well as the need to act with speed and scale. Throughout 2021, these public and private entities have leveraged resources to address the threats to forests, in every region of the nation.
The growing intensity of wildfires throughout California’s 33 million acres of forest sits atop that list of threats. Six of the top 10 most destructive wildfires in California’s recorded history, in terms of acres burned and loss of life, have occurred since 2020.
Working closely with federal and state foresters, NFWF awarded $5.8 million to a variety of grantees working in the rugged mountainous forests of California to heal fire scars, ensure the survival of rare species, protect rivers and streams from sedimentation, restore alpine wet meadows and remove excess fuels in places that would deliver the greatest value to both people and wildlife. These investments leveraged $3.8 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of $9.5 million.