• Nearly a century of fire suppression in the Sierra Nevada has had the unintended consequence of placing millions of hectares of forest at risk of catastrophic fire. Modifying wildland fire behavior across landscapes in the Sierran National Forests has been identified as a management priority. The preferred response is to apply strategic fuel treatments at the landscape level, yet there is little guidance for the implementation of this strategy. Sagehen Creek Basin in the Tahoe National Forest provides a representative landscape, where the accumulation of forest fuels has created a severe risk of catastrophic wildfire. The primary goal of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of strategically placed area treatments (SPLAT) in reducing fire hazard at Sagehen Creek Basin. We will first build a field-parameterized version of the fire-behavior model, FARSITE, and simulate alternative fuel-management designs. The performances of these designs would be evaluated in terms of slowing fire spread and reducing fire intensity. The data needed to develop the map layers for FARSITE will be obtained from a network of geo-referenced field plots where we will measure the fire-relevant attributes of the vegetation and the surface fuels. Since these attributes are not only heterogeneous, but also resistant to measurement via remote sensing, we will explore innovative, efficient field methods for assessing fuel loads. We will capitalize on the long-term monitoring record at Sagehen to quantify the recent trends in forest change and use the results to inform fuel-management strategies. Our hope is that the specific lessons learned during this intensive study of one landscape will help guide planning for other management units throughout the forests in the Sierra Nevada. The Sagehen Creek Field Station provides vital infrastructure support to extend these results to both professional managers and the interested public.
John J. Battles and Scott Stephens,
Department of Environmental Science,
Policy and Management
University of California, Berkeley
Fire Science Program
Funded by the
U.S. Forest Service