Lake Tahoe Basin. Source: Sue Morrow, Sacramento Bee
Climate change, extreme wildfire, 100 years of fire suppression and now a fourth year of drought have brought state and federal partners together to launch the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program. The new collaborative effort was launched on March 4th by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the US Forest Service to coordinate the diverse activities of government agencies, property owners and nonprofit groups to focus on the Sierra’s most serious problems. Goals include restoring streams and meadows, improving habitat and thinning overgrown forests, while also protecting economic uses of the land, such as logging and grazing. Jim Branham, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy's executive officer said the goal is to catch up with some of these problems which have led to increased mountain temperatures, reduced snowpack and overgrown forests - increasing the risk for catastrophic wildfire and reducing the Sierras' ability to store water. The Sierra's provide 60% of California's water.
This set of problems was dramatically underscored by recent large fires in the Sierra, the 2013 Rim Fire (255,000 acres) and 2014 King Fire (98,000 acres).