Historic conservation deal to open up forest research in Sierra

Camp 19 1-smThis winter, a three-way land conservation deal between Pacific Gas and Electric Company, UC Berkeley and Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) will lay the groundwork for establishing a UC Berkeley research forest where researchers can study the effects of climate change on forest health in the upper Sierra Nevada headwaters lands.

In total, three PG&E landholdings totaling 1,459 acres will be conserved in perpetuity in the Grouse Ridge area off of Bowman Lake Road – including the signed “Camp 19” area on the eastern edge named after the historical bunk houses where crews stayed while building the Bowman-Spaulding Canal. The land transfer from PG&E to UC Berkeley with BYLT holding a conservation easement on the property is expected to close in February 2016.

It’s an opportunity for folks who want to see and learn more about the inter-relationships of forests and wildfire, water quality, diminishing snowpack and changing temperatures.

camp 19 2-sm“This is a very long-term research project,” said Bill Stewart, Co-director of Center for Forestry based at the University of California, Berkeley and a BYLT Director.

Stewart oversees a range of forest types in the Sierra Nevada at Blodgett Forest Research Station on the Georgetown Divide, the Baker Forest in Plumas National Forest and Whitaker’s Forest in a historic sequoia grove adjacent to King’s Canyon National Park.

The Grouse Ridge project is the third such PG&E land transfer in the watershed for the Land Trust. BYLT secured two easements earlier in 2015, permanently protecting about 64 acres of critical salmon spawning habitat along the Yuba River below Englebright Dam: PG&E Narrows in Nevada County and UC Narrows in Yuba County.

An additional 12,000 acres of land will be conserved in the coming 18 months throughout the Bear River and South Yuba River headwaters region and the “checkerboard” region of the upper elevation lands. This work more than doubles the amount of land that BYLT protects, dramatically ensuring continued positive impacts of land conservation efforts in the watershed.

camp 19 3-smThe mission of the Center for Forestry is to sustain forested ecosystems through scientific inquiry using a comprehensive approach, according to UC Berkeley’s website. The overarching goal of The Center is to generate a body of knowledge that can be used by a diversity of land managers throughout the state.

At 5,800 feet above sea level, the new Camp 19 forest research center will be a place for research students, interns, professional staff and foresters to study higher elevation forests, water quality, fire risks, wildlife habitats, forest sustainability and aesthetics.

PG&E will reserve water rights along water courses including Rucker Creek, a natural water conveyance channel between PG&E’s Rucker Lake and NID’s Bowman-Spaulding Canal.

Significant acreage was burned during the 2008 Fall Creek Fire and subsequently logged under a salvage operation. Now it’s an important place to study restoration of a young, replanted forest.  Researchers at Grouse Ridge will take the lead in climate change experiments with pine tree plantings best suited for projected climate conditions. A century from now trees growing at lower elevations may be more resilient than high elevation species to a dryer, hotter world.

“Forests are changing in ways we do not yet fully understand, so we see our long-term research and demonstrations as key to understanding how to ensure that our forested watersheds continue to be valued treasures.” said Stewart.

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