Fire on the mountain: rethinking forest management in the Sierra Nevada
Document Type: Report
Author(s): Little Hoover Commission
Publication Year: 2018

Cataloging Information

  • air quality
  • bark beetle
  • carbon sequestration
  • drought
  • fire management
  • forest management
  • natural fire regime
  • public awareness
  • Sierra Nevada
  • tree mortality
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: February 6, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 25672


In this report, the Commission calls for transformational culture change in its forest management practices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported in December 2017 that approximately 27 million trees had died statewide on federal, state and private lands since November 2016. The tally brought to 129 million the number of trees that have died in California forests during years of drought and bark beetle infestations since 2010. During its review, the Commission found that California’s forests suffer from neglect and mismanagement, resulting in overcrowding that leaves them susceptible to disease, insects and wildfire.  The Commission found commitment to long-lasting forest management changes at the highest levels of government, but that support for those changes needs to spread down not just through the state’s massive bureaucracy and law- and policymaking apparatuses, but among the general public as well.  Complicating the management problem is the fact that the State of California owns very few of the forests within its borders – most are owned by the federal government or private landowners. Among the Commission’s nine recommendations, it urges the state to take a greater leadership role in collaborative forest management planning at the watershed level.  The Good Neighbor Authority granted in the 2014 Farm Bill provides a mechanism for the state to conduct restoration activities on federal land, but state agencies must have the financial and personnel resources to perform this work.  As part of this collaborative effort, it calls upon the state to use more prescribed fire to reinvigorate forests, inhibit firestorms and help protect air and water quality.  Central to these efforts must be a statewide public education campaign to help Californians understand why healthy forests matter to them, and elicit buy-in for the much-needed forest treatments.

Online Link(s):
Link to this document (6.5 MB; pdf)
Little Hoover Commission. 2018. Fire on the mountain: rethinking forest management in the Sierra Nevada. Report #242. Sacramento, CA: Little Hoover Commission. 81 p.