Lassen Fire Safe Council awarded $4.99 million for reforestation with CalFire Forest Health Grant for Westwood, Pinetown and Clear Creek areas

The wildfire damage is obvious. The Lassen County Fire Safe Council is working to restore the forests.

The Lassen Fire Safe Council, Inc. has received a nearly $5 million grant from the CalFire Forest Health Program for the Dixie West Reforestation Project.

The grant will help restore forest resiliency to 4,236 acres of former timberland northwest of the communities of Westwood, Pinetown and Clear Creek that were devastated by the 2021 Dixie Fire. The project will increase the pace and scale of restoration to properties in Lassen and Plumas counties.

The LFSC identified a dozen ecosystem and community benefits that will result from the project, which is slated to begin this summer.

The reforestation project was designed to restore the health and resilience of the forests and watershed, increase carbon storage on the landscape, minimize forest carbon loss to wildfires, restore habitats for wildlife and improve the economic condition of local communities. In addition, the work will restore recreational value, create jobs, reduce erosion and maintain air and water quality.

“The wildfires of the past few years have been devastating to our communities and our forests,” said LFSC Managing Director Tom Esgate. “This project is one of several that will demonstrate the need for reforestation following wildfires. With help from our many partners, this project will help put forests and our watersheds on a path to faster long-term resilience.”

Initially, the process will begin with felling standing dead and dying trees, chipping the felled material, and removing chips for use as biomass. Trees will be planted in the spring, using a mix of fire- and drought-tolerant pines. In addition, the areas with tree seedlings will include “islands” of diverse native groundcover habitat composed of native grasses, wildflowers and brush.

The project will contribute to forest restoration at the landscape scale by giving private landowners the ability to reforest their property, which may never have occurred or been delayed because of the prohibitive costs.

The Dixie Fire burned more than 80 percent of the project area, killing nearly 85 percent of the trees and leaving dead and downed trees and other dried plant matter that can fuel future fires. In the absence of restoration efforts, the land will likely convert to brush fields that pose distinct wildfire hazards, according to Esgate.

The Dixie West Reforestation Project is partnered with the California Firesafe Council, Lassen County, Honey Lake Resource Conservation District, W.M. Beaty and Associates, Honey Lake Power and One Tree Planted.

“Over the past three years LFSC has averaged 9,000 acres of treatments annually,” said Esgate. “This grant will allow LFSC to continue and to increase the pace and scale of critical fuel reduction and forest restoration projects that help protect Northern California communities.”

The grant also supports a new effort for the LFSC, which has previously focused specifically on live vegetation fuel reduction for fire prevention. LFSC’s new reforestation projects allow the agency to demonstrate how careful restoration can help burned forests avoid, survive and properly recover from future catastrophic wildfires. Reforestation projects like the Dixie West are a model approach for other fire safe councils to consider.

This project is funded by California Climate Investments, a program that puts billions of dollars of Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, improving public health and the environment, and providing meaningful benefits to the most disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, and low-income households.