• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
This project aims to improve forest health, reduce hazardous fuels, improve hydrologic function, and enable the forest to better cope with environmental stressors, many of which are expected to worsen with climate change.

Project Area

The Blatchley project on the Tahoe National Forest is a fairly typical vegetation management project for the Central Sierra Nevada. Current conditions are challenging; for example the area is characterized by overstocked stands, declining tree vigor, dense ladder fuels, and heavy surface fuels. The area also contains unhealthy and overstocked protected activity centers (PAC’s) for sensitive wildlife species. Legacy roads and skid trails have damaged some of the wetland features and hydrologic function on the site. The project area is the ‘last catchment’ in the watershed above Sierraville, important for holding water during flood events. Steep terrain leads to many challenges in both fire management and hydrology.

Management Goals

The US Forest Service management team at Blatchley aims to improve forest health, increase conifer species and age-class diversity, reduce hazardous fuels, improve hydrologic function, improve habitat connectivity, and in general enable the forest to better cope with environmental stressors. Many of these goals will be even more important as climate changes continue to exacerbate stressors and risks to the project area.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

Warmer and drier conditions could amplify the current drought-related stressors on tree species and increase the risk of beetle mortality and fire.
A change from snow to rain in winter could lead to earlier peak flows and late-season moisture stress, altering habitat suitability for many species.
Project area elevations range from 5K-8K feet. Habitat suitability for some prevalent tree species may decline, such as Red Fir in mid-to-high elevation sites.
Snow on rain events and/or heavy downpours will exacerbate current problems with concentrated water flow and soil erosion, and lead to downstream flooding and damage to transportation infrastructure.

Opportunities

As conditions become more disruptive, vegetation objectives (e.g. creating more structural diversity) may become more feasible.
A shifting window for prescribed burns could be challenging, however a drier winter may allow a prolonged underburning season.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project that are under consideration, including:

Area/Topic
Approach
Tactics
Variable density thinning - favor healthy, minor component of Jeffrey pine/western white pine in red fir dominated stands, and potentially younger/smaller trees to increase species and age class diversity.
Create canopy gaps to break up uniformity.
Initiate new conifer age-classes through group selection harvest.
In true fir dominated stands, increase the representation of pines, e.g., Jeffrey, ponderosa, and white pines, which will have a greater capacity to adapt to changing conditions than fir and will provide an important source of seed into the future.
Create wide canopy gaps around pines to enhance tree vigor, reduce ladder fuels, and promote natural regeneration.
Create canopy openings in homogenous true fir stands and artificially regenerate with early seral conifer species, such as pines, from lower elevation seed sources.
Promote high elevation red fir along drainages (mesic sites) to create/maintain refugia for this species, especially on north facing slopes. Thin and remove diseased trees.
Create canopy gaps on north slopes to capture/retain more snow and lengthen the release of snowmelt to downstream riparian communities.
Remove encroaching conifers to enhance riparian communities (aspen stands, wetlands, riparian stringers).
Reconnect streamflow where legacy roads are capturing and diverting flow from channels.
Decommission and relocate roads that are in future flood-prone areas.
Create moving PACs, adjusting to disturbance and other changes, e.g. shifting corridors, while overall designated area doesn't necessarily change.
Thin to below 40% canopy cover outside of PACs (requires minor Forest Plan amendment).
Leave denser wildlife corridors in upper drainage leading to red fir.

Monitoring

Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Survival and stocking levels (artificial and natural regeneration)
Competition - shrubs % cover
Soil moisture - % increase in thinned stands
Roads - evidence of damage or sediment movement
Forest health measurements (growth rate, disease, parasites, density, etc.)

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact
Kristen
.