Building Healthy Fire Resilient Forests

by by Linwood Gill, Chief Forester

Fire! A frightening four-letter word for most forest landowners. And while we realize fire is an important part of a healthy forest ecosystem, when the forest lacks the structure to support periodic fire, the results can be catastrophic.

Over the past year, we have developed plans to make our forest more fire resilient. These include establishing over 12 miles of shaded fuel breaks along Highway 1 and on the major north-south trending ridge which bisects Usal Redwood Forest. We are working with the Mendocino Resource Conservation District to partner with other landowners to increase our chances of receiving grant funds to make these plans a reality.

In partnership with the Sonoma Ecology Center, we have grant funds to experiment with using portable biochar kilns. The project will clean up old slash piles, reduce fuels in a grassland restoration project and maintain existing fuel breaks. The biochar created from these projects will be dispersed back onto the forest floor to see its impact on soil conditions. We will monitor the soil over several years to see how this passive distribution affects the soil’s ability to maintain moisture and improve growing conditions.

With the help of Trout Unlimited and Pacific Watershed Associates, we are developing a plan to study how the reduction of forest biomass on hillslopes may impact stream flows in critical coho salmon creeks. The study focuses on thinning dense Douglas-fir, redwood and tanoak forest, creating strategically placed landscape treatments to disrupt fire behavior, and improve upslope drainage, allowing more water to infiltrate into the soil during the winter season.

Without partner support and individual donors, these critically important projects may never be realized.

“Ring of Fire” kiln from Wilson Biochar, Inc. Portable kilns will be used in Usal to convert hazardous woody material
into biochar. This biochar will be applied back into the forest soils and monitored for impact.”

Save The Date!

Virtual Biochar Demonstration
RFFI team converts forest slash to biochar in the forest
March 10, 2021

Details and register at