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Comprehensive Fuels Treatment Practices Guide for Mixed Conifer Forests: California, Central and Southern Rockies, and the Southwest

Comprehensive Fuels Treatment Practices Guide for Mixed Conifer Forests: California, Central and Southern Rockies, and the Southwest

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A resource for managers of mixed conifer forests of the Southwestern plateaus and uplands, the Central and Southern Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges in Southern California. Mixed conifer forests have different species, structures, and spatial patterns in these regions but, in general, we focus on forests with a mix of ponderosa or Jeffrey pine, Douglas-fir, true firs, and aspen. The guide includes a comprehensive review of historic conditions, past land use, natural fire regimes, impacts of altered fire regimes, and future prospects, given climate change, for mixed conifer forests. The second half of the guide addresses fuels treatment objectives, techniques, barriers, and successes across a range of ownerships.
A resource for managers of mixed conifer forests of the Southwestern plateaus and uplands, the Central and Southern Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges in Southern California. Mixed conifer forests have different species, structures, and spatial patterns in these regions but, in general, we focus on forests with a mix of ponderosa or Jeffrey pine, Douglas-fir, true firs, and aspen. The guide includes a comprehensive review of historic conditions, past land use, natural fire regimes, impacts of altered fire regimes, and future prospects, given climate change, for mixed conifer forests. The second half of the guide addresses fuels treatment objectives, techniques, barriers, and successes across a range of ownerships.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Joint Fire Science Program on Oct 25, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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12/18/2012

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In mixed conifer forests, habitat types are intermingled in relatively small areas, such as
opposing aspects of the same hillside. At the landscape scale, warm–dry and cool–moist mixed
conifer types intermingle to present a mosaic of structures. One of the important changes since
Euro-American settlement in mixed conifer forests has been the increased homogeneity of
structure at the landscape scale (as is discussed in detail in Section II). More homogeneous
mixed conifer forests can facilitate larger, high-severity fires (Romme et al. 2003, Miller et al.
2009). The National Forest plan revisions in the Southwest will consider three scales: fine, mid,
and landscape. The fine scale addresses the distribution of individual trees within a stand, i.e.,
single, grouped, or aggregates of groups. Mid-scale is a unit of 100 to 1,000 acres and has
relatively homogeneous biophysical conditions. Landscape is an assemblage of mid-scale units,
typically composed of variable elevations, slopes, aspects, soils, plant associations, and
disturbance processes. Heterogeneity is important at each of these scales. For example, in
Southwestern warm–dry mixed conifer forests there is heterogeneity at fine scale, where trees
historically grew in irregularly shaped groups surrounded by openings. In Sierran mixed conifer
forests, varying tree density according to potential fire severity effects on stand structure creates
heterogeneity within stands (North et al. 2009a).

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Fuels Treatment for Mixed Conifer Forests

Fuel reduction treatments are implemented at the stand scale, but must fit within a landscape
plan. The landscape context of these treatments is crucial to their success in modifying wildfire
behavior (Schmidt et al. 2008, Moghaddas et al. 2010, Collins et al. In press). For example, in
one modeled landscape, strategically placed fuel treatments (SPLATs) on 10 percent of the
landscape resulted in major reductions in the impacts of wildfire (Ager et al. 2010). The term
landscape scale can be ambiguous; generally, it has come to mean an area of at least 50,000 acres
(Finney et al. 2007, Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, Moghaddas et al. 2010).
Landscape planning is particularly challenging where ownership boundaries split forests (Collins
and Stephens 2010). Section III discusses strategies for fuels treatment planning across
jurisdictions. Not only do forest and fuels conditions and resources vary between ownerships, but
fuels treatment priorities can differ in scale, intensity, and urgency. Limited resources force
managers to prioritize treatments based on land management and objectives. For example,
wildland-urban-interface zones (WUIs) and wilderness areas are managed with very different
objectives; hence, fuels treatment priorities and practices will be different as well.

Alexander Evans

Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico

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Fuels Treatment for Mixed Conifer Forests

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