You may already know over 3.6 million acres of California have already burned this year. The unprecedented fire season, coupled with unusually high visitation over the summer, has left Southern California’s National Forests desperate need of support. The National Forest Foundation announced Monday that the public can donate to the Southern California Forest Fund to restore the health and vitality of Southern California’s National Forests – the Cleveland, San Bernardino, Los Padres, and Angeles National Forests.
Over half of California’s population calls Southern California home. Many of these 20 million people live within an hour’s drive of a National Forest. Hundreds of thousands of these residents live along the foothills or within the 3.5 million acres of National Forests in the region. Over 5 million people visit these Forests each year, making them some of the most heavily used in the country. During the Covid-19 pandemic, increased visitation to these public lands has underscored how vital these landscapes are to our mental and physical well-being.
National Forests provide over half of California’s water supply. Without the restoration of our watersheds, the quality and quantity of Southern California’s local water supply are at risk.
Drought, pests and disease, climate change, and historical management practices have all contributed to the degradation of the health of our forests, causing intense wildfires across the region. These high-intensity fires decimate wildlife habitat, limit natural forest regeneration, reduce carbon sequestration benefits, threaten crucial water supplies, and impact our backyard playgrounds.
Without active reforestation, restoration, and management, the health of our forests will continue to decline, and the occurrence of severe wildfires will continue to increase. The need for more significant investments in these forests that prioritizes wildfire resiliency, forest restoration, and community protection has never been more urgent.
The NFF has created the Southern California Forest Fund to restore the Cleveland, San Bernardino, Los Padres, and Angeles National Forests. Funds will be used on these Forests primarily for three purposes:
- Post-wildfire Restoration. Conducting restoration activities such as reforestation, soil stabilization, and erosion control, rebuilding damaged infrastructure, and ensuring safe hiking and road corridors for forest visitors.
- Wildfire Mitigation Work. Mitigating the risk of unnaturally severe wildfire in the future through activities to improve forest health and resilience such as forest thinning, prescribed burning, invasive species management, and ecological restoration.
- Recreation Improvements. To build out and maintain recreation infrastructure including trails, trailheads, campgrounds, visitor centers, and picnic areas for the benefit of the millions of residents and visitors who recreate on National Forests each year.
The state of California has already reached a shared stewardship agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to treat a total of one million acres of vegetation across the state to decrease the severity of future wildfires. To further improve the health of National Forests in California, the National Forest Foundation is committed to doing its part by involving the community in further restoring wildfire-damaged landscapes, limiting the effects of future fires, and improving the critical recreational opportunities located in Southern California’s National Forests.
We must take steps to help these valuable landscapes become more resilient to the increased visitation and large-scale fires we are experiencing this year. With strong community support, we can make our National Forests healthier to ensure the resilience of critical ecosystems and communities, and create accessible recreational opportunities for all.
For more information about the Southern California Forest Fund, visit support.nationalforests.org/SoCal