Planting trees is critical to restoring the health of the California landscape. Forest Founders is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping California and fire-damaged regions throughout the world initiate responsible, long-term reforestation efforts.
While the fire seasons of the past decade were record-breaking, the California wildfires of 2020 have shattered the already troubling burn records set in previous years. With nearly 10,000 unique incidents, 33 fatalities, more than 10,000 damaged or destroyed structures, and over 4.2 million acres burned, the 2020 season destroyed more than double the acreage of the 2018 season – the most widespread fire season prior to 2020.
Wildfires are not new to California – fires have broken out periodically throughout the state for millions of years. This natural process created a largely fire-adapted landscape where vegetation was regularly removed and regenerated, resulting in numerous tree species that require wildfire to reproduce and establish themselves. However, the burn cycle for some of the most fragile ecosystems spans between 30 and 100 years; the new annual cycle of devastating fires could threaten to significantly reduce the acreage of California’s storied forests.
Human interference is the biggest threat to California’s forests. Widespread deforestation has led to invasive tree species choking out native forests, and the climate crisis has led to an increase in summer air temperatures of an average of more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. This has caused the burn areas throughout California to become roughly eight times larger today than they were in the 1970s. The California fire season is approximately 78 days longer than it was 50 years ago.
We have a huge responsibility to help in the recovery of the California landscape after the recent massive wildfires. Reforestation is critical after any wildfire because cleared landscapes can and will become overrun by invasive plant species. These invasive species can dramatically affect biological diversity, threaten existing wildlife, and essentially create a tinderbox for future wildfires. Reforestation offers native ecosystems a lifeline; new native forest cover helps to reestablish biodiverse environments that are less likely to succumb to future wide-spread fires.
Forest Founders is committed to supporting reforestation efforts throughout California. Only by planting more native trees can we begin to restore and protect these ecologically important forest areas and hopefully make them more resilient to future fires.