North Fork Feather River Headwaters Forest Restoration Project

A panoramic landscape with three tree-covered peaks above a meadow
Flatiron Ridge is a junction of Wilderness, natural and cultural landscapes, and NPS and USFS managed public lands.
Two stacked photos of a map showing four watersheds and a rustic lodge in a meadow
Top: The project aims to restore and protect part of one of four watershed headwaters in the park. Bottom: Flatiron Ridge above the historic Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Warner Valley.

This multi-year project (2019-2024) includes fuels reduction activities across approximately 1,940 acres throughout three projects units in Plumas, Shasta, and Lassen counties. The project units include: Flatiron Unit (1,600 acres), Warner Valley Road/Drakesbad Unit (280 acres), and Juniper Lake Road Unit (800 acres).

The overall goal of this project is to improve the condition and protection of headwaters of the North Fork Feather River Watershed located within the park. This includes:

  • Creating a more resilient landscape that is most likely to thrive with expected changes to regional climate. Science suggests that forests with various tree ages and species are the most resistant to the increasing challenges of drought and frequent fire.

  • Allowing for the eventual return of natural fire regimes by removing heavy fuels and re-establishing a fire adapted forest. The return of fire at more frequent intervals and at various levels of severity is key to maintaining a healthy forest structure and watershed.

  • Increasing ability to manage fire movement in and outside the park by creating pockets of fire adapted forest. Forests with more open spacing and fewer but larger trees can reduce the potential for large-scale fire by slowing or stopping fire movement, either naturally or with limited intervention.

  • Improving protection of the historic Drakesbad Guest Ranch by reducing heavy fuel loads adjacent to the area. The accumulation of fuels leads to difficult-to-manage fires that can threaten both cultural and natural resources.

Two men with hard hats use a hand saw to cut a fallen tree
Use of cross-cut saws and other hand tools allows for fuel removal with minimal impact to Wilderness areas.

2019 Actions

Actions for this year are focused on manual reduction of heavy fuel loads on Flatiron Ridge. The labor-intensive work will be completed by an eight-person wilderness fuels reduction crew from Sierra Institute, based out of nearby Taylorsville. A young-adult crew will join in mid-July for a five-week apprenticeship.

Work is anticipated to occur between May and September and will include removing fuel, rearranging fuel, and constructing fireline to faciliate future prescribed burning. All work will be completed using non-mechanized equipment such as crosscut saws and axes based on a prescription to improve forest health.


Flatiron Unit

Flatiron is the largest unit in the multi-year North Fork Feather River Headwaters (NFRH) Forest Restoration Project in Lassen Volcanic National Park. The 1,600-acre unit falls largely within designated Wilderness. Manual fuel reduction activities in this area will reduce dense build-ups of fuel to ultimately restore and protect the North Fork Feather River Watershed and improve protection of the historic Drakesbad Guest Ranch.

Two logos featuring mountains and water

Project Funding

Funding for this project has been provided by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, an agency of the State of California, under the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) grant cycle and in support of the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program.

Proposition 1 provided $7.5 billion dollars to fund ecosystems and watershed protection and restoration, water supply infrastructure projects, including surface and groundwater storage, and drinking water protection.


Minimal Impact Fire Management

The North Fork Feather River Headwaters Project emphasizes minimal impact fire management in Wilderness. Nearly three quarters of the park is designated Wilderness and is afforded the highest level of protection for public lands. However, unhealthy forest conditions in Wilderness areas like Flatiron Ridge necessitate some ecological intervention.

A dangerous build-up of vegetation (fuels) in the Flatiron Ridge area threatens the Wilderness and the watershed it contains. Manual treatment is necessary to remove the build-up of fuels prior to the eventual re-introduction of fire through prescribed burning. Monitoring has shown an increase in fuel loads in this area by 5 tons per acre in just twenty years following previous manual thinning and prescribed burning treatment.

Ecological intervention is intended to protect Wilderness character to every degree possible when action is necessary. This project focuses on the following principles to minimize impact:

Focus efforts on areas that connect different fire regimes in order to reduce the need to intervene in other areas of Wilderness.

Use manual treatment methods to reduce impacts to soundscapes and other Wilderness values. This includes using specialized crosscut sawing techniques to remove large fuels.

Practice Leave No Trace Principles to minimize visual and ecological impacts of human intervention. Just like hikers and backpackers, crew members will make every effort to Leave No Trace. This includes creating fireline that appears as natural as possible and rearranging fuel for future prescribed burning in a way that mimics natural conditions. Additionally, a team biologist will survey and monitor sensitive areas such as badger and salamander habitat and train the crew to identify and reduce disturbance in these areas.

Last updated: April 26, 2019

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