Northwest Gateway Forest Restoration

Dense forest near Manzanita Lake
Old growth pines struggle to survive in overly dense forest areas in the northwest corner of the park

Calvin Farris


One hundred years of fire exclusion in the northwest corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park has resulted in overly dense and unhealthy forest areas. In the absence of surface fires, young white fir have formed dense thickets crowding out old growth pines, aspen stands, and understory shrub and grass vegetation. Lassen Volcanic will implement a mechanical treatment strategy to remove unhealthy fuel loads. The process will reduce old growth mortality rates, promote a more varied stand structure, and restore and protect wildlife habitat.

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A stand of torched trees after a high intensity fire near Chaos Crags
Results of a high intensity fire near Chaos Crags

Mechanical Treatment Strategy
Fire management specialists have selected to use mechanical treatment due to research and experience that suggests other fire management strategies such as prescribed fire or hand thinning, are inadequate tools for the specific needs of this project. Prescribed fire applications in similar conditions have resulted in high intensity fires causing loss of old growth and excessive understory mortality.

Manzanita Lake Campground before and after restoration
Manzanita Lake before and after restoration

NPS Photos

Mechanical Thinning Process
The Northwest Gateway Forest Restoration project is composed of six areas. Mechanical thinning will begin in approximately 500 acres in two of these areas. Forest Service and Park Service fire and natural resource specialists have developed thinning prescriptions for each unit specifying the type and location of fuel loads to be removed and the location of retention areas for wildlife habitat. Fuel load removal will focus on areas near old-growth pine, aspen groves, and healthy pine stands.

With thinning prescriptions in place for each unit, a local contractor will utilize mechanized equipment to collect and remove live fuel loads. Timber and biomass generated by the process will be managed by the contractor as a part of the larger project contract.

Once the forest structures in the treatment areas have been restored, fire will be utilized to maintain and restore the areas without further use of mechanical equipment.

Last updated: January 20, 2018

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