Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative

The Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative (TCSI) is the first pilot project under the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program (WIP).

Overview

The TCSI aims to accelerate large-landscape forest restoration to improve the health and resilience of the Sierra Nevada. It focuses on developing and demonstrating innovative planning, investment, and management tools across a 2.4-million-acre landscape. The TCSI is led by state, federal, nonprofit, and private partners, and responds to state and federal mandates that call for increasing pace and scale of forest management and restoration and better protection of communities from wildfire.

The TCSI boundary extends past Downieville to the north, past Truckee and the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe to the east, past Placerville to the south, and to Grass Valley and Camptonvile in the west.

The TCSI boundary.

TCSI’s investments are addressing the key barriers to scaling up forest management by increasing capacity and developing more flexible funding and new markets for biomass and wood products. Lessons learned here can be applied across the entire Sierra Nevada and beyond to accelerate the restoration of this spectacular and vital region.

To date, TCSI partners have secured over $32 million in California Climate Investments (CCI) grant funds to implement high-priority forest health projects that sequester carbon and reduce the risk of wildfires. Projects funded by CCI are currently thinning 20,000 acres, removing 164,000 (green) tons of biomass, and implementing 8,000 acres of prescribed fire across ownerships and jurisdictions.

The TCSI is piloting a first of its kind Roadmap to Resilience which explores a consistent science-based approach to restoration that can be applied across the entire Sierra Nevada. At the same time, the Roadmap to Resilience is flexible enough to tailor projects to local conditions and geographies.

TCSI Partners

Sierra Nevada Conservancy

Background

The watersheds of the Tahoe-Central Sierra area are crucial for downstream communities, agricultural interests, recreationalists, and the environment. This landscape of the Lake Tahoe Basin and the American, Bear, Truckee, and Yuba watersheds also provides water critical to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as well as to northern Nevada communities. The forested watersheds here contain large amounts of carbon, produce substantial amounts of wood products and clean energy, provide significant fish and wildlife habitat, and are a recreational playground for millions of visitors year round. Billions of dollars of goods are transported through this area each year, a critically important part of California’s economy.

At the same time, this area is a landscape at significant risk of large severe wildfire and unnatural levels of tree mortality given the overgrown, unhealthy forest conditions that exist here.

TCSI Projects

Caples Ecological Restoration Project

Healthy forests and watersheds depend on a healthy fire regime; reintroducing fire as a management tool will be key for increasing the pace and scale of restoration. The Caples Creek Watershed Ecological Restoration Project will complete forest restoration work on 6,800 acres of the Eldorado National Forest, and 4,400 acres of the project area will be treated using prescribed fire. This project is being completed as a partnership between the El Dorado Irrigation District, the Eldorado National Forest, and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

Lake Tahoe West Collaborative Project

Several critical elements make Lake Tahoe West distinctive: a collaboratively developed and implemented large landscape-scale approach; a 10-year strategy to restore the forests, watersheds, recreational opportunities, and communities on Lake Tahoe’s western shore; a science team to inform the effort and model the tradeoffs of management actions; and the alignment and acceleration of planning permitting and implementation schedules.

North Yuba Forest Resilience Project

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service have been working in close partnership with Blue Forest Conservation to site California’s first Forest Resilience Bond pilot project in the North Yuba River watershed. This novel funding strategy will invest private capital in restoration projects that protect forest health and mitigate the risk for damage from wildfires and drought.

French Meadows Project

The French Meadows project is overcoming U.S. Forest Service staffing and funding constraints through an innovative approach for completing required environmental assessments. If this approach is successful, it could save land managers money and time. In addition, project partners are testing the hypothesis that ecologically based forest thinning increases forest resilience and water yield, with the goal of quantifying water supply benefits.

Sagehen Experimental Forest Project

Sagehen integrates scientific research with land management. It brings together a diverse group of partners to create a holistic management plan. It’s the first project to implement the new restoration prescription GTR 220, which is a dynamic methodology that manages for both fire risk and wildlife habitat.

TCSI Project Contact

Erin Ernst
Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative Coordinator
Phone: (530) 208-7564
Email: erin.ernst@tahoe.ca.gov