What we can learn from 36 years of prescribed burns at this Tahoe state park

I’m standing in a stretch of woods. The trunks of towering trees are charred black and some of the lowest hanging pine needles are singed a burnt orange. Light streams through an open canopy. A sapling of cedar hardly bigger than the palm of my hand has just started to poke its head above a thin layer of pine needles.

This stretch of forest has obviously seen fire recently, but instead of destruction, I see growth and regeneration. The forest just feels healthier, spacious.

“What I see here is a really successful prescribed burn,” says Courtney Rowe, a senior environmental scientist with the California State Parks Sierra District. We are walking through the Edwin L. Z’berg Natural Reserve at Sugar Pine Point State Park on Tahoe’s West Shore with forester Rich Adams and burn boss David Murray. Adams directs the prescribed burn program here, while Murray manages the fire crew.

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