Restoring California’s Forests to Reduce Wildfire Risks Will Take Time, Billions of Dollars and a Broad Commitment | Best States

By Roger Bales and Martha Conklin

Many of California’s 33 million acres of forests face widespread threats stemming from past management choices. Today the U.S. Forest Service estimates that of the 20 million acres it manages in California, 6-9 million acres need to be restored.

Forest restoration basically means removing the less fire-resistant smaller trees and returning to a forest with larger trees that are widely spaced. These stewardship projects require partnerships across the many interests who benefit from healthy forests, to help bring innovative financing to this huge challenge.

The California Wildfires in Photos

california wildfires

We are engineers who work on many natural resource challenges, including forest management. We’re encouraged to see California and other western states striving to use forest management to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire.

But there are major bottlenecks. They include scarce resources and limited engagement between forest managers and many local, regional and state

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California’s August Complex largest fire in state’s history — ScienceDaily

NOAA/NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite captured another startling image of the August Complex of fires that has grown to over 1,000,000 acres burned (1,006,140 acres total) and because of that grim milestone the complex has been dubbed a “gigafire.” The August Complex is only 58% contained. Inciweb reports that: “In the northeast zone, active behavior continues. Structures in Hidden Valley, Trinity Pines/Post Mountain, Wildwood and Platina are threatened by fire spread. Short range spotting and fire spread toward Hidden Valley has increased potential for impact to structures.”

Another view that can be captured by Suomi NPP satellite is a false-color image. The false-color image is collected by the VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) instrument suite using corrected reflectance bands. Burned areas or fire-affected areas are characterized by deposits of charcoal and ash, removal of vegetation and/or the alteration of vegetation structure. When bare soil becomes exposed, the brightness in Band

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California’s mandate to sell only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035 isn’t as crazy as critics think

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newson leaned over the hood of a Ford Mustang Mach-E and signed an executive order saying that all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the state must be emission-free by 2035.



a toaster oven sitting on top of a car: A detail view is seen of an Hyundai Kona Electric Highlander ahead of the Electric Vehicle Show 2019 at Sydney Olympic Park on October 25, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. Electric vehicles are being bought in greater numbers in Australia, with 2017 seeing a 67% increase in sales from the previous year. The largest EV test ride event will be open to public on October 26 and 27th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)


© Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
A detail view is seen of an Hyundai Kona Electric Highlander ahead of the Electric Vehicle Show 2019 at Sydney Olympic Park on October 25, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. Electric vehicles are being bought in greater numbers in Australia, with 2017 seeing a 67% increase in sales from the previous year. The largest EV test ride event will be open to public on October 26 and 27th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The new mandate doesn’t necessarily mean that California car dealers would, literally, sell nothing but fully electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles 15 years from now, several experts say.

That is the goal, though. And it’s not entirely

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On the front lines of California’s fires: Smoke, chaos and comrades in arms

A Carson Hotshot with a wildfire in the background

A member of the Carson Hotshots works a fireline at the Slater Fire in Northern California.


USFS/Carson Hotshots/H. Kligman

With unprecedented fires burning millions of acres across the Western US the past few months, firefighters and other personnel from across the country have responded to the call to help contain the devastating blazes. 

Northern New Mexico, where I live, has managed to escape the worst of this horrifying fire season, with just a handful of smaller wildfires. That has freed up firefighting crews like the National Forest Service’s Carson Hotshots, based in Taos, to help on those larger fires. 

The Hotshots are an elite firefighting crew specializing in wildfire suppression and emergency situations. The team’s standards for physical fitness and training are intense. I’ve occasionally marveled when mountain biking around Taos with members of the crew, who carry on conversations as we pedal up steep trails and I struggle to

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NASA observations aid efforts to track California’s wildfire smoke from space

NASA observations aid efforts to track California's wildfire smoke from space
On Aug. 31, MODIS detected several hotspots in the August Complex Fire in California, as well as several other actively burning areas to the north, west, and south. Credit: R. Kahn/K.J. Noyes/NASA Goddard/A. Nastan/JPL Caltech/J. Tackett/J-P Vernier/NASA Langley

Wildfires have been burning across the state of California for weeks—some of them becoming larger complexes as different fires merge. One of those was the August Complex Fire, which reportedly began as 37 distinct fires caused by lightning strikes in northern California on Aug. 17. That fire is still burning over a month later.


The August Complex Fire and others this fire season have been sending far-reaching plumes of wildfire smoke into the atmosphere that worsen air quality in California and beyond. Predicting where that smoke will travel and how bad the air will be downwind is a challenge, but Earth-observing satellites can help. Included among them are NASA’s Terra and CALIPSO

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