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Fire and Vegetation Change in the Yolla Bolly

by Susan Nolan

August, 2020

A recent backpack trip to the Yolla Bolly Wilderness gave an immersion in fire ecology. In Indian times Cedar Basin must have been frequently burned. Someone pointed out that Indians burned to manage vegetation, not for fire control, and that would certainly be true in Cedar Basin, a place that would have been used for summer gathering and hunting, not a place to live year round. (Both the Wailaki and the Wintun used that area.) The early ranchers who ran cattle up there continued the burning regime to keep pastures clear.

But as the young Forest Service gained traction it suppressed fire to preserve timber resources. Protected from their greatest natural enemy, trees began filling in the grassland. It was quite striking to me on this trip that so many of the trees are young, short and pointy-topped.

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Yolla Bolly Wilderness
Yolla Bolly Wilderness


The Institute for Sustainable Forestry (ISF) was formed in 1991 to promote sustainable forest management that contributes to the long-term ecological, economic, and social well-being of forest based communities in the Pacific Northwest.