Volunteers Collaborate to Restore El Dorado County’s Water Supply and Ancient Forests

by Placerville Newswire / Jun 23, 2019 / comments


Caples Ecological Restoration Project

Placerville, Calif. — On June 23 – 24, July 19 – 20, and August 2 – 3, a group of forest managers and conservationists will be working to move a critical forest restoration project in the Caples Creek watershed near Kirkwood towards completion.

At 8,800 acres, the Caples Ecological Restoration Project is the largest prescribed burn ever proposed in the Central Sierra. The project will reintroduce fire to some of the

 Eldorado National Forest’s last remaining old growth forests, in an area that serves as the primary water supply for over 110,000 people. By removing ladder fuels and raking woody debris away from old growth trees, volunteers and staff from the Eldorado National Forest, Sierra Forest Legacy, California Native Plant Society, American River Conservancy, Fire Restoration Group, and Alpine Watershed Group will help prepare the area for the Forest Service to light a prescribed fire later this year.

Like most forests in the Sierra Nevada, the Caples Creek watershed evolved with frequent low-intensity fires, either ignited naturally by lightning or intentionally by Native Americans. The Forest Service estimates that forests around Caples Creek experienced a fire every 11 to 16 years on average prior to the start of federal fire suppression in the early 1900s.

Forty-seven fires have been suppressed in the Caples watershed since 1908. In the absence of regular fire throughout the past century, heavy fuels have built up in the watershed, greatly raising the likelihood that a future wildfire will burn at high intensity, threatening valuable old forest wildlife habitat as well as El Dorado Irrigation District’s water system. Caples also serves as an important site for backcountry recreation, having been recommended as a wilderness area by the Forest Service since 1989.

In light of recent destructive wildfire seasons, federal, state, and local leaders are calling for increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration in the western US. Due to the Caples Watershed’s remote location and rugged topography, prescribed fire is the only realistic option for reducing fuels after more than a century of fire suppression.

With the budgets and capacity of federal land management agencies stretched thin, community-supported restoration efforts like this summer’s Caples volunteer days can help critical restoration projects become a reality.

Volunteers on June 23 and 24 will work with chainsaw crews to clear fuels to help prepare the site for a prescribed fire. Volunteers on August 2 and 3 and July 19 and 20 will rake vegetation and leaf litter from the bases of legacy old growth conifers to help reduce the likelihood that the trees are damaged when the fire is lit. No experience with forest management is necessary to volunteer on the Caples project.

To register for the upcoming Caples volunteer days, please visit: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C044EACA92DA6F85-caples

For more information about the Caples Ecological Restoration Project, see: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/eldorado/landmanagement/?cid=FSEPRD553069

Please contact Ben Solvesky (Wildlife Biologist, Sierra Forest Legacy) at ben@sierraforestlegacy.org with any questions about the Caples volunteer days or the Caples Ecological Restoration Project.

To receive email notification on updates for this project or other information related to Caples Lake, sign up for eNews and select the Caples Lake category under News.

If you have questions related to this project you may email EID at CaplesWatershedProject@eid.org.