Forest Service’s North Big Bear Restoration Project To Involve Prescribed Burning And Forest Thinning

The United States Forest Service has rendered a final decision on what the North Big Bear Landscape Restoration Program is to entail.
“Objectives of the project include promoting forest health, returning beneficial fire to the landscape, improving the watershed condition, protecting resource values, and restoring unauthorized roads and trails that have been created within the project area,” according to the United States Forest Service, known by its acronym USFS. “The successful implementation of this project will reduce the risk of catastrophic fire which would serve to protect two adjacent communities – Fawnskin and the Peter Pan Community of Big Bear City – and the greater Big Bear Valley.
Of note is that the USFS will institute controlled burns of certain areas in an effort to reduce and control the fuel load in that portion of the forest. That tactic has not been used in recent years.
The environmental assessment for the program analyzes the approximate 13,000-acre region between the Big Bear Dam and Baldwin Lake.According to the USFS, “Over the past hundred years or more, fire suppression within the San Bernardino National Forest has excluded fire from much of the landscape. Fire is a natural ecosystem process, and the absence of periodic fire has led to unnaturally high tree density and fuel-load conditions throughout the project area. The area includes a variety of habitats that support highly diverse plant and wildlife populations, including bald eagles. A high-intensity wildfire is likely in this area if left untreated and would potentially destroy their little remaining habitat.”
U.S. Forest Service personnel point out that the anticipated effects of high-intensity wildfires in untreated areas can be observed west of the project area as fire scars, resulting in vegetative type-conversion from a forested landscape into brush and grass with low to no tree cover or signs of natural tree regeneration.
“I am excited to share this final decision and begin implementing this very important project that took over 12 years to develop,” said Mountaintop District Ranger Freddie Duncan. “Improving forest health and community protection has been a major part of my career and I am very enthusiastic at the outlook of improving the environment within this project area so it can be enjoyed by future generations, while protecting complex natural systems, and the greater community. The level of interest and public engagement on this project has clearly demonstrated how much we all value this landscape and do not want to see it lost to a catastrophic wildfire.”
The original analysis also considered up to 41 miles of new mountain bike trail construction and the introduction of e-Bikes as a new form of recreational opportunity. This part of the proposed action was removed from the decision with the opportunity to re-evaluate the purpose and need for new trails and e-Bikes in the future.
“We understand the desire and value of sustainable recreation in Big Bear and will be taking another look at how mountain bike trails and e-Bikes fit into the recreational spectrum on the North Shore,” said Mountaintop District Ranger Freddie Duncan.
The project record, final Environmental Assessment, Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact are available online for public view.

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