When we talk about urban forests, we’re talking about the trees that shade our sidewalks and local parks, but when we talk about urban National Forests, we’re talking about the public lands that make up our extended backyards. And there is no National Forest more urban than the Angeles. Every year, millions of visitors flock to the Forest to find respite from the hustle and bustle of the city below. And as one of the few remaining open spaces in southern California, the over 650,000 acres that make up the Angeles National Forest are truly a breath of fresh air.
On a clear day, the San Gabriel Mountains dominate the city skyline, reaching up past the downtown skyscrapers. Unusual in North America for their east-west orientation, these mountains are home to California condor, black bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes and bighorn sheep. The San Gabriels are no strangers to yearly wildfires, but the flames of the arson-sparked Station Fire burned particularly hot in late August of 2009—darkening the skies in the entire basin. Consuming nearly 161,000 acres, more than 25 percent of the Angeles National Forest, the Station Fire was the biggest forest fire in Los Angeles County’s history.
In the month that it burned, the fire destroyed 91 homes, cabins and outbuildings. Four important watersheds were affected by the fire, and the resulting loss of vegetative cover increased the amount of sediment in the water, impacting communities downstream. Threatened and endangered species such as the mountain yellow-legged frog, California condor and Santa Ana sucker are also suffering the loss of critical habitats in the aftermath of the fire. Today, wildflowers and the green shoots of chaparral species are bringing color to the once-charred landscape, but, greater steps are still needed to help return to the Angeles back to its pre-fire vibrancy.
As a part of our Treasured Landscapes conservation campaign, the NFF is partnering with South Coast Air Quality Management District, Southern California Edison Corporation, U.S. Forest Service and other community partners to revitalize the area affected by the Station Fire. Large-scale tree-planting efforts will revitalize the decimated landscape, while generating carbon benefits under the guidelines of the NFF’s Carbon Capital Fund, a program designed to demonstrate the value of trees and forests in a larger climate change strategy.
Planting has begun, with crews currently on the Forest planting around 120 trees a minute, and some 45,000 trees a day! Altogether, an estimated 280,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent (an amount equal to the average yearly carbon footprint for some 53,846 American drivers) will be sequestered in the 2,800 acre project an additional 1,000 acres are being planted at the same time with another 1,000 in the works for planting and carbon offsets in 2012.
Beyond tree-planting, the NFF will address the additional post-fire challenges of battling invasive weeds, revitalizing recreation sites and wildlife habitat, all of which will bring Los Angeles’ treasured backyard forest back to life. In order to accomplish these restoration goals, the NFF is working with multiple organizations to coordinate volunteers, sustainable funding and project implementation well into the future.
Urban or remote, our National Forests hold treasures for everyone from clean tap water to having a family picnic in the great outdoors or viewing wildlife. So, join the NFF in revitalizing this treasured landscape, so that future generations can enjoy all Los Angeles’ backyard forest has to offer!