The Caples Creek Ecological Restoration Project was proposed in 2015, fulfilling a long held desire by Craig Thomas and friends and colleagues within the Forest Service to conduct restoration activities in the Caples Creek watershed, the Proposed Caples Creek Wilderness, and home to some of the last of the old-growth forest in this area of the Eldorado National Forest.
Prior to 2017, the area had not experienced active fire since 1916--over one hundred years. In this landscape, the historic fire-return interval for the mixed conifer forest was 11 years, and for red fir, 40 years. Lack of fire, the unnatural fuel loading and tree density has placed the pristine forest in this proposed wilderness area at risk from high intensity and ecologically uncharacteristic fire. Fire exclusion and permitted activities such as grazing and unauthorized trails threaten the survival of meadows, aspen stands, and riparian vegetation. Conifer encroachment from fire exclusion has also had severe impacts on 25 acres of remaining aspen stands.
The project will encompass prescribed fire across 8,800 acres over a 15 year time frame. It also includes rerouting approximately a half-mile of existing hiking trail that crosses through Jake Schneider Meadow to tree line. Other activities include girdling some of the larger trees encroaching into meadows (on 25 acres), and hand cutting of small trees.
The confluence of Caples Creek and the Silver Fork of the American River was the site of a historic environmental struggle back in the early 1990's. A hydroelectric project, called the Foottrail Hydro, was proposed that would have dammed the confluence of these two beautiful streams. Fortunately, we were successful in halting the proposal, thanks to a huge public outcry protesting the proposal in a proposed Wilderness and eligible Wild and Scenic River.
Caples Creek Proposed Wilderness is approximately 75 miles east of Sacramento off of Highway 50. Traveling south on China Flat Road at Kyburz for ten miles, you reach the Caples Creek Trailhead area near the Fritz Ranch Bridge on the Silver Fork of the American River. The Proposed Caples Creek Wilderness has many outstanding wilderness and wild and scenic river values and provides easy access for day hikes, fishing and backpackers alike. The remarkable scenery and excellent fishery make the area extremely attractive to recreational visitors from around the state.
To date, over 3,500 acres have been burned, during 2017, 2018, and 2019.
The 2019 prescribed fire, Sept. 30 - October 10th, escaped out of prescription boundaries due to extremely high winds, and in order to provide more fire management/suppression resources for the fire, it was designated a wildfire on October 10, 2019. The fire was 100% fully contained by November 1, 2019. The Forest Service has convened a team of reviewers to gather data in order to learn and to be able to refine future Rx burn projects. Click on the links below to review these reports.
-May 11, 2010. 2019 Caples Fire First Order Fire Effects--Fire Behavior Assessent Team (FBAT).
-April 10, 2020 slide presentation given to the California Forest Management Task Force, Sierra and Eastside Regional Prioritization Group, by Scot Rogers, District Ranger on the Placerville Ranger District, Eldorado National Forest
Link to RAVG data for information for Caples burn severity, soil burn severity after the Sept 30 -November 1 prescribed burn/wildfire.
Click "Build Query" and scroll down to Caples on the RAVG site.
July 6, 2020
Presentation on First Order Fire Effects of the Caples Fire by Scott Dailey—Fire Behavior Analysis Team (FBAT), USFS Enterprise Team.
Preliminary Estimates of Burn Severity, Tree Mortality and Fuel Consumption
This presentation looks at fire effects of both the Caples Ecological Restoration Project--Prescribed Fire and the Caples Fire (10-10-19)
May 4, 2021
On Tuesday May 4th, the California Fire Science Consortium and USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Ecology Program hosted a webinar on Restorative Burning: Outcomes from the 2019 Caples Fire. Watch the recording here.
March 2022 The 2021 Caldor Fire
The 2019 prescribed fire in the Caples Ecological Restoration Project appears to have significantly slowed down the Caldor Fire when it hit this area in 2021, according to CAL FIRE personnel. The Caldor Fire did not burn intensively in the region of the Caples area that was burned in 2019. While we await a formal report from the Forest Service documenting this benefit, it is clear that the treatments had a beneficial impact on fire severity within the Caples 2019 fire footprint. Prior prescribed fire treatments elsewhere within the Caldor Fire footprint were also shown to be a significant factor in preserving the forest surrounding Meyers, Christmas Valley, and South Lake Tahoe.
April 10, 2020 slide presentation given to the California Forest Management Task Force, Sierra and Eastside Regional Prioritization Group, by Scot Rogers, District Ranger on the Placerville Ranger District, Eldorado National Forest.
August 20, 2020
California Looks to Battle Mega Wildfires with Fire -- Scientific American
As flames once again rage across the state, officials embrace a counterintuitive firefighting approach. By Jane Braxton Little. Read it here.
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