The watersheds of the Tahoe-Central Sierra area are crucial for downstream communities, agricultural interests, recreationalists, and the environment. This landscape of the Lake Tahoe Basin and the American, Bear, Truckee, and Yuba watersheds also provides water critical to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as well as to northern Nevada communities. The forested watersheds here contain large amounts of carbon, produce substantial amounts of wood products and clean energy, provide significant fish and wildlife habitat, and are a recreational playground for millions of visitors year round. Billions of dollars of goods are transported through this area this year, a critically important part of California’s economy.

At the same time, this area is a landscape at significant risk of large severe wildfire and unnatural levels of tree mortality, given the overgrown, unhealthy forest conditions that exist here.

Mission Statement

Building upon several large-scale regional efforts and best available science, the TCSI Partners have established the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative to accelerate regional scale forest and watershed restoration through ecologically based management actions while creating the opportunities to support a forest restoration economy and explore innovative process, investment, and governance tools.

"We recognize that, if we want to protect and improve the wide variety of benefits that Lake Tahoe and the Central Sierra Nevada area provides, we needed to do business differently. To truly make change across the Sierra Nevada, we need to test new ways of doing business on the ground. That is why we have decided to focus in on a series of potential game-changing efforts in the Tahoe-Central Sierra area of the Sierra Nevada Region."

Jim Branham, Executive Officer, Sierra Nevada Conservancy

The Tahoe-Central Sierra Resilient Forest Initiative (TCSI) accelerates the implementation of ecologically sound forest restoration at a large-landscape scale. The Initiative will seek the development of biomass utilization infrastructure by establishing unique partnerships, utilizing creative funding and planning approaches, addressing policy constraints, and testing new techniques on the ground. This can be a real game-changer—lessons learned from the TCSI can be applied across the Sierra Nevada to increase the pace and scale of restoration in a region that is rapidly deteriorating.

The TCSI builds on the same consensus as the WIP, that more needs to be done to make the forests and watersheds of the Sierra more resilient. The primary goals of the TCSI are:

  • Support innovative projects with the potential to leverage landscape-scale restoration on public and private lands within the TCSI region through fundraising, communications, information sharing, and other means.
  • Develop a science-based assessment of current conditions and future management scenarios for the TCSI area that can be used by decision-makers to develop, analyze, and implement large landscape forest restoration and resilience strategies.
  • Increase the pace and scale of ecologically-based forest management by leveraging lessons learned through pilot projects, identifying policy and funding opportunities supporting new landscape-scale restoration projects, and addressing barriers such as supporting wood and biomass processing infrastructure and expanded use of prescribed and managed fire.
  • Encourage and support collaborative-based efforts in both the design and implementation of ecologically-based projects, by sharing resources, capacity and expertise.

In August 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service, the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station, the California Tahoe Conservancy, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the National Forest Foundation, the California Forestry Association, and the University of California Natural Reserve System – Sagehen Creek Field Station, solidifying an agreement to support the TCSI, and work together to increase the pace and scale of restoration across the Tahoe-Central Sierra landscape. Read the news release.

Tahoe Central-Sierra Initiative: A collaborative approach to achieve resilience.

The Tahoe-Central Sierra landscape provides unique opportunities to increase the pace and scale of needed forest restoration. This Initiative will build on a legacy of successful partnership efforts between local, state, federal, and private stakeholders, explore innovative solutions to restoration challenges, and test new ways of doing business.


Below are a few examples of the innovative approaches that partners are taking under the TCSI:

Caples Ecological Restoration Project

Healthy forests and watersheds depend on a healthy fire regime; reintroducing fire as a management tool will be key for increasing the pace and scale of restoration. The Caples Creek Watershed Ecological Restoration Project will complete forest restoration work on 6,800 acres of the Eldorado National Forest, and 4,400 acres of the project area will be treated using prescribed fire. This project is being completed as a partnership between the El Dorado Irrigation District, the Eldorado National Forest, and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

Lake Tahoe West Collaborative Project

Photos by: Dorian Fougeres

Several critical elements make Lake Tahoe West distinctive: a collaboratively developed and implemented large landscape-scale approach, 10-year strategy to restore the forests, watersheds, recreational opportunities, and communities on Lake Tahoe’s western shore; a science team to inform the effort and model the tradeoffs of management actions; and the alignment and acceleration of planning permitting and implementation schedules.

North Yuba Forest Resilience Project

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service have been working in close partnership with Blue Forest Conservation to site California’s first Forest Resilience Bond pilot project in the North Yuba River watershed. This novel funding strategy will invest private capital in restoration projects that protect forest health and mitigate the risk for damage from wildfires and drought.

French Meadows Project

The French Meadows project is overcoming U.S. Forest Service staffing and funding constraints through an innovative approach for completing required environmental assessments. If this approach is successful, it could save land managers money and time. In addition, project partners are testing the hypothesis that ecologically based forest thinning increases forest resilience and water yield, with the goal of quantifying water supply benefits.

Sagehen Experimental Forest Project

Sagehen integrates scientific research with land management. It brings together a diverse group of partners to create a holistic management plan. It’s the first project to implement the new restoration prescription GTR 220, which is a dynamic methodology that manages for both fire risk and wildlife habitat.

To track progress of the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative efforts, follow us on:


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