Big Bear News – Big Bear, CA – A draft proposal to return beneficial fire and improve recreation access, among other restoration activities, on the north side of Big Bear Lake was released today by San Bernardino National Forest officials. The proposal, called an environmental assessment, for the North Big Bear Landscape Restoration Project covers a 13,000-acre area between the Big Bear Dam and Baldwin Lake.
“We’re excited to release this draft proposal, which carries a more holistic strategy than we’ve used in the past,” said Mountaintop District Ranger Marc Stamer. “The project area sorely needs work to improve forest health, and the increasing demand for recreation can be met at the same time.”
An analysis of the project area found that in the event of a wildfire, most forested areas near communities would burn at a high intensity with fire behavior that would be challenging for firefighters to suppress. One of the goals of the project is to reduce impacts from wildland fire by changing fire behaviors such as flame length and rate of spread, thus improving the ability of trees to survive. This will concurrently provide a safer space for firefighters to work when suppressing a wildland fire. Having a more resilient forest structure would also reduce the risk of massive tree die-offs caused by bark beetle pressure.
Crews would work to restore the forest to a condition more closely resembling the ecosystem’s natural condition before the advent of full fire suppression began over a century ago. Frequent and low- to moderate-intensity lightning-caused fires historically maintained a healthy and resilient forest structure. Under the proposal, forest thinning and prescribed burning would be used to return beneficial fire to the area, including the possibility of summertime burning when conditions allow (e.g. timed around periods of monsoonal moisture).
The proposal seeks to address recreational demand for trails on the northside of the lake, as evident by miles of unauthorized trails, by creating a new trail system. Some unauthorized trails would be restored while others would be incorporated. The proposed trails, 47 miles worth in all and open to hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian, would be the first in the Forest to allow the use of Class 1 e-bikes. This class of e-bike has no throttle and is pedal-assist only with a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph.
The full draft environmental assessment and supporting documents are available online (click on the “Analysis” and “Supporting” tabs) and includes more details about the proposal, including improvements for riparian and meadow areas. The public is encouraged to provide comments, which can be made online, by October 22, 2021.