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UC Merced Expert: Forest Thinning Could Free Up Water, Reduce Fire Risk

May 12, 2015

Forest managers throughout California say that thinning forests to a more natural state is a good way to reduce the severity of wildfires. Now scientists suggest that it also could offer help in saving water in the drought. 

Researchers at UC Merced think that thinning overgrown forests throughout the Sierra could result in as much as a million acre feet of extra water each year for the state. That’s enough water to fill Pine Flat Lake on the Kings River east of Fresno.

Roger Bales is the director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced. He says years of fire suppression have left much of the Sierra overgrown with small trees that consume a lot of water.

Bales says a team of UC researchers are currently studying the issue with the US Forest Service in the American River Basin and in the Sierra National Forest near Yosemite.