A $5.4 million grant from CAL FIRE made the conservation possible and is also funding the expansion of the Weed fuelbreak system and thinning of 450 acres of young pine plantations to reduce fuel loads

More than 5,000 acres of forest surrounding Black Butte has been permanently protected, thanks to a conservation easement granted just before Jan. 1 to the Pacific Forest Trust by the Michigan-California Timber Company, utilizing grant funding from CAL FIRE’s Forest Legacy Program.

The easement conserves 5,006 acres of productive timberland on the north and east sides of Black Butte and helps reduce wildfire risks to the cities of Mount Shasta and Weed, according to a press release from Pacific Forest Trust.

“I and the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors support the conservation of Black Butte Working Forest, keeping it in private ownership and sustainable forest management while preventing development and enhancing its resilience to fire,” said Siskiyou County Supervisor Ed Valenzuela. “This is the kind of strategic public-private partnership we need more of to keep our forests healthy and better protect public safety.”

“In 2018, 1.8 million acres burned in California, destroying 23,000 structures and tragically taking 100 lives,” said Chris Chase, Timberland Manager for Michigan-California Timber Company. “Proper forest management can lessen the risk and impact of wildfire. The Black Butte project will ensure that this property will continue to be a model of exemplary stewardship in perpetuity. We are proud of our stewardship and are committed to protecting the cities of Weed and Mount Shasta along with the vital infrastructure and world-class natural resources of this region.”

Joe Gonyea III, co-chair of the family partnership that owns the property, said, “We are very pleased that Black Butte Working Forest is now assured to continue as a well-managed forest providing wood products and quality jobs along with important habitat conservation. Our partnership with Pacific Forest Trust and CAL FIRE ensures that this unique property is sustained for future generations.”

The forest forms the eastern boundary of the City of Weed and is otherwise surrounded by the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, just below the Mount Shasta Wilderness Area. It includes the Black Butte trailhead and Black Butte Spring.

The forest will be sustainably managed by family-owned Michigan-California Timber Co. for wood products, enhanced wildlife habitat and watershed values, the release states.

The conservation was made possible by a $5.4 million grant from CAL FIRE to Pacific Forest Trust through their Forest Health and Forest Legacy Programs for the Mt. Shasta Headwaters Forest Health and Resilience Project (Phase 1 Black Butte). In addition to funding the conservation easement, the grant also funds the expansion of the Weed fuelbreak system and thinning of 450 acres of young pine plantations to reduce fuel loads.

The terms of the conservation easement guide active management of the property “to maintain the ecological integrity of Mt. Shasta, create a more diverse, resilient forest, and provide sustainable log supply for local mills,” the press release states.

Reducing tree densities, adjusting spacing between trees, and growing more large trees that can better withstand wildfire impacts will enhance fire safety of both the communities and the publicly-owned wildlands that the property lies between, according to the release.

Management will also enhance forest health and growth, taking more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it for the long term.

In addition, the project protects habitat for an estimated 235 species of wildlife, including federally-listed and state-listed species such as Cascade frog, Sierra Nevada red fox, northern spotted owl, silver-haired bat, gray-headed pika and the Pacific fisher, according to the release.

“We can’t solve our climate crisis without the aid of healthy forests that can absorb more dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. We need to keep forests like Black Butte as forests, and manage them to be more resilient to the growing threat of wildfire,” said Connie Best, Co-CEO of Pacific Forest Trust, who led this project. “We are honored to be partners with Michigan-California Timber Co. and CAL FIRE in achieving these goals.”

“I applaud this partnership to protect a great scenic, recreational, and economic resource like Black Butte Working Forest, said District 1 Assemblyman Brian Dahle. “Private forestland owners are the stewards we depend on for well-managed forests that provide the public with so many benefits.”

Funding

The Mt. Shasta Headwaters Forest Health and Resilience Project (Phase 1 Black Butte) is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment, particularly in disadvantaged communities, the release states. The cap-and-trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. California Climate Investment projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling and much more. At least 35 percent of these investments are made in disadvantaged and low-income communities. For more information, visit California Climate Investments at https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/our-work/programs/california-climate-investments.

About Pacific Forest Trust

Since 1993, the Pacific Forest Trust has been dedicated to conserving and sustaining America’s vital, productive forest landscapes. Working with forest owners, communities and an array of partners, we advance innovative, incentive-based strategies to safeguard our nation’s diverse forests. In so doing, we’re ensuring forests continue to provide people everywhere — from rural communities to urban centers — with a wealth of benefits, including clean water, sustainably harvested wood, green jobs, wildlife habitat and a livable climate. https://www.pacificforest.org/

About Michigan-California Timber Company

Black Butte Working Forest is part of the larger 115,000 acre Michigan-California Timber Company ownership. MCTC is an affiliate of Timber Products Company, a diversified wood products manufacturer headquartered in Oregon that owns a softwood veneer mill in Yreka. This private, family-owned business is a major employer in Siskiyou County and sustainable management of the property contributes logs to the TP Yreka veneer mill.