Technical Tours – Whetting Your Appetite for More!

By David Bakke

This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of The Forestry Source

In designing the technical tours for this year’s convention, the planning committee was faced with a challenge: how do we present the entirety of California forestry in one visit? Our goal for the technical tours is to provide attendees with a snapshot of the beauties, challenges, people, and places that represent forestry in the Golden State. We hope that attending a tour will encourage you to look deeper into our state’s forests and to  revisit and explore the whole of our field. We invite you to join us on October 25 and October 28, the first and last days of convention, to attend full- and half-day tours to experience what forestry is about in this part of California: a part that stretches from the San Francisco Bay Area through Sacramento and into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 
Fire and Fuels Tours
Wildfires have been a part of California’s history, and more recently garnered attention when fire impacts homes and businesses. But fire is a natural part of California’s Mediterranean climate. So, what can foresters and land managers do? Two of the tours will address fire in very different parts of the state. The East Bay Fire and Fuels Tour will explore a densely developed and heavily populated urban and/or suburban area in the San Francisco Bay Area with a long history of serious wildfire impacts. There, efforts are underway to reduce tree and ground vegetation density, develop and maintain fuel breaks, and increase home hardening to resist fire damage. 

The Caldor Fire Tour will take participants through the Sierra Nevada Mountains where the 2021 Caldor Fire burned through 220,000 acres and largely destroyed the town of Grizzly Flats. Here, federal and private foresters are learning that even within the destruction, some of the treatments done prior to the fire resulted in a degree of post-fire tree survival. 

Research Tours
Two of the tours will focus on forestry research to address current challenges in California. A full-day tour to the Blodgett Forest Research Station (Blodgett), a part of the University of California-Berkeley (Go Bears!), will offer participants a unique walking tour to witness different management methods. Blodgett’s goal is to improve the understanding and management of the Sierra mixed conifer forest through research, demonstration, and education. The 2022 Mosquito Fire burned through a part of Blodgett, offering the opportunity to see how different management plans may have influenced fire behavior. 

Also highlighting forestry research is the half-day tour to the Institute of Forest Genetics (Institute) and the USDA Forest Service Placerville Nursery. At the Institute, presentations on current genetic research by both the USDA Forest Service and Sierra Pacific Industries will be highlighted. Rust-resistant sugar pine testing and nursery production will be seen at the Placerville Nursery. 

Industrial Forestry and Utilization Tour
A half-day tour will visit the Sierra Pacific Industries mill in Lincoln, just outside of Sacramento, to showcase one of the larger lumber mills in California. It is very likely that attendees on this tour will see  fire-blackened logs being processed at this mill, many from Sierra Pacific’s lands impacted by recent wildfires.

Urban Forestry Tours
Our host city, Sacramento, prides itself as the “City of Trees,” with an extensive urban tree canopy that requires ongoing management. Participants in the Urban Forestry Tour will travel around the Sacramento area to learn how urban foresters are maintaining the city’s treescape. One stop will see current research being conducted by the University of California-Davis and USDA Forest Service to determine the urban tree species of the future, given the challenges of climate change. Another stop will highlight a tree planting project funded through the California Climate Investment grant program (CCI). The CCI program receives funds through California’s carbon market. 

This year, we are offering convention goers a hands-on experience to apply their forest management expertise. Celebrate the last day of convention with a walking tour of the beautiful forty-acre Capitol Park surrounding the state capital, where a friendly competition between SAF member teams will also benefit the managers of this beautiful state park. Curious? Come see what it’s about! 

Coastal Woodlands Tour
Did you know there is a connection between forestry and California wines? Sign up for the Oaks and Wine Tour to learn about management of the coastal oak woodlands, impacts of wildfires, and development pressures such as vineyards. If you think an acre of timberland is valuable, wait until you hear about an acre of wine-producing vines are worth! Even a nearby wildfire can impact the quality of wine. Winetasting will be a lovely way to end your convention week. 

So, when you are here in Sacramento for the convention, take advantage of one or more of these tours. You will have your choice of five tours on Wednesday, October 25 and three tours on Saturday, October 28. Space is limited--secure your spot today

We look forward to showing you our state. We know you’ll want to return to explore more of what California has to offer!
David Bakke is a retired forester with the USDA Forest Service and chair of the Bay Area chapter of California SAF. Bakke serves as the local field trip coordinator for the 2023 committee on national convention programs.