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

Joe Moore
Valley Public Radio
UC Merced scientists say thinning overgrown Sierra forests to the density of around 100 years ago could free up as much as 1 million additional acre feet of water a year. (file photo)

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. 

Joe Moore is the President and General Manager of Valley Public Radio. During his tenure, he's helped lead the station through major programming changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the station's financial health. From 2010-2018 he served as the station's Director of Program Content. In that role, he also served as the host of Valley Edition, and helped launch and grow the station's award-winning local news department. He is a Fresno native and a graduate of California State University, Fresno.
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