STORIES IN THIS SERIES

FORESTS

High stakes for water supplies in wildfire debate

TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. — From the top of Little Bald Mountain, Marie Davis can see brown patches of forest for miles around — evidence of fires that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres in the past several years.

A geologist with the Placer County Water Agency, Davis remembers how just one of those fires — the King Fire, in 2014 — stripped the landscape, allowing 330,000 tons of topsoil to erode from mountains into the water agency's three nearby reservoirs. Hydroelectric operations shut down for weeks.

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FORESTS

To thin or not to thin: That is the question

GROVELAND, Calif. — The Rim Fire, which burned 257,314 acres of forest in 2013, was the biggest wildfire on record for the Sierra Nevada. Forest Service officials declared large areas of the Stanislaus National Forest "nuked" into a "moonscape" where pine trees might not grow back for a generation.

But five years later, Chad Hanson — a forest ecologist who opposes logging on federal lands — can barely avoid stepping on the ponderosa pine saplings that have taken root amid the blackened trunks in one fire-damaged patch of the 898,099-acre national forest.

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