Woodland Fire Risk Mitigation and Ecosystem Restoration


PINA has received a $75,000 grant to research improved methods of wildfire risk mitigation in relation to forest health. Our restoration forestry practices will be used to treat four sites in southwest Oregon while training a cadre of practitioners and documenting impacts. Forest thinning to reduce fuel loads will be followed by making biochar in portable kilns, contour placement of larger logs, return of the char to the forest, and finally prescribed burning.

PINA is currently offering paid work, internships and research opportunities in connection with this project.  See Job Application below. Additional funding is also sought for this project.


After a century of public policy to suppress fire, western forests hold an immense overburden of flammable fuels that industry and government officials increasingly acknowledge must be reduced. Due to climate change, southern Oregon is one of the most vulnerable regions of the continent to increased wildfire risk. These fire-adapted ecosystems were traditionally managed by indigenous peoples through regular low-intensity burns, which reset favorable conditions for harvestable plants and prey animals. To restore the adaptive use of fire to limit danger and enhance forest health, we must embrace a period of transition during which hundreds of millions of acres must be rid of their excess fuel burden.

Project Impact

Making biochar in the forest offers the possibility of capturing from 25-40% of the carbon presently released to the atmosphere by the standard thin-and-pile-burn methods promoted and subsidized by NRCS and state forestry departments. Laying logs on contour and creating ephemeral check dams will retain runoff and sediment, increasing moisture levels in soil and plants, and improving water quality in drainages. Returning biochar to the forest will increase water retention and improve fertility in the forest. Prescribed burning will remove the rest of ground level fuels, create char in place with associated benefits, encourage fire adapted germination and open up the forest for animals.

During the first year, the Fire Ecology Restoration Project will recruit personnel, begin research, train an initial group of forestry workers, and begin site treatments. In the second year, our initial cadre of trainees will serve as crew leaders for volunteers from local schools, community organizations, eco-tourists, and interns, disseminating technical expertise, building public acceptance and researching the cost benefit of working with volunteer groups. By Year Three, we will be demonstrating the effectiveness of controlled burns on acres treated by our enhanced protocol. These sites can then remain in a regular fire management regime.

Research will be guided by academic advisors, promoted to NRCS, local forestry officials, and private groups, and will be designed to gather as large a data set as funding permits to show the carbon sequestering, smoke-reducing, soil-building, and employment benefits of these improved methods. We will develop training materials and programs for forestry workers, assay the costs and labor requirements, document the techniques and results in published papers and films, and will work to disseminate our findings to all sectors of western land-use management.