UC acquires more than 4,500 acres of forestland

Students and researchers could see increased forestry research opportunities in oncoming years through lands acquired by the University of California on Nov. 16.

The donation of more than 4,500 acres of mixed-conifer forest, located in Shasta and Nevada Counties, was approved at a meeting of the Pacific Forest and Watershed Land Stewardship Council — a private foundation established as part of a Pacific Gas and Electric Company bankruptcy settlement — and will double the size of the university’s research forests, according to UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources website.

The new land — to be under the university’s possession in one year — will provide outreach opportunities to K-12, community college and university students, researchers and even the public, according to the website.

“Receiving two new research forests is great news,” said John Battles, a UC Berkeley professor of forest ecology, in an email. “Personally, I am convinced that you cannot learn ecology without hands-on experience.”

According to the college’s website, the donation is the largest single forestland acquisition in the university’s history. At the meeting, an additional 7,016 acres of forestland was donated to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The department’s forestlands will lie adjacent to the university’s in Shasta County, and the funding of a shared research and outreach facility was discussed, according to the website.

The forestlands will be used to address the questions of managing forests in an era of climate change, according to Battles. Because these forests are “dominated by long-lived organisms” such as trees, experiments are long-term enterprises that can benefit students and researched years from now, he said in the email.

“For example, right now I am using 30 years of tree growth data to understand tree population growth,” Battles said in the email. “I need three decades to gain insights. So in a way these two new forests allow me to ‘pay it forward’ by setting up a research program that hopefully proves to be valuable to future generations of Cal scientists and students.”