A California spotted owl fledgling sits in a tree in a northern California forest
A patch of forest on Lyons Creek Trail in Eldorado National Forest over six months after experiencing high-severity fire during 2021's Caldor Fire.

Healthy forests are beneficial for people and wildlife. A healthy forest features a patchwork of open and densely forested spaces, contains a mix of trees and plants that reach different heights and sizes, allows sunshine and precipitation to reach the forest floor, and has large rocks, stumps and logs that provide hiding places and homes for wildlife. When forests are healthy, they produce enough food, water and shelter to support local wildlife, clean the air, reduce erosion into nearby streams and lakes, and are less susceptible to destructive wildfires. 

While wildfires are inevitable, not all fire is harmful to forests. Low-intensity fires can naturally “clean” and thin the forest by removing flammable and thick vegetation on the forest floor. The result is improved habitat for wildlife, healthier soil and new growth of native plants. It also helps reduce the risk of large-scale high-severity fires that burn through the forest, from the floor to the canopy, with intense heat. High-severity fires across large landscapes can be devastating for wildlife, habitat and surrounding communities.  

Alongside partners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working under the authority of the Endangered Species act to support activities that improve the overall health of the nation’s forests, reduce the risk of large-scale high-severity fires and protect important habitat for forest-dwelling plants and animals.  

Learn more about our efforts: 

A large adult black bear plodding across a grassy field with vegetation in its mouth
When you close your eyes and think of a healthy forest, you may picture one that’s thick with trees. But a healthy forest is complex, just like the plant and animal species that live there.
a gray and olive colored fat toad with bumpy skin sits on pine needles in a burned forest
When wildfires erupt, animals do their best to move out of the direct path of the flames while staying close to home if they can find safe refuge. But when a high-severity fire burns across a large landscape, it moves fast and climbs through the tree canopy. Wildlife has a more challenging time...
a fisher climbing a tree
Fires have swept through large portions of habitat used by the southern Sierra Nevada distinct population segment of fisher over the past several years. By examining how fisher are using post-burn forest, the Service hopes to learn more about the needs and habits of this elusive endangered species.

Partner Content

We work alongside many partners to balance the needs of wildlife and healthy forests. You can read more about their efforts in the stories linked below.

  • "Megafires Take a Toll on California Wildlife" by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station: Out of more than 600 species, 50 species experienced fire in 15 to 30 percent of their geographic range. Although the research findings are unsettling, there is hopeful news. Megafires burned less habitat where birds and reptiles of conservation concern live than researchers expected. Read more