California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Timberland Conservation Program


aspen trees
Aspen Grove in Sierra Nevada.
Jennifer Navicky, CDFW.

Forests cover 40 percent of California's land area and are home to fish, wildlife, and plants that include threatened and endangered species. Forests also maintain water quality, provide recreation opportunities, and generate economic activity and jobs. One of the ways CDFW protects the natural resources of forests is by reviewing timber harvesting plans (THPs) to harvest trees from private or state-owned forest land. CDFW is authorized to review THPs under the State's Forest Practice Rules and under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

There are 40,233,000 acres of forested land within California including oak woodlands and conifer forests. Forest managed for harvest is called timberland, and includes 2,932,000 acres in private ownership, 146,000 acres in State ownership, 10,130,000 acres in federal ownership, and 4,551,000 acres of non-industrial timberland in private ownership.

Timber Harvest Review

stream inspection
Pre-harvest inspection of
stream crossing.
Joe Croteau, CDFW.

CDFW reviews THPs for private and state-owned forest land. CDFW reviews for potential significant impacts to wildlife, plants, and water quality. CDFW's Botanical Guidelines inform THP applicants, Registered Professional Foresters, review agency staff, and the public of CDFW's botanical review objectives. CDFW also assesses the likelihood that a THP would result in the ‘take’ of a species protected pursuant to the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). CDFW conducts this review as a ‘responsible agency’ under CEQA, and as a trustee of California's natural resources. As a result of its review, CDFW may recommend changes to the THP necessary to avoid significant impacts to natural resources and take of a protected species. If significant impacts resulting from a THP can't be avoided, the THP may need to include mitigation to reduce those impacts to below a level of significance. If a THP will result in the take of a species protected pursuant to CESA, an incidental take permit from CDFW is required. A Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement with CDFW is commonly warranted if a THP requires roads over waterways, the diversion of water, or any flow obstruction or disturbance to the bed, channel, or bank of, a river, stream, or lake.

As the CEQA lead agency, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) conducts final review and approval of all THPs. Cal Fire considers the recommendations from reviewing agencies to avoid significant impacts, avoid take of protected species, and implement mitigation. Four CDFW regional offices review THPs. Other reviewing agencies typically include Regional Water Quality Control Boards and the California Geological Survey. The Department of Parks and Recreation and local governments also participate in review when the THP has the potential to affect resources within their jurisdiction.