Explore the unique fire-dependent qualities of Baker Cypress with Plumas National Forest experts during Friends of Plumas Wilderness Field Trip Series, continuing Saturday, Sept 10. Photo submitted

Next field trip: Globally rare Baker Cypress

Learn the story of Baker Cypress on the second outing in the Friends of Plumas Wilderness 2022 Field Trip Series with Plumas National Forest experts Kyle Merriam and Ryan Bauer.

“Our themes for this trip are biodiversity, wildfire, and how active forest management can happen in protected areas like Research Natural Areas,” said Darla DeRuiter, executive director. “Our first outing to Valley Creek was really great – come join us for this one!”

The Mud Lake Research Natural Area was established in the late 1980s for its rare Baker Cypress stands. The RNA is divided into two units: Mud Lake and Wheeler Peak. Found there are the only populations of Baker Cypress in California above 6,000 feet, with the oldest tree over 300 years old.

Baker Cypress is a rare species of cypress found in only 11 widely dispersed locations across Northern California and Southern Oregon. They thrive in areas with poor, low nutrient soil, limited competition, and periodic high-severity fire.


Kyle Merriam, Plumas National Forest ecologist, has spent years studying and monitoring the Baker Cypress in the RNA. “Baker cypress have survived in California for millennia, adapting to a slowly warming and drying climate. Now, as a result of rapid shifts in temperature and fire behavior, this iconic species is at risk of extinction from altered fire regimes,” she said.

Baker Cypress depend on high-severity wildfire to reproduce. Their seed cones only open when heated by fire, killing the parent tree, a rare trait in coniferous species.

But fire interval matters too, especially when there are so few populations of Baker Cypress. If a stand re-burns before seedlings have a chance to produce cones, the population will be eliminated.

Ryan Bauer, Plumas National Forest fuels and prescribed fire program manager, will share insights about why we’re seeing more frequent and severe wildfires in our area – as long as he is not called out on a fire.


Both Bauer and Merriam will talk about how the Baker Cypress fared during the 2021 Dixie Fire and other recent wildfires.

There are four tools of protection that Friends of Plumas Wilderness is exploring that are permanent. Through the field trip series, information will be shared about each of these tools: Research Natural Areas, Wild & Scenic Rivers, Wilderness Areas, and National Monuments.

FoPW Field Trip Series: What’s Happened, What’s Next

People of all ages from throughout the region showed up to celebrate the dedication of the Valley Creek Special Interest Area as an Old Growth Network forest on Friday, August 12th at the first field trip of the series. The dedication ceremony, hosted by Friends of Plumas Wilderness, the Plumas National Forest, and Old Growth Forest Network, featured a 2-mile hike through the forest guided by U.S. Forest Service ecologist Michelle Coppoletta.

“I focused my Quincy High School senior project on Valley Creek, and now I get to bring it full circle and see the area designated as a Network Forest,” said Sarah Hoffman, Friends of Plumas Wilderness summer intern. Hoffman planned the event, which drew more than 30 people. Following her internship, Sarah returns to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she is studying Environmental Earth & Soil Science.


Mark your calendars to join fly-fishing expert Josh Olivera from Feather River College and Friends of Plumas Wilderness on beautiful Jamison Creek Saturday September 24th to learn about increasing Wild & Scenic River protection and maybe even something about fly-fishing!

There are few areas on the Plumas National Forest that could be designated as Wilderness because of the stringent requirements of the Wilderness Act. Explore the idea of Wilderness on Saturday, October 22 at Grizzly Peak Inventoried Roadless Area with Bill Battagin, local resident and expert on the area, Friends of Plumas Wilderness Tribal Liaison Lethi Watson, and others from the organization.

A National Monument is the final type of protection tool that can be used on US Forest Service lands. National Monument expert and University of Colorado-Boulder Distinguished Professor Charles Wilkinson will speak in November about why a National Monument might work in the Feather River watershed. Details forthcoming.


Each field outing begins at 10am except the November virtual event, which starts at 7pm. Meeting locations, what to bring, and more information about each field trip can be found at https://plumaswilderness.org/connect/events-outings/ or by emailing [email protected].