California Native Plant Society Releases Statewide Wildfire Recovery Guide

A new, science-based resource addresses post-fire land care and common misconceptions.

Contact: Liv O’Keeffe
916-447-2677, ext. 202

Aug. 20, 2019, Sacramento, CA – The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) announced today the release of its statewide Fire Recovery Guide. The 92-page booklet is available for download at and in print through participating community partners.

The wildfire guide is a collaboration between the California Native Plant Society, dozens of scientific and topical experts, and more than 30 state and local organizations.
The new resource includes:

  • Frequently asked questions about wildfire in California
  • A post-fire checklist for property owners
  • A decision-flow diagram for post-fire conditions
  • Erosion control recommendations
  • Tips for tree care and landscaping after fire
  • Defensible space updates, and
  • An overview of California’s most fire-prone habitats

California is still recovering from the 2018 wildfire season, the most severe and deadliest on record. As communities rebuild, CNPS and partners want to help Californians steward the post-fire environment and avoid further damage.

“When we look at a burned landscape, our impulse may be to clean it up and replant it right away,” said Liv O’Keeffe, senior director of communications and engagement for CNPS. “But we’ve got to be patient when it comes to natural and healthy land recovery. In fact, we can unknowingly do more harm than good without the right information.”

Experts worry about factors like erosion, landslides, habitat degradation, and invasive weeds, all of which can destroy the integrity of local ecosystems and make an area more susceptible to future fire. Common mistakes CNPS sees people make after wildfire include:

  •  Using seed mixes and mulches that include noxious weeds like French broom, cheat grass, and thistles. (These weeds can choke out local plants and quickly grow into what’s known as “flashy fuels” for wildfire.)
  • Assuming a burned or charred tree is dead. (Large, hardwood trees like oaks can often survive fire as long as their inner tissue is intact.)
  • Ripping out vegetation and clearing debris too soon. (Many native plants will resprout from their base or underground structures, or re-seed themselves. Removing them can destabilize property, contribute to erosion, and destroy habitat and food sources for nearby wildlife.)
  • “Clear-cutting” property or other extreme landscaping measures in the hopes of protecting homes. (In fact, experts instead advise an emphasis on home-hardening practices like using fire-proof building materials and a 5-foot no fuel zone around all structures.)
  • Seeding areas with California poppy mixes. (Seeding is rarely recommended in burn areas, and even native seeds must be carefully vetted for fragile landscapes.)

“Now more than ever we need sound, fact-based information to inform our actions as we adapt to California’s new wildfire realities,” said CNPS Conservation Program Director Greg Suba.
Suba is working with state agencies, elected officials, and stakeholder groups to help California address forestry and other vegetation concerns related to wildfire policy. “Our approach must be thoughtful and timely,” he added. “We created this new guide as part of our efforts to build that understanding in a calm, science-based way.”

CNPS began work on the guide following California’s 2018 wildfire season. The booklet is an expanded and updated edition of the organization’s original Fire Recovery Guide for Wine Country, published after the 2017 wildfire season. The Wine Country edition was so popular that CNPS ran out of printed copies, tracked thousands of digital downloads, and received hundreds of requests for information on other areas of the state.

“Trustworthy, helpful information is a healing balm at a time when our communities are trying to put our lives back together and stay safe,” said Butte Fire Safe Council Executive Director Calli-Jane DeAnda. Butte County’s North Valley Community Foundation helped fund the statewide guide along with the Giles W. And Elise G. Mead Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marin and Mount Lassen chapters of CNPS, and individual CNPS donors.

“We’re incredibly grateful to the authors, scientists, and funders who gave us the chance to do something helpful for our friends and neighbors in California,” CNPS Executive Director Dan Gluesenkamp said. “Thanks to them, we’ve been able to provide something of great value that should never have a price tag.”

Download the Fire Recovery Guide now.


About the California Native Plant Society:
The California Native Plant Society is a statewide organization that advances the understanding, appreciation, and protection of California’s native plants and habitats through science, education, horticulture, and conservation. CNPS has more than 70,000 fans and supporters, and 35 chapters promoting its mission throughout California and Baja California.

Community Partners:
If your organization is interested in distributing printed copies of the CNPS Fire Recovery Guide, please contact us at


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