The Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change Project in the San Juan National Forest: A Case Study on Fire Management

Ariel Léger (CCAST)
Posted on: 9/29/2022 - Updated on: 9/29/2022

Posted by




Climate change is affecting forests in the US, and forest managers require resources to predict and respond to climate impacts but have few examples of climate adaptation strategies implemented at scale to learn from. The San Juan National Forest (SJNF) contains dry mixed-conifer forests where climate change has exacerbated the impacts of drought, fire, insect and disease pressure. The SJNF houses an Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) site. The ASCC project is a multi-region network of research sites testing science-based strategies to help forests resist, be resilient to, or transition to meet the impacts of projected future climate conditions. In 2014, scientists, land managers, and non-governmental organization (NGO) personnel participated in a workshop to identify desired future conditions and develop adaptation strategies for the SJNF.

Key Issues Addressed

Pressure from insects, and disease, such as bark beetles, and fir engravers, as well as root diseases and dwarf mistletoe, are increasing tree mortality in the SJNF. Reduced fire frequency has also increased the density of Gambel oak and young coniferous trees, increasing the severity of wildfire and competition for limited water resources. These conditions further exacerbate the impacts of drought, disease, and insect damage. Individual forest managers require resources, knowledge, and examples to help develop, implement, monitor, and communicate about operational-scale climate adaptation strategies with stakeholders.

Project Goals

  • Share tools and approaches to integrate climate change into decision making
  • Collaboratively identify desired future conditions, management objectives, and on-the-ground actions that respond to the impacts of climate change
  • Provide a robust, operational-scale example of climate adaptation strategies

For more information on CCAST, or if you would like to have your work highlighted through a CCAST Case Study, join one of our CoPs, or use CCAST to support your Community of Practice, please contact Matt Grabau ([email protected]) or Genevieve Johnson ([email protected]).


Léger, A., M., and Rumble, M. (2022). “The Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change Project in the San Juan National Forest.” CCAST. Retrieved from

Affiliated Organizations

Collaborative Conservation and Adaptation Strategy Toolbox (CCAST) is a multi-organizational partnership directed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation and staffed by a growing network of coordinators and Case Study authors (collectively the CCAST Team).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is a Federal agency that manages public lands in national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service is also the largest forestry research organization in the world, and provides technical and financial assistance to state and private forestry agencies. Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, summed up the purpose of the Forest Service—"to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run."

Colorado State University is a public research university located in Fort Collins.

The Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) has been designed as a collaborative effort among the Forest Service, universities, and forest industry to provide information on managing forests for climate change adaptation, enhanced carbon sequestration, and sustainable production of bioenergy and materials.

Mountain Studies Institute (MSI) is an independent not-for-profit mountain research and education center established in 2002 in Silverton, Colorado. MSI develops science that people can use to address environmental issues facing the San Juan Mountains. We conduct and facilitate research, provide educational opportunities and internships, and conduct environmental monitoring.

The San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership was established in 2009. Our mission is to provide a forum to share stakeholder perspectives in order to develop science-based collaborative priorities for management and monitoring of forests in the Pagosa Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest in Southwestern Colorado.

The Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) project is a collaborative effort to establish a series of experimental silvicultural trials across a network of different forest ecosystem types throughout the United States.