For a state arguably better known for its cities, beaches, deserts, and farm and ranch lands, California is surprisingly heavily forested. Forests cover about a third of the state’s 100 million acres, and most of this forest (19 million acres) is publicly managed. Roughly 2 million acres are reserved in wilderness areas and state and national parks.

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Map of California showing forested and non-forested area

  • More than half (about 57 percent) of California’s forests are softwood conifer types, totaling 19 million acres.
    • Over 40 percent are classified in the California mixed-conifer group (8 million acres)
  • There are approximately 95 billion net cubic feet (428 billion Scribner board feet) of wood volume on forest land, with a mean volume of about 2,875 cubic feet (12,879 Scribner board feet) per acre.
    • The greatest proportion is from softwood tree species such as Douglas-fir, true firs, and pines, which collectively make up 81 percent of net live-tree volume. The remaining 19 percent of live-tree volume is from hardwood species.
  • Over 2 billion tons of biomass and 1 billion tons of carbon have accumulated in live trees (=1 inch diameter at breast height), primarily on unreserved forest land.
    • The majority of this biomass (51 percent) is on Forest Service land; 24 percent of that is on reserved land.
    • Live trees on timberland contain about 1.5 billion tons of biomass and 786 million tons of carbon. Softwood forest types have double the amount of biomass and carbon of hardwood types, with biomass estimates ranging from a low of 4 million tons in the western hemlock/Sitka spruce type to a high of 724 million tons in the mixed-conifer type.
  • On average, we estimated that the total biomass of live trees, snags, and coarse woody material was about 78 tons per acre across the state, which represents a carbon mass of about 40 tons per acre.