The South Fork of the American River (SOFAR) Watershed was proposed for implementing the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy in 2014 because of the many values at risk to wildfire. The result of a century of fire exclusion and past management decisions have resulted in complex fire issues that are exacerbated by drought, climate change, uncharacteristic stand structures, fuel loading, and insects and disease. Communities, infrastructure, private timber, water, power, recreation, at-risk species, insect and disease designated areas, a high frequency of unplanned human ignitions and significant acres of young dense plantations are all reasons that this watershed is a high priority for collaborative action. The need for proactive fuels management and implementing a cohesive strategy in this watershed was underscored by the 2014 King Fire which burned 12% of the project area, including large patches with high severity fire effects. The King Fire also yielded low and mixed burn severity that was in the natural range of variability for fire effects.
The SOFAR Cohesive Strategy project area is approximately 410,000 acres, including approximately 250,000 acres of the Eldorado National Forest. The project area includes the upper 75% of the South Fork of the American River Watershed, 50% of the King Fire burned area, and 49 miles of the Highway 50 corridor. The Hwy 50 corridor has had five large fires within the last 40 years which have spread throughout the watershed: the Pilliken Fire (1973), Wrights Fire (1981), the Cleveland Fire (1992), the Freds Fire (2004) and the King Fire (2014), all of which were human starts. Values at risk within the watershed include communities, private recreation cabins, private timber, sensitive species and habitat, old growth forest remnants, managed forested lands, water delivery systems, hydroelectric power generation facilities, the Highway 50 transportation corridor (Gateway to South Lake Tahoe), and cultural sites.