Keeping Bear Valley residents
informed and involved.

The Forest

We need your help!  Our forests are an important feature of Bear Valley. We need to both keep them healthy, and keep our community protected as much as possible from devastating fires.

Protecting Bear Valley

Tree Thinning For Forest Health

Bear Valley looks very different today from how it looked 50 or 100 years ago. There are many more trees than there used to be. There are two main reasons for this. First, we took fire out of the ecosystem. Fire occurred naturally in the forest, and the Washo and ranchers also set intentional fires. Tree and underbrush density was much lower, and those fires didn’t “crown out” and destroy vast swathes of the forest. They helped preserve meadows, views, and wetlands.

Second, recent human activity has changed the balance of tree types. Lodgepole pines are opportunistic, and foresters don’t like them. Lodgepoles grow faster than firs, Jeffrey pines, or aspens, and tend to crowd them out if given a chance. Lodgepoles jump into areas of disturbed earth, so the building of roads and homes gives them an edge on other trees. Lodgepoles also suck up more water than other trees. They have greatly accelerated the natural successional evolution in the Sierra where lakes turn into wetlands, then into meadows, then into forest.

What we have now is a forest with far too many trees. Healthy forest in our area should have about 90 trees per acre. So a typical third of an acre lot in Bear Valley should have 30 trees, or even fewer when the area of a home is considered. Trees should be well spaced, with 8 feet or more between tree trunks. The bigger the trees, the farther apart they should be.

The BVRI Board wants to encourage our property owners to reduce tree density to healthier levels. You may remove live trees less than 12 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH) without special approval. For larger trees, you must get approval from the Architectural Review Committee, which will look at density, spacing, and privacy screening, while generally favoring thinning.

Healthy well spaced trees are more likely to survive drought, beetle attacks, or fire. And they’re less likely to fall on your house. Please consider thinning your trees.

The BVRI Lot Inspection Program

Our goal is to create a fire safe environment at Bear Valley. Bear Valley is doing well in terms of forest management, BUT we all have to keep at this annually; trees and bushes grow, or die. Forestry and fire prevention people agree that Bear Valley has the best forest management program of any subdivision on Ebbetts Pass, in the spirit of Harry Schimke, one of the founders of Bear Valley and a renowned forester. In the windstorms of 2011-12, Bear Valley had the least structure damage from windfalls of any area from here to Angels Camp, thanks to our having healthier trees. BVRI continues to operate a volunteer inspection program to monitor fire clearance and CC&R compliance.

Lot inspections typically occur in later June or July.  Check out the form that the volunteer lot inspectors use to check your lots . The names of owners whose lots do not pass muster will be given to the Sheriff who will send a letter of warning to the lot owner.  See the following about the chipping program Alpine FSC Chipping Packet 2023 in order to get your clippings chipped.

For more information and information about where to get help for clearing your lot, see the following document prepared by the BVRI Forest Management Committee: BVFireInspection 5-30-15


There are several resources  to help you with your lot clearance. For routine chainsaw work and clearing, Mike Ratkowski, 209-795-4366; Erich Haas, 209-639-1169; Joe Zibley, 209-890-7883;  Snider’s Tree Service 209-795-2847. Mario’s Tree Service 951-361-2409, Jay’s Tree Service 909-816-9365. Nate Freed 331-903-9999

Bark Beetle in Bear Valley

We encourage you all to read  Bear Valley Insects 2014 to learn about bark beetles in Bear Valley and what to look for and what to do.   This current drought period should cause all of us to increase our vigilance and act quickly to remove dead trees. If you have a dead tree(s) or logs on your lot, be sure to have them removed as soon as possible. The health and beauty of our local forest ecosystem could easily be devastated by either a fire or a full-scale bark beetle infestation. BVRI inspects each lot annually, but residents need to act on their own to remove trees without waiting to be reminded. 

At the end of the document there is contact information for the author, Ross Richards-Professional Forrester.

Getting Rid of  Bark Beetles: PLEASE TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION TO REMOVE DEAD TREES AND LOGS ON YOUR PROPERTY.   Any  tree with bark beetle must be cut into rounds and stacked in the sun. Then the stack must be covered with clear plastic. The bottom of the plastic must be covered with dirt so nothing gets out. This will encapsulate the beetles and kill them. If you get the logs hauled away, the ground still needs to be treated.

BV Grant for Fuel Reduction

Bear Valley received a grant to help with our forest fuel reduction. The map here shows the priorities for fuel reduction for the various Bear Valley Common Areas.

BVCommon Area Fuels Reduction Project

In addition to the annual lot inspection program, we have a program specially targeted to the 38 common areas in our residential area.  You can read about both below.

Completed: Special Common Area Fuel Reduction Program, 2022-203

While each property owner has the responsibility to clear their own lot, in 2022 the BVRI Board put in place a one-year fuel reduction program to clean up the 38 Common Areas in our housing development. The sole source of funding for this program is from donations, so we strongly encourage your generous giving so that we may complete this work. We worked through the Calaveras Foothills Fire Safe Council (a 501c3) so that donations will be tax deductible. Residents donated to a specific Common Area Map with Numbers or to a general pot (which the BVRI Forest Committee will direct to the Common Areas with the greatest need).

A little background about the Common Area situation

With the formation of Bear Valley in the ‘60s, the developers created 38 “Common Areas” in the new subdivision.  When these preserved open space lands were donated to Alpine County, they were accepted on the premise that County funds would not be required to upkeep these areas.  Over the decades, most of the Common Areas have become overgrown and present a significant danger should a forest fire reach or start in Bear Valley.   Over the last decade, BVRI and Supervisor Terry Woodrow have successfully pursued grant money that allowed us to do limited fuel reduction in some of these areas, but it’s not enough.  The process for obtaining grants is long and complicated and the clearing techniques that can be used are restricted.  For instance we have not been able to remove larger dead trees in the Common Areas.  We urgently need to proceed with more significant fuel reduction in these areas.  We have visually estimated that there are 200+ dead trees in the Common Areas and the number increases every year.  We need to get these DEAD, DRY trees and flammable ground debris removed as soon as we can and we are counting on your generous support.

In winter 2022, BVRI worked with Terry Woodrow, Alpine County and the Calaveras Foothills Fire Safe Council (CFFSC) to develop a program to allow Bear Valley residents to donate tax deductible funds to the CFFSC 501(c)(3), with the express purpose of clearing these Common Areas.  The funds would only be used for this purpose, and the collection, disbursement and monitoring of these funds would be by BVRI.  Information regarding the amount and usage of funds will be communicated by BVRI on an ongoing basis.  People could donate to help clear a SPECIFIC Common Area near their property, or to a general use fund that would be used to clear Common Areas deemed high priority by BVRI’s Forestry Committee.  If the amount collected for a specific Common Area is less than $500 by the time work would begin in that Common Area, then funds may be transferred to the general use fund for possible use in another Area.

Next BVRI Board Meeting:

Date: Aug. 31

Time: 4pm

Location: In person in Bear Valley, possibly hybrid/Zoom. Details to follow.

Upcoming Events

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NOTE: The events listed here are not necessarily affiliated with BVRI. This calendar is provided as a service to the community. If you would like to list (or update) an event, please email