The Pacific Southwest Region

Sierra foothills in the spring displaying a hillside of wild flowers.

Sierra foothills in the spring

Nearly half of the total 100 million acres in California is managed by the federal government. The Pacific Southwest Region of the US Forest Service manages 20 million acres of National Forest land in California and assists the State and Private forest landowners in California, Hawaii and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands.

Eighteen national forests are located in this region, in the North Coast, Cascade, and Sierra Nevada ranges and from Big Sur to the Mexican border in the south Coast range.

Randy Moore has served as Pacific Southwest Regional Forester since October 2007. The Pacific Southwest Region is commonly referred to as Region 5 (R5).


National Forests contain 6 million of the total 9 million acres of highly volatile brushland in California found mainly in the foothill country where urban expansion is increasing and many developments lack adequate protection against wildfire. As of October 2008, more than 1,511 fires have burned 875,769 acres of national forest land in California.


Surface water run-off in California averages 71 million acre-feet per year. Annual water use is about 37 million acre-feet, of which 80 percent is used to irrigate crops. National forests supply 50 percent of the water in California and form the watershed of most major aqueducts and more than 2,400 reservoirs throughout the state.


The National Forests in California are home to such unique scenic areas as Mt. Shasta, Lake Tahoe, Mt. Whitney, and the Big Sur coast as well as important ecological and prehistoric sites.

These National Forests account for 25 percent of National Forest recreation nationwide and about half of the public wildland recreation in the state. National Parks and other federal, state, county and private lands provide the remainder.

Fish, Wildlife and Plants

More than 600 of the 800 species of fish and wildlife in California inhabit the national forests, making the Forest Service the single largest habitat manager in the state. National forests are also home to nearly 4,000 of the 6,500 native plants in California. Recovery programs include protection of critical habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species such as the California condor, California bighorn sheep, and the northern spotted owl.


The Pacific Southwest Research Station has 13 units in California. They provide critical research in collaboration with universities in areas such as forest genetic applications, the Pacific Southwest Forest Plan implementation, global climate change mitigation, prescribed fire restoration, wildland recreation enhancement, spotted owl restoration, and ecosystem management.

State and Private Forestry

The Region’s State & Private Forestry (S&PF) program provides financial and technical assistance to state and local governments, Indian tribes, private organizations, urban communities and others to help protect forest resources and assist landowners in practicing good stewardship and quality land management.

Forest Health

Forest conditions, especially in Southern California and the Sierra Nevada, are of particular concern in Region 5. Dense and overgrown areas combined with the influx of people into California’s wildlands have created the potential for disastrous wildfires. Emphasis is being placed on actively managing forests by reducing dangerous accumulations of hazardous fuels to protect people, watersheds, and habitat.