The National Forest Association is at the heart of making sure people’s relationship with our local Southern California mountains do not end in disaster.
Our mountains are within recreational driving distance of 10% of the nation’s population. With more than 24 million people closer than three hours, our local mountains rally the visitorship of Yellowstone and Yosemite combined.
Over the past 30 years, the use of national forests has increased while funding has dramatically declined. The National Forest Association works to bridge that gap with conservation programs and education that promotes stewardship, adds value to the visitor experience and our local mountains become more valued..
It takes the efforts of more than 750 trained volunteers plus the staff of the National Forest Association to support the needs of visitors. The Forest Association is at the heart of making sure our love affair with the forest doesn’t mean we love it to death. Our recreation programs teach respect for our local mountains, the environment, stewardship, and deliver hands-on fun.
Big Bear Discovery Center
The Big Bear Discovery Center connects our montains and people through its visitor center facilities and activities. Get your permits, passes, maps, interpretive tours and programs here—not to mention shopping at the Adventure Outpost or a snack at the Bill Knicks Café.
The Big Bear Discovery Center attracts more than 250,000 visitors every year with exhibits, weekly programs, eco-tours, special events and phone requests as an information source. The Big Bear Discovery Center Amphitheater hosts outdoor concerts, theater productions, and private cultural and corporate events as well as nighttime interpretive programs.
One of our key efforts is Forest Care, a hands-on effort to help ensure we create forest-friendly communities by providing landowners the incentives, advice, and direction they need to properly manage the portion of the forest that is literally in their own back yard.
Why is this important?
The Forest Care program is a $4 million outreach effort to increase fire-resistance around homes and businesses while thinning the forest to healthy densities. Through Forest Care, property owners are reimbursed for up to 75% of the cost.
About 40,000 people make their permanent homes in the forest and over holiday and summer weekends the resident and visitor populations can explode to more than 100,000. Teaching stewardship isn’t enough; we want to help residents become the caretakers our forest requires. Forest Care helps property owners thin their portion of the forest to a condition that helps prevent disease, infestation, and resists fire.
Urban Conservation Corps of the Inland Empire
The San Bernardino National Forest Association Urban Conservation Corps is a workforce development program that offers young men and women the chance to serve on our local mountains and become employable citizens through hard work in environmental conservation.
There are two components to the program. The Urban Conservation Corps targets young adults, ages 18-25, from Inland Empire and mountain communities and the Urban Youth Conservation Corp targets ages 13-17.
Under the program, young people build workforce skills by participating in meaningful conservation projects that promote greater stewardship for our natural world. In addition to increasing job readiness in a way that prepares them for a more successful entry into the workforce, these young people also help the Forest Association in its work to help create healthier mountain environments and communities.
Off Highway Vehicles
A visit to our local mountains used to mean camping and hiking. Today’s sophisticated multi-terrain technology has created exciting opportunities for visiting parts of the forest few people get to see. To help Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts recreate safely and protect the public lands they visit, the National Forest Association’s OHV Program fields more than 300 OHV Patrol Volunteers and OHV Education Outreach Volunteers who contribute 20,000 hours every year to teaching visitors trail ethics and stewardship, maintaining and patrolling trails, as well as special projects. The Forest Association’s OHV Program promotes safety, stewardship, and responsible off-highway travel on public lands.
Education by and for kids—it’s a unique and highly successful nationwide model for teaching kids about our Southern California mountains. At Children’s Forest, the new Exploration Trail offers a 4.5-mile kid-designed and community-constructed experience of our mountain environment. The Children’s Forest Interpretive Trail is a hands-on nature experience designed by and for kids. The Children’s Forest Visitor Information Center is staffed by trained youth volunteers.
Seedlings of Hope
Wildfires have ravaged over 92,000 acres of our Southern California mountains. Literally thousands of trees and shrubs need to be planted to help heal this fragile ecosystem. Through the Seedlings of Hope Program, Pine, Oak and native shrubs will be planted on our mountains. We need your help!
When more sophisticated methods of fire spotting came into practice in the 1970s, the practice of staffing a tower with a fire spotter who scoured the horizon ended and the towers fell into disrepair. The National Forest Association has created an educational opportunity by restoring the lookout towers within the San Bernardino National Forest and staffing most of them with a force of 300 Lookout Hosts who not only spot fires but educate more than 15,000 visitors per year.