"After the fire, a lot of that area was reforested, and now it's time to thin it," said Mike Albrecht, president of Sierra Resource Management, a Jamestown-based company that does logging and other forest work.
The project could produce logs for sawmills, including the plant at Standard that reopened last year after a two-year shutdown.
The work also could include restoration of streambeds and meadows, removal of invasive plants, and chipping of small trees for use in power generation and animal bedding.
Supporters say the improvements could enhance the watershed of the Tuolumne River, which supplies the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts and San Francisco.
The coalition hopes to get funding from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, created by a 2009 federal law. The amount has not been determined for what is expected to be a decadelong project.
Efforts to cut the federal deficit make funding from the program doubtful, said coalition member John Buckley, executive director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center in Twain Harte.
"The bottom line is that the national forest system is greatly underfunded to do all the forest treatments, road maintenance work, watershed protection projects and recreation projects that are needed and that the public expects," he said.
The same program has provided $730,000 in initial funding for the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group, which is working in and near the forest's north end.
This coalition aims to create jobs in the production of lumber, firewood, power plant fuel, landscaping material and other wood products.
"It is helping the locals," said Robert Smith of Mountain Ranch, Calaveras County, who owns a forestry equipment company. "I'm using local drivers. I'm using local timber fallers."
The U.S. Forest Service could provide $16 million over the next decade for this effort.
These two projects would not restore the timber industry to its heyday, but they could put people to work on tasks that result in a forest more resistant to fire.
Decades of suppressing frequent, gentle fires led to a buildup of small trees and brush that fueled massive blazes like the one in 1987. It burned from a few miles east of Sonora to the west side of Yosemite National Park.
Reforestation got off to a slow start as the timber industry tangled with environmentalists over herbicide use on the plantations. The two sides now are looking to get past this and other areas where they differ.
"The Forest Service thinks, and our partners do, that it's been very productive," Maggie Dowd, the forest's Groveland District ranger, said of Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions.
The coalition includes the national park, which does not allow commercial logging but has used intentional burning under certain conditions to reduce wildfire fuel.
The Stockton Record contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.