December Meeting Summary

Our meeting on December 4th, 2018 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 17 members of the public and agencies.  Considering the weather the attendance was excellent.

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Photo by Mary Rawson

Kevin Vella of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) gave a presentation on how the NWTF works with land managers to improve habitat for wild turkeys.  Although their goal is to improve the habitat for the turkeys, in the process they improve forest health and the habitat for other species.  Since being formed in 1973, efforts by the NWTF have resulted in the population of wild turkeys increasing from about 1.3 million birds to an estimated 6 million birds today.  They have invested more than $450 million in conservation to conserve or enhance over 20 million acres.  The NWTF has a Master Stewardship Agreement at the national level with the US Forest Service, and manages projects for the Forest Service across the country including California.  The NWTF brings human and financial resources to projects that the Forest Service does not have the resources to carry out.

Less Talk, More Action.  Annie Dean led a discussion on the organization of the January planning meeting.  This meeting is likely to be the first of several to prepare a map database of fuels reduction and watershed improvement projects that have been completed in the past, are currently being implemented, and are planned for the future.  The agreed criteria for prioritizing projects and the information the ABC hopes to gather on each project are shown on the flip charts at the end of the minutes which can be found here.  Agencies and organizations that have agreed to attend or that are being asked to attend include the USFS-Carson Ranger District, BLM-Carson City District, CALFIRE, Alpine Watershed Group, Grover Hot Springs State Park, California Department of Fish and Game, Friends of Hope Valley, Eastern Alpine Fire and Rescue, Alpine Fire Safe Council, and others.  Special thanks to Coreen Francis of the BLM for offering to use the BLM GIS to map all the projects.

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Annie Dean leading discussion.  Photo by Mary Rawson.

Participant Updates: Annie Dean and Michael Barton reported they will address the Board of Supervisors on December 18th during the public comment period to inform the Board about ABC’s planning meeting in January. Irene Davidson reported she is retiring in March 2019. For continuity, Irene Davidson has asked Teresa McClung, Deputy Forest Supervisor, Humboldt-Toiyabe, to attend the ABC’s meetings until the new District Ranger is hired. Mo Loden reported the AWG has advertised ABC’s planning meeting in January to encourage their members to attend. AnnaBelle Monti reported that out of 9,000 Christmas tree permits, there are only a few remaining. Ron Hames reported the Community Wildfire Protection Plan has been completed. Ron Hames encouraged everyone to review the 10 year plan. It needs to be accurate as a reference for funding and as protection for the community. Public comments need to be directed to Board members by December 10th, when the comments will be submitted to the Alpine Fire Safe Council.  Ron Hames suggested the ABC, in conjunction with the County’s future road improvement project, take a role in recommending how to deal with the biomass which will be generated by future tree thinning along Pleasant Valley Road and Hot Springs Road. Mary Rawson reported the7th Annual Markleeville Christmas Faire on December 1st, was a success. The event was relocated to Turtle Rock Park due to weather. 150 people attended and a variety of food vendors and crafters made the event memorable. Kevin Vella, National Wildlife Turkey Federation, thanked the ABC and expressed an interest in collaboration. David Griffith reported the County has agreed to submit an ~$200,000 grant proposal to CALFire for a Fire Protection Grant. The Fire Protection plan will pick up where the Community Wildfire Protection Plan leaves off to provide more specific recommendations. David Griffith reported he and Michael Barton have joined a Forest Management Task Force to address how to reduce the risk and cost of fire. This statewide group will meet over the course of a year and provide recommendations to the Governor.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday January 8th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park. As described above it will be a planning meeting.  February will feature a science presentation on the Leviathan Mine Superfund Site by Atlantic Richfield and the Environmental Protection Agency.

To contact us you can either leave a comment on this blog, or for a private comment, visit our contact us page.

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National Wild Turkey Federation Presentation

At the December meeting Kevin Vella of the Nation Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) will be making a presentation on the National Wild Turkey Federation’s work on habitat restoration across the nation.

The goal of the NWTF is to “Save the Habitat – Save the Hunt”.  Their objective is to conserve or enhance four million acres of wildlife habitat across the nation.  The work they do to improve wildlife habitat also improves forest and watershed health, which is a key part of our mission.  Under a Master Stewardship Agreement with the US Forest Service the NWTF manages and finances forest restoration projects under Forest Service guidance on National Forest Lands.  Potential projects to improve forest and watershed health that the ABC does not have the proven capacity to manage could be completed by the NWTF.

Kevin Vella is a Wildlife Biologist for the NWTF, and is responsible for all their conservation efforts in California and Nevada.  He grew up in Calistoga, CA at the northern end of the Napa Valley, where he began his passion for natural resource management.  In 2011 Kevin graduated from Humboldt State University with a BS in Wildlife Management.  In 2014 he began working for the NWTF, and has developed a skillset in utilizing stewardship agreements with the Forest Service to help fund and increase pace and scale of forest health and restoration projects.

The December meeting is scheduled for Tuesday December 4th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

November Meeting Summary

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photo by Mary Rawson

Our meeting on November 6th, 2018 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 30 members of the public and agencies.  This was the best attendance since our kickoff meeting.

Steve Wilensky and Irvin Jim presented the history of the Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS) and the Washoe Crew.  It is an inspiring story of perseverance in the face of cynicism and negativity yielding to recognized success.  CHIPS, which started some 14 years ago as a group of dedicated volunteers trying to rescue their community is now a significant enterprise employing over 40 people in forest and watershed restoration, fuels reduction, cultural site restoration and more.  With the exception of the ski resorts, CHIPS is now the largest private employer in Alpine County with some 20 members of the Hung-a-lel-ti community on the payroll.  This would not have happened without the full support of the Wahoe Tribe and its members.

CHIPS concentrates its hiring in disadvantaged communities where many residents may have been unemployed for an extended period of time.  While this presents its challenges, it is also extremely rewarding to see people take advantage of the opportunity to improve their lives and those of their families.  The work experience these individuals get will also help them should they decide to change jobs in the future.  Although it has grown tremendously, CHIPS is still a volunteer operation.  Directors and management at CHIPS are all volunteers.  Only the field crews are paid.

Less Talk, More Action.  It was agree that the ABC needs to move from learning about the science of forest and watershed health to doing something about it.  Our first project planning session will be at the January 8th meeting.  The BLM has kindly offered to build a GIS of past, present and planned projects in the County.  To date the Forest Service, BLM, CALFIRE, State Parks, Mule Deer Foundation, and the Alpine Watershed Group have indicated they plan to participate and hopefully one or two others will join in as well.

A decision from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) on our grant application is apparently still pending Congress’s approval of the Dept. of Commerce’s budget for FY 2019.  The EDA has requested some additional information which has been sent to them.

Participant updates included the following.  Kimra McAfee, AWG, announced that David Griffith and Peggy Ristorcelli will present a short geological history of Alpine County, November 13th, 5:30-7:00, at the Woodfords Indian Education Center.  Irene Davidson reported the Christmas tree permit sales have begun and the permits will be effective beginning December 1st.  Matt Driscoll reported SNC’s Strategic Land Conservation Grant Program Guideline webinar is Friday, November 9th. It will be recorded.  Once the public comment period is complete there will be finalized grant deadlines to report.  Mo Loden introduced the new AmeriCorps volunteers, Taylor Norton and Shauna Langan.  Ron Hames reported that the County voted to send in a petition to recall the Lands Access Pass.  Lewis Ames offered his support in strengthening the ability of the ABC to implement projects.  Coreen Francis reported that the BLM and the HT have been collaborating with the Northern Nevada Corrections Power Plant to explore options for reopening the site.  David Griffith reported that the Alpine Fire Safe Council (AFSC) and the County are working to decide whether to apply for this round of CalFire Fire Prevention grants; the ABC will continue its efforts to bring the AFSC and the County into the ABC.  The AFSC was awarded $112,000 this year and will focus on small projects in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI); funds cannot be used for defensible space.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday December 4th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  It will feature a presentation by Kevin Vella of the National Wild Turkey Federation.  The National Wild Turkey Federation does a lot of forest and habitat restoration on Forest Service lands nationally.  January will be a planning meeting as discussed above.  February will feature a science presentation by Atlantic Richfield and the Environmental Protection Agency on the Leviathan Superfund site.

To contact us you can either leave a comment on this blog, or for a private comment, visit our contact us page.

The CHIPS/Washoe Crew Story at the November Meeting.

At the November meeting Steve Wilensky, Chair of Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS), and Irvin Jim, Chair of the Woodfords Community Council, will be making a presentation on the CHIPS/Washoe crew.  The advances they have made in just two short years, the work they are doing, and where they see themselves in the future.

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CHIPS/Washoe Crew taking a break at Lake Tahoe

CHIPS was founded in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit to put people in economically depressed communities back to work.  CHIPS currently has more than 45 employees, including some 20 members of the Washoe Tribe from the Hung-a-lel-ti Community in Alpine County.  They perform a variety of work, including forest and meadow restoration, watershed stewardship, cultural site work, fire-safe fuel reduction, and fuel break construction in the wildland-urban interface.  They currently work under agreements and contracts with the Amador Fire Safe Council; the Stanislaus, El Dorado, and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests; the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit; the National Park Service; the Bureau of Land Management; and numerous private landowners.   CHIPS has purchased a former lumber mill site in Wilseyville and have a contract with PG&E to sell electricity generated from excess biomass removed from the forest.

The Hung-a-lel-ti community, also known as the Woodfords Community, is the southern band of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.  In 2016 the Washoe Tribe partnered with CHIPS to train tribal members in forest and meadow restoration, cultural site restoration, fuels reduction, prescribed burning, and other work directed to reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.  This year the crew won a “best in Tahoe” award from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit for their restoration work at Spooner Summit.

Before the Washoe Tribe contracted with CHIPS the unemployment rate in the Hung-a-lel-ti community was in the order of 67% and it was generally believed that people did not want to work.  The crew has shown that that was far from true, and given the opportunity there were many men and women that were eager to work and improve their situation.  It is a great success story and credit goes to a number of people and organizations, and most importantly to the members of the crew themselves.  The Alpine Biomass Collaborative’s role was simply to connect CHIPS and the Woodfords Community Council, and then they took it from there.

The November meeting is scheduled for Tuesday November 6th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

October Meeting Summary

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photo by Mary Rawson

Our meeting on October 2nd, 2018 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 17 members of the public and agencies.

Steve Frisch of the Sierra Nevada Business Council gave a presentation on the 20 MW Loyalton Biomass Cogen Facility in Sierra County.  This is a far larger facility than would ever be viable here, but illustrates how excess biomass from the forest can be put to productive use.  Since April, 2018 the facility has been producing electricity for sale to the Southern California Public Power Authorities, an aggregator that purchases electricity for utilities in the Los Angeles area.  The facility is receiving 8.8 cents/kilowatt-hour.  The facility’s mission statement is “to provide infrastructure resources which will foster the commercial success of advanced wood products technologies and research-related business that will provide solutions to preserve the headwaters of the Sierra Nevada region”.  While electricity for sale off-site is the principal product at the moment, the plan is to use the electricity and heat produced by the plant to power other on-site businesses related to biomass utilization.  Because the bulk of the biomass used to power the facility comes from the excess removed from the forest, a prime benefit of the facility is to improve forest and watershed health by reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Steve also discussed the role of the Sierra Small Business Development Center in developing the facility and how it could possibly be helpful here as well.

A decision from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) on our grant application is apparently pending Congress’s approval of the Dept. of Commerce’s budget for FY 2019.  A letter supporting Alpine County’s appeal of the California Fish and Wildlife’s Lands Pass program as it affects Hope Valley was approved and has been sent.

Michael Barton and Annie Dean have essentially finished the presentation about the ABC for the Board of Supervisors.  It is scheduled to be presented to the Board at its Oct. 16th meeting at 9:45 am.  It will be helpful if those of you who have participated in the ABC could attend.

Participant updates included the following.  Kendal Young, Cornerstone CFLR Coordinator, USFS, reported that he will continue to help the ACCG and reiterated his willingness to assist the ABC.  Steve Wilensky, CHIPS, reported on behalf of Irvin Jim, Chairman, Hung-A-Lel-Ti Community, that the CHIPS crew was awarded the Best of Tahoe Award. There are 20 workers currently on the crew and 25 are anticipated next year. The crew will be accepting applications beyond the Hung-a-lel-ti community.  This will be the first year-round employment which is a landmark for CHIPS.  Paul Fuselier, BLM, reported the Indian Creek Campground will close October 8th.  This year recreation.gov was used for 75% of the sites generating an increase of 40% in funding; next year recreation.gov will be used for 100% of the sites.  A new bathroom and shower facility will be built pending funding.  The issue of non RV dumping is being considered.  Ron Hames reported he attended an SNC meeting in Alturas regarding funding opportunities from SB 901 and Prop 3.  Ron Hames reported he is researching a parcel of land which the Washoe Community might be interested in purchasing.  David Griffith reported the Alpine Fire Safe Council was awarded $112,000 for chipping and fuels reduction; projects are being identified.  On November 3rd at 5:00 pm there will be an appreciation dinner for volunteer fire fighters held at the Hung-a-lel-ti gym. The event is being organized by the Chamber of Commerce which is accepting donations of raffle prizes and funds.  Checks should be payable to the Woodford’s Fire Department.  There was interest within the ABC about David Griffith’s idea of applying to CalFire for a grant to generate a plan to protect the community from wildfire. The grant would pay for a forester to draw up fuel breaks without regards to boundaries.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday November 6th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  It will feature a presentation by CHIPS and the Washoe Crew on their accomplishments.  In December Kevin Vella of the National Wild Turkey Federation will be making a presentation.  The National Wild Turkey Federation does a lot of forest and habitat restoration on Forest Service lands nationally.  It is not planned to have a January meeting.  Tentatively February will feature a science presentation by Atlantic Richfield on the Leviathan Superfund site.

To contact us you can either leave a comment on this blog, or for a private comment, visit our contact us page.