Aspen Restoration in the Inter-mountain West

Our March meeting over Zoom will feature Dr. Stanley Kitchen of the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station.  His presentation will be on the importance, decline, and restoration of aspen forests in the Intermountain West.  This should be of particular interest as the Carson Ranger District is working to move forward with their West Carson project.

As highly productive and biologically diverse communities, healthy quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides; hereafter aspen) forests provide a wide range of ecosystem services across western North America.  Western aspen decline during the last century has been attributed to multiple causes and their interactions including: altered fire regimes, drought, excessive use by domestic and wild ungulates, and conifer encroachment.  Today’s managers need science-based guidance to develop and implement strategies and practices to restore structure, processes and resilience to the full range of aspen functional types across multiple spatial scales.  In these guidelines, a step-by-step process for making decisions for aspen restoration is detailed including: 1) assessment of aspen condition, 2) identification of problematic conditions, 3) determination of causal factors, 4) selection of appropriate response options, 5) monitoring for improvement, and 6) assessment and adaptation.  The need for reference areas is described in which the full range of natural environmental conditions and ecosystem processes associated with aspen can be observed and quantified. These guidelines provide a road map for decision makers to adaptively manage aspen in a time of increasing environmental stress and in anticipation of an uncertain future.

Dr. Stanley Kitchen is a Research Botanist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station and Scientist-in-charge of the Desert Experimental Range.  He is committed to working collaboratively to address the science needs of the Forest Service and other Federal and State land management agencies.  He has broad experience unraveling the impacts of invasive species, climate variability and disturbance on natural systems, with particular interest in long-term patterns of fire in forested and non-forested systems of the Interior West.  Currently, Stan serves on the Steering Committee for the Western Aspen Alliance and as a science advisor for the Utah Forest Restoration Working Group and the Monroe Mountain Working Group, diverse collaboratives grappling with the complexities of restoring aspen communities on a landscape scale.

Future Meetings:  In April we will have presentations on prescribed fire by District Ranger Matt Zumstein and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District’s Smoke Management Plan by Executive Director Phill Kiddoo.  For May there will be a presentation on the role and importance of refugia after wildfires by Dr. Meg Krawchuk of the University of Oregon.  In June we will have a presentation on Postfire Restoration Framework for National Forests in California (the just released GTR 270) with Dr. Marc Meyer et al, of the USFS.  Suggestions for possible speakers are always welcome.

The March meeting it will be Tuesday March 2nd at 6:00 pm via Zoom video conference.  The Zoom link will be active beginning about 5:45 pm to give people time to chat and resolve any technical problems.  The connection information is below.

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/tZAvc-2orj8sGtSo5WJQlFraEucixmOoTmuD/ics?icsToken=98tyKuGsrD8uGtSRthmHRpwIAI-gLPTziCldjbduk0rSKRFfRBH3E_dBO6pyP9fk

Meeting ID: 842 4400 4600,  Passcode: 095318

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Meeting ID: 876 9783 5270,  Passcode: 009634

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February Meeting Summary

Our Zoom meeting on February 2nd was attended by 17 members of the public and agencies.  Dr. Scott Stephens of the University of California at Berkeley made an excellent presentation on what needs to be done to return our forests to a healthy and resilient state.

Although those that follow climate scientists believe that the changing climate is the overwhelming cause of the increase in amount and severity of wildland fires, scientists that concentrate their research on forests are more of the opinion that the unhealthy condition of our forests is a more important factor.  The forests of today are very different to what they were prior to European settlement.  Today they are much denser, and consequently they are less resilient when stressed as there is not enough water and nutrients to sustain them.  So, how do we get back to resilient forests?  Dr. Stephen’s presentation showed how it has been done with multi-year programs of thinning and prescribed fire which returns the forest to a more sustainable and resilient state.  Unfortunately multi-year programs have not been embraced by land managers, decision makers, or grant-making agencies.

Even if climate change was to disappear tomorrow, our forests would still not be healthy and resilient.  But by following the recommendations of Dr. Stephens and other forest researchers we can return our forests to the healthy and resilient state they were in prior to European settlement.

As promised, Dr. Stephens provided us with three references.  For a more detailed look at the work behind his presentation go here.  Two more papers that are of interest are here and here.

Participant Updates:  Zach Wood reported the county is seeking community support for working on private property as part of the Wild Fire Risk Mitigation Plan.  Shane Rasmos reported he is the STPUD liaison for Alpine County; he looks forward to working with the ABC.  Rich Harvey reported his NRCS grant proposal was not funded; he has resubmitted it and will hear in a few months.  Mo Loden reported the next AWG meeting is March 9th at 5:30 and will include discussion on the impact of recreation on the watershed.  She encouraged participants to visit the AWG website to participate in a survey for project ideas.  Matt Driscoll reported the SNC hopes for $70 million from the Wild Fire Forest Resilience funds from the Governor’s budget.  $20 million will be used this fiscal year for immediate action projects.  The SNC will approve guidelines in March 2021.  Matt Driscoll has talked to David Griffith about CEQA ready projects in Alpine County.  Mark Schwartz reported the next Water Company meeting is February 18th from 9-10 am.  For more information visit markleevillewatercompany@gmail.com.  Mark Schwartz reported the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce has submitted a planning permit to change the Death Ride by replacing Carson Pass with a route from Hermit Valley to east of Lake Alpine.  It’s hopeful the Death Ride will happen this year.  There will be a virtual ghost ride version of the Death Ride on April 3rd.  Coreen Francis reported on behalf of Tim Roide.  The BLM has signed ABC’s MOU.  The BLM was funded to conduct brush and tree thinning on 280 acres this fall from September-November 2021.  The risks outweighed the benefits on the downslope portion of the Poor Boy Ridge Project.  Future projects include funding requests for 210 acres adjacent to Fredericksburg with treatment from September – November 2022.  Anna Belle Monti reported more fuels reduction on Hot Springs Road last fall.  USFS has been working with CHIPS in the same area.  Fuel permits are available to purchase at the Alpine Chamber of Commerce.  There are piles to burn in the Pleasant Valley area;  USFS is waiting for a better weather window to proceed.

Future Meetings:  March:  Aspen Restoration In Utah With Applicability To the Intermountain West, Dr. Stanley Kitchen.  April:  Presentation on prescribed and managed fire with Matt Zumstein, Carson District Ranger with the Humboldt-Toiyabe N.F. and  Phill Kiddoo, Executive Director with the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District on the District’s Smoke Management Plan.  May:  Presentation on the role and importance of refugia after wildfires, Dr. Meg Krawchuk of the University of Oregon.  Any suggestions for possible speakers are welcome.

The March meeting will be via video conference at 6:00 pm on Tuesday March 2nd.

Forest Restoration in the Sierra Nevada

Our February meeting over Zoom will feature Dr. Scott Stephens of the University of California, Berkeley.  His presentation will be on the science behind forest restoration in the Sierra Nevada.  We have had lots of presentations on what constitutes a healthy and resilient forest, but how do we get there from here?

Dr. Stephens’ research is directed to understanding the interactions of wildland fire and ecosystems.  This includes how prehistoric fires once interacted with ecosystems, how current wildland fires are affecting ecosystems, and how future fires, management, and climate change will impact the ecosystems of western North America.  Stephens is also interested in wildland fire and forest policy and how it can be improved to meet the challenges of the next decades, both in the US and internationally.  He is a leading researcher on forests of the Sierra Nevada.

Future Meetings:  In March Dr. Stanley Kitchen, Research Botanist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station will be making a presentation on aspen restoration in Utah with applicability to the Intermountain West.  In April we will have presentations on prescribed fire by District Ranger Matt Zumstein and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District’s Smoke Management Plan by Executive Director Phill Kiddoo.  Suggestions for possible speakers are always welcome. 

The February meeting it will be Tuesday February 2nd at 6:00 pm via Zoom video conference.  The Zoom link will be active beginning about 5:45 pm to give people time to chat and resolve any technical problems.  The connection information is below.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87697835270?pwd=MlFUZlVNOVFNU3ZtZ3ZYRVVzbG9sZz09
Meeting ID: 876 9783 5270
Passcode: 009634
One tap mobile
+14086380968,,87697835270#,,,,*009634# US (San Jose)
+16699006833,,87697835270#,,,,*009634# US (San Jose)
Dial by your location
+1 408 638 0968 US (San Jose)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID: 876 9783 5270
Passcode: 009634
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kcQwzHsIx

December Update

Grant Writing Workshop:  There is a free grant writing workshop Feb. 9, 10, and 11 for community, nonprofit, and local government representatives who would like to learn how to prepare effective grant applications.  This workshop is geared to the beginning (no experience) and intermediate (moderate grant writing experience) levels, and is taught by Elissa Brown who is one of the best.  It is being coordinated by the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program’s east side representative.  Alpine County employees, and members of local non-profits and community organizations can apply.  Contact Holly Alpert at holly.easterncaliforniawater@gmail.com or 760-709-2212 for more information or to register.

The instructor, Elissa Brown of the SNC, is really good.

Board of Forestry Regulation Update:  The California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection is working on a comprehensive update on its Fire Safe Regulations.  These regulations are related to protection of homes and communities, not forest health.  In their current form these new regulations, while needed, will have an unnecessary negative impact on both existing as well as future development.  The current draft can be found here, and comments received to date can be found here.  Further comments are encouraged.  There is another public workshop at 9:00 am on January 12th, and one can register here or obtain the agenda here.  Essentially the current draft has had lots of input from fire officials, but little input to date by local governments that will need to implement the regulations or members of the public.

Organization Update:  As mentioned last month, the Bartons are moving which will leave a hole in the Board of Directors of the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) 501(c)(3).  In addition to Michael Barton’s enthusiasm for forest and watershed health, and improving the local economy, Michael provided valuable business and financial experience, and counsel.  The ABC 501(c)(3) is looking for someone with good business and/or financial experience as well as enthusiasm for our mission to join the Board of Directors.  If you or someone you know might be interested please contact me at dGriffith.9@gmail.com or 530-694-2168.

Future Meetings:  There will not be a January meeting as most agency personnel will either be on leave or just getting back after the holidays.  The February meeting will feature Dr. Scott Stephens of the University of California at Berkley talking about the science behind forest restoration in the Sierra.  In April we will have presentations on prescribed fire and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District’s Smoke Management Plan.  Any suggestions for possible speakers are welcome. 

The next meeting will be February 2nd at 6:00 pm via video conference.  A link will be sent about a week before the meeting.

November Update

Things have slowed down significantly and we have not been able to line up a speaker for December. 

The state’s Forest Management Task Force is preparing its final recommendations for Governor Newsom’s consideration on how best to reduce the risk of and damage from wildfire.  The preliminary recommendations can be found by clicking on the Working Group Recommendations link.  There has been strong participation in the Task Force by a few forested counties including Alpine, Fire Safe Councils, Resource Conservation Districts, most state agencies, Region 5 of the US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Organization Update:  With the current ban on indoor gatherings the MOU is being circulated for signatures rather than having a dedicated signing event.  Currently the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, and the Alpine Watershed Group have signed.  

Michael Barton unfortunately, at least for us, is leaving Alpine County.  He has been a great supporter of the ABC and also served as Secretary-Treasurer on the 501(c)(3) of the same name.  His knowledge, advice, and support will be sorely missed.  Thank you for everything Michael, and the best to you and Barbara in your future home.

Future Meetings:  Unfortunately there won’t be a December meeting as we have been unsuccessful in lining up a presentation.  There will not be a January meeting as most agency personnel will either be on leave or just getting back after the holidays.  The February meeting will feature Dr. Scott Stephens of the University of California at Berkley talking about the science behind forest restoration in the Sierra.  In April we will have presentations on prescribed fire and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District’s Smoke Management Plan.  Any suggestions for possible speakers are welcome. 

The next meeting will be February 2nd at 6:00 pm via video conference.