June Meeting Summary and Fuels Reduction Field Tour

First of all an apology to all those whose surname is in the last half of the alphabet as I clicked on the wrong e-mail list and instead of you all getting the meeting announcement a totally different group got an e-mail that would have looked strange to them.  Sorry.  The video recording of the meeting will be available here for the rest of the month for those that are interested.  It is 290 MB in size.  If anyone would just want to review the slide presentation let me know and I will send it to them.

Our Zoom meeting on June 1st was attended by only eight members of the public and agencies due to the lack of distribution of the meeting notice as described above.  Dr. Marc Meyer of the U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Ecology Program made a presentation on the new Framework for Post-fire Restoration in California’s National Forests.  The presentation was a summary of the recently published report PSW-GTR-270 which can be found here.  There was also a major discussion on how best to get property owners comfortable with fuels reduction and willing to sign letters of commitment

Guiding principles for forest recreation include restoration of key ecological processes, consideration of landscape context, promotion of regional native biodiversity, sustainability of diverse ecosystem services, establishment of a prioritization approach for management interventions, and incorporation of adaptation to agents of change.  Implementation means thinking more broadly and strategically especially in terms of landscape-scale goals, and identifying different areas that would benefit most from maintenance or restoration and defining the desired conditions.  New tools, especially spatial data tools, should be used.

The Need for More Competitive Grant Applications:  The County was not successful with its grant application to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy for a fuels reduction program in the Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan (WRMP) Tier 1 projects.  Essentially the project was not competitive due to lack of demonstrated property owner support and willingness to sign a letter of commitment to the project.  This has been a problem for some time and there was a major discussion on how best to give property owners the information they need to feel comfortable with a project.  Don Hittenmiller suggested the most effective way to do this would be to show property owners examples of pre- and post-fuels reduction.  Further discussions subsequent to the meeting have resulted in plans to host property owners within the WRMP Tier 1 area on a field tour on a weekend in late June or early July.  The Forest Service will provide the technical experts, the County will cover invitation printing/mailing and food/refreshment costs, and the ABC will contribute organization.

Resource Advisory Committee (RAC):  The Forest Service is working with the Board of Supervisors to recruit members for the RAC.  It will be advising the Forest Service on what projects to fund in Alpine County for the benefit of Forest Service land.  The initial amount available is ~$120,000.  The time commitment is for two to four meetings per year.  The primary qualification is to be a California resident, which means for example that someone that may work in Alpine County but live in South Lake Tahoe would be eligible.  The aim is to have members of the RAC that represent a broad range of interests in Alpine County.  Historically projects funded through this program have included those proposed by volunteer groups working to improve the environment in Alpine County, so it is in your interest to participate.

For application forms or questions contact Carson District Ranger Matt Zumstein, matthew.zumstein@usda.gov, 775-884-8100, or myself, dGriffith.9@gmail.com.  The deadline for accepting applications is July 2nd, so please don’t let this sit on the back burner.

Pyregence’s Forecasting Tool Demonstration:  There is a demonstration of this new tool for forecasting wildfire behavior on June 18th.  To register or learn more go here.  Some of the researchers that have made presentations to the ABC over the years are part of the team that developed this tool.  Thanks to Shane Romsos for the information.

Participant Updates:  Matt Driscoll reiterated that the major reason the Alpine County application was not funded was not having enough landowner support.  The SNC is waiting for the June budget to be passed; they don’t anticipate major contention over wildlife funding.  Anna Bell Monti reported that the National Forest Foundation (NFF) was awarded a grant through the SNC for treatments on approximately 800 acres on the West Carson and Monitor Pass projects.  Steve Brink reported the North Fork Bioenergy Plant is erected but not running yet.  The interconnection fee with PG&E has not been resolved.  The project cost $15 million for the two megawatt plant.  David Griffith reported USFS is working with the BOS to recruit 15 members for the Alpine County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC).  The purpose of RAC is to make recommendations to the Forest Service on which projects it should pursue in Alpine County.  There is $120,000 available.  The committee will meet two to four times per year.  David Griffith urged ABC members to volunteer for RAC or recruit others.  The deadline is July 2, 2021.  David Griffith reported that, unfortunately, Zach Wood is leaving the County to work for a consultant.  It will take time for new employees to acquire Zach’s skill set.  He also reported there is some progress on the scoping study which identified two projects with excess biomass.  Though the SNC Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan grant was not funded due to lack of letters of authorization from landowners, the CalFire grant that the County applied for on behalf of USFS for 600 acres of fuels reduction west of Grover Hot Springs, looks promising.  A generous donation from an anonymous donor allowed the ABC to hire Brian Peters to write the grant; we should know in July if it gets funded.

Future Meetings:  July:  Depending on when the field tour for property owners discussed above is scheduled there may not be a July meeting.  If there is it will be a presentation on the Value of Environmental Services and the Risk to Alpine County’s Economy from Climate Change.   Any suggestions for possible speakers are welcome.

The July meeting is pending, but if there is one it will be via video conference at 6:00 pm on Tuesday July 6th.

Postfire Restoration Decision Making

Our June meeting over Zoom will feature Dr. Mark Meyer of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station presenting the new General Technical Report (GTR) 270 on postfire restoration decision making.  This should be relevant to the recent Washington and Slink fires in Alpine County.

Abstract:  The increasing frequency and extent of uncharacteristically severe wildfires pose a significant threat to California’s forest and shrubland ecosystems.  To address these trends, we developed a science-based framework to guide the development of postfire restoration on national forests in California.  The framework is founded on a set of guiding principles and a five-step process that leads to the development of a restoration portfolio that can inform project planning, monitoring, and research in California’s diverse ecosystems.  GTR 270 can be found here.

Biography:  Dr. Marc Meyer is an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Ecology Program and serves the Inyo, Sequoia, and Sierra National Forests.   He has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California Davis, is a certified senior ecologist with the Ecological Society of America, and he is one of three editors of the new general technical report (PSW-GTR-270) devoted to postfire restoration on national forests in California.  Marc’s work focuses on integrating science information into land management planning and ecological restoration projects in the southern Sierra Nevada of California.

Future Meetings:  In July a presentation on the Value of Environmental Services and the Risk to Alpine County’s Economy from Climate Change.  Suggestions for possible speakers are always welcome.  Depending on the progress of covid-19 and whether agency partners can attend, it may be possible to resume in-person meetings.

The June meeting it will be Tuesday June 1st 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/84244004600?pwd=Tzl0Q2c4ekdHMVRDOTF3YXZ6NGdMQT09

Meeting ID: 842 4400 4600, Passcode: 095318

One tap mobile

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+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

May Meeting Summary & Climate Change Workshop

Our Zoom meeting on May 4th was attended by 12 members of the public and agencies.  The main presentation for the meeting was the role of refugia in wildfires and other disturbances by Dr. Meg Krawchuk of Oregon State.  In addition the ABC approved three letters of support for grant applications.

Even in cases of extreme wildfire there are often pockets of the landscape that are not burned, or only partially burned.  These pockets, or refugia, can be the source of the natural recovery for plants and animals from the wildfire.  Although seeds from surviving trees may not fall more than five or ten meters from a tree, burrowing animals etc. can transport the seeds as much as 250 meters from a tree over a 15 year period.  Often the same refugia is left relatively untouched after more than one wildfire, suggesting topography, prevailing wind direction, or available moisture among other factors may be controls on where refugia survive.  This can be important in firefighting as knowing where these refugia are likely to be suggests safe areas for fire fighters and preferred locations for fuel breaks.

Letters of Support:  The ABC approved the following letters of support for grant applications:

Alpine County received a letter of support for its grant application to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy for implementation of the Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan Tier 1 projects.

The Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program for the East Side (Alpine, Mono, and Inyo counties) received a letter of support for its grant application to CalFire for its proposed program to educate dispersed campers on the dangers of wildfire.

Alpine County received a letter of support for its grant application to CalFire for the Hot Springs Fuel Reduction Project on Forest Service land from west of Grover’s Hot Springs State Park along Hot Springs Road to near Markleevillage and then south of Markleevillage.

Hot Springs Fuels Reduction Project:  This project, which is on Forest Service land was discussed and supported at the ABC’s April meeting.  It ties together adjacent projects by State Parks at Grover’s Hot Springs, a CalVTP project in the Shay Creek Subdivision by CalFire, the hoped for Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan Tier 1 Markleevillage project, and a BLM fuels reduction project adjacent to Hot Springs Road.  Although the project is on Forest Service land, the Forest Service does not currently have the resources to apply for and administer the grant.  Alpine County has volunteered to be the project applicant, and is able to file the grant application with the ABC preparing the application.  The ABC is able to do this thanks to a generous anonymous donor that has committed up to $20,000 to cover the cost of preparing the grant application.  This would be the first fuels reduction project in Alpine County that approaches the pace and scale of fuels reduction that is needed to restore forest resilience and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Effect of a Changing Climate on the Eastern Sierra Region:  For those interested in possible effects of climate change on where we live and our economy there is a presentation of the Sustainable Recreation and Tourism Initiative’s Regional Climate Adaptation & Resilience Assessment: “A Changing Climate | Vulnerability in California’s Eastern Sierra”.  The presentation will cover research and conclusions in the following three areas: Climate Adaptation & Resilience Assessment, Natural Capital & Ecosystem Services Analysis, and Recommended Actions.  The presentation will be via Zoom on May 12th at 2:00 pm and will be part of a special joint workshop of the Mammoth Lakes Town Council and their Planning & Economic Development Commission.  It covers the entire Eastern Sierra Region, including Inyo, Mono, and Alpine counties, the Humboldt-Toiyabe and Inyo National Forests, and five units of the National Parks system.  To join click on https://monocounty.zoom.us/s/94467884456.  Regardless of one’s opinion on climate change and what should be done about it, the presentation should be worth attending.

Participant Updates:  Brian Newman reported that he anticipates burning permits will be suspended by the end of May due to dry conditions and an uptick in fire activity locally and statewide.  Subsequent to the ABC meeting CalFire issued a suspension of burn permits in Alpine County starting Monday May 10th at 12:00 am.  Coreen Francis reported that the BLM is working on removing dead trees from Indian Creek Campground.  Tim Roide has employed a commercial firewood business for the job and he can share their contact information for anyone who needs dead trees removed from their property.  January Riddle reported that the Alpine Trails Association Day is June 12th at Curtz Lake.  There will be docents and guided hikes.  Matt Millar reported that the NFF is finalizing a master agreement with the Humboldt-Toiyabe.  Anna Belle Monti has been working with the NFF.  This agreement is contingent on several grant applications and would allow for collaborative projects.  Matt Millar said the NFF was interested in possibly signing ABC’s MOU.  Rich Harvey reported that his NRCS grant application is still pending.  He also reported that there were an estimated 20 campfires at the airport and he inquired about bans from USFS and BLM.  Coreen Francis will report the campfires to law enforcement.

Future Meetings:  June: Post-fire Restoration Framework for National Forests in California, Dr. Marc Meyer, et al., USFS.  Any suggestions for possible speakers are welcome.  There was not a ringing endorsement of returning to in-person meetings and so the June meeting will be via Zoom.

The June meeting will be via video conference at 6:00 pm on Tuesday June 1st.

Disturbance Refugia After Fire, Drought, and Insect Outbreaks.

Our May meeting over Zoom will feature Dr. Meg Krawchuk of Oregon State University presenting her research on disturbance refugia within mosaics of forest fire, drought, and insect outbreaks.  There will also be two requests for letters of support for grant applications.

Abstract:  Disturbance refugia—locations disturbed less severely or frequently than the surrounding landscape—provide a framework to highlight where and why important biological legacies persist as adjacent areas change, and their value in sustaining biodiversity.  Recent studies of disturbance refugia in forest ecosystems have focused primarily on fire, with a growing recognition of important applications to land management.  The most obvious examples of fire refugia in forests are the live trees that persist post-fire within a burn mosaic: where do they occur, is any of that forest persistence predictable, and why do refugia matter?  Krawchuk will discuss concepts of disturbance refugia, and fire refugia in particular, to illustrate their importance for scientists and land managers, particularly in the context of climate change where refugia are in the “slow lane” of change.  For more details on disturbance refugia, and climate change refugia concepts, see (free access): https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/15409309/2020/18/5.

Biography:  Dr. Meg A. Krawchuk leads the Landscape Fire and Conservation Science Research Group at Oregon State University, in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society in the College of Forestry.  Together with her lab group, she focuses on landscape ecology, fire ecology, biogeography, and conservation science, working at scales from local to global, addressing the causes and effects of ecological disturbances, with a particular interest in landscape fire.  Krawchuk generally thinks of herself as a pyrogeographer (such a great word): studying biotic and abiotic conditions responsible for the spatial distribution of fire, the fire ecology that results post-fire in burn mosaics, and the cultural/societal context that sets this all in play.  Website: http://people.forestry.oregonstate.edu/meg-krawchuk/.

Letters of Support:  Letters of support are being requested by the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program – East for a program to educate residents on what they can do to reduce their risk of catastrophic fire and by Alpine County for their grant application for implementing the three Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan (WRMP) Tier 1 projects.  Due to grant deadlines and the fact that the ABC participated in the WRMP this letter of support has already gone out.  The letters are attached to the meeting agenda which is available here.

Future Meetings:  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.  Depending on the progress of covid-19 and whether agency partners can attend, it may be possible to resume in-person meetings.

The May meeting it will be Tuesday May 4th 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.  This time I tested the Zoom link to make sure it is correct!

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84244004600?pwd=Tzl0Q2c4ekdHMVRDOTF3YXZ6NGdMQT09

Meeting ID: 842 4400 4600

Passcode: 095318

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

April Meeting Summary

Our Zoom meeting on April 6th was attended by 16 members of the public and agencies.  The main topic of the meeting was prescribed burning and regulation of smoke due to prescribed burns.  Presentations were made by Carson District Ranger Matt Zumstein and Air Pollution Control Officer Phill Kiddoo of the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.  A productive discussion was also had on priority multi-jurisdiction fuels reduction projects that could be eligible for CalFire or Sierra Nevada Conservancy funding.

Prescribed fire is one tool in the tool box that can be used to improve forest resilience and restore our forest to the resilient condition they were in prior to European settlement.  Native Americans in the Sierras used what we today call prescribed fire for thousands of years to maintain a resilient forest and improve food supplies for themselves and the wildlife that they relied on.  The term prescribed fire includes pile burning, understory burning, broadcast burning, and managed fire.  It reduces hazardous fuels, protecting communities from extreme fires, minimizes the spread of insects and disease, removes unwanted species that threaten species native to an ecosystem, provides forage for game, improves habitat for threatened and endangered species, recycles nutrients back to the soil, and promotes growth of trees, wildflowers, and other plants.

Prescribed fire is only used when it is the appropriate tool considering what needs to be done, and the temperature, humidity, winds, vegetation moisture, and smoke dispersal are such that it can be carried out safely.  Somewhere in the order of 1% of prescribed fires get out of control, and unfortunately they are the ones that make the news.  The Great Basin Unified Air Quality Control District has a Smoke Management Plan and works with the Forest Service and other agencies to minimize the amount and spread of smoke.  The amount of smoke produced from prescribed fire is trivial in comparison to that emitted from catastrophic wildfire.  Prescribed fire also significantly reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

Fuels Reduction Project Priority Discussion:  CalFire and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy have funding available for fuels reduction projects and the Forest Service requested input on what priority area they should follow up on with respect to lands that they manage.  Wilderness Areas are off limits, but Inventoried Roadless Areas are a possibility.  A consensus was reached that the area around Grover’s Hot Springs and to the west was the highest priority.  Subsequent to the ABC meeting, a project in this area that involved State Parks, the Forest Service, and Alpine County looks like it could be competitive for funding from CalFire.  All of the agencies involved are working collaboratively to try and make this happen.

Participant Updates:  Brian Newman reported that CalFire will be providing defensible space inspections in Alpine County in the next 6-8 weeks.  He has been working with Kris Hartnett.  They are upstaffing two new fire crews in Lake Tahoe; these crews will be involved in work with the State Parks and the Hot Springs Corridor project.  Matt Driscoll reported that the SNC does not have a deadline for the wildfire resilience grants; they are waiting for budget approval (subsequent to the meeting the grant deadline was set as April 30th).  The next fiscal year will include funding for implementation or planning grants. Mo Loden reported that the AWG will have continued discussion on Zoom, May 11th, 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m., regarding the impact of recreation trends on the West Fork of the Carson River.  Matt Zumstein reported the Forest Service is getting ready for fire season.  He will contact David Griffith and January Riddle about reactivating the Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) to access $130,000 of funding.  David Griffith reported he predicts the supervisors will be proactive.  Matt Zumstein is meeting with Steve Wilensky regarding opportunities for CHIPS.  Tim Roide reported that the BLM is gearing up for fire season.  They will treat 290 acres between October and November on Poor Boy Ridge and south and southwest of Turtle Rock Park.  There are challenges at Indian Creek Campground, which remains closed.  They are replacing the water line this summer and the bath house is being rebuilt; both projects are delayed.  The delay will allow them to address fuels reduction at the campground.  Crews will remove hazard trees.  Tim Roide is looking for woodcutters to remove tree bowls; anyone interested can contact him by email.  Trina Johnson reported the NRCS has program funding opportunities through their Regional Conservation Park Program.  The emphasis is on climate smart agriculture and forestry.  Details of this program are available here.

Future Meetings:  May:  Presentation on the role and importance of refugia after wildfires, Dr. Meg Krawchuk of the University of Oregon.  June: Post-fire Restoration Framework for National Forests in California, Dr. Marc Meyer, et al., USFS.  Any suggestions for possible speakers are welcome.  Depending on whether our agency partners will be permitted to attend an in-person meeting, there is a good chance that we will be able to resume in-person meetings beginning in June.

The May meeting will be via video conference at 6:00 pm on Tuesday May 4th.