June Meeting Summary

Our meeting on June 5th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 17 members of the public and agencies.

2018-06-05

Don Hittenmiller (ABC), David Loeks (Heartland Timber Homes), Anna Belle Monti (USFS)  photo by Annie Dean

David Loeks of Heartland Timber Homes made a great presentation on their patented system for building timber frame homes using non-commercial timber.  Loeks, who came all the way from Whitehorse in northern Canada, is thinking of expanding to the US, and Alpine County is a possible location.  Should that happen there would be five to ten full time jobs here, some seasonal jobs, and the operation would help in reducing the excess biomass in our forests.  Their proposed operation would need in the order of three to five acres.

While he was here we met with the Community Development Department, had a telephone conference with Golden Sierra Job Training, met with both the Humboldt-Toiyabe and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit National Forests, and with Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS) at their site in Calaveras County.  While the meetings in general were very favorable and most importantly there will be a sustainable wood supply, it will be a while before we know whether Heartland Timber Homes will be following up.  One of their key requirements is to find a local partner, and while some initial contacts were made it will take time for this to work out.

On the corporate side the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) has applied for a System for Award Management (SAM) number which will allow the Federal government to make direct deposits to ABC’s bank account should ABC receive any federal grants.  The ABC has also sent in its registration application to California’s Registry of Charitable Trusts.

Participant updates included the following.  David Griffith reported on David Loeks’ schedule: June 5th – Conference call with Golden Sierra Job Training; Meetings with the Community Development Department,  Anna Belle Monti, and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.  June 6th – Calaveras County meeting with Steve Wilensky and CHIPS.  David Griffith reported Region 4 of the Humboldt-Toiyabe has agreed to work on the Good Neighbor Authority Agreement as time permits.  Last week David Griffith attended a Mountain Counties Water Agencies meeting in Auburn that included presentations from two Congressmen, The Regional Forester and Deputy Regional Forester from Region 5, the Executive Director of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and the Vice-President of Sierra Pacific Industries.  The entire meeting was devoted to forest health and the relationship between forest health to water quality and quantity.  Rich Harvey introduced Kimra McAfee, the new Executive Director of the Alpine Watershed Group.  Applicants are being interviewed for the Alpine Watershed Group Coordinator position.  Rob Beltramo conveyed Irvin Jim’s regrets; he was unable to attend.  Irvin Jim sent words of appreciation and thanked ABC for its efforts and welcoming atmosphere.  Steve Wilensky reported that 15 Washoe CHIPS crew members finished their 32 Fire Training and S212 Saw Certifications.  This will allow the crew to conduct prescribed burning in the winter and create year round employment.  Steve Wilensky also reported that CHIPS had received a power purchase agreement for signature from PG&E.  This is the first such agreement that has been signed for a small biomass-to-bioenergy plant under California’s SB 1122 .

The next meeting is set for Tuesday July 3rd at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Dr. Hugh Safford, Senior Vegetation Ecologist for the USDA-Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, will be presenting his research on forest conditions prior to European settlement.  Ali Ursa, a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno will be addressing us in August.  Dr. Wesley Kilasten of the US Geologic Survey will be presenting his research on meadow restoration and water supply in the Carson River basin in September.  In October Steve Frisch and Chris Mertens of the Sierra Business Council will be making a presentation on the Loyalton biomass-to-bioenergy facility in Sierra County.

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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June Meeting Announcement

At the June meeting David Loeks of Heartland Timber Homes will be making a presentation on their patented system for timber frame homes that are constructed from non-commercial timber.  Much of the excess biomass in our forests is non-commercial timber, and if it can be used locally then it will help meet the forest health and local economic development elements of our mission statement.  This should be of interest to anyone who is wondering what sort of economic development might help reduce the excess biomass in our forests.

Heartland Timber Homes is a small Canadian company that has developed a patented system for constructing timber frame homes using non-commercial timber.  They are now looking to expand into the US and will be here to investigate what opportunities may be available in or near Alpine County.  Meetings are being arranged for them with local and federal officials to explore whether Alpine County would be a good place for them to set up shop.  To our knowledge this is the first company in a long time that has taken the trouble to come to Alpine County with the object of possibly investing here.  While their operation would not consume a huge amount of biomass, it would be a start, and would create a small number of new jobs.  In Canada they have been particularly successful in working with First Nations (tribal governments).

On the corporate front the Directors held their first meeting.  Annie Dean was elected Secretary-Treasurer, Don Hittenmiller was elected Vice-Chair, and David Griffith was elected Chair.  Thanks to a donation a bank account has been opened, but it will be a while before the ABC will be able to issue charitable receipts so please hold off on large donations in the interim.  Small donations will be welcome and will be used to help defer the costs of our monthly meetings.

California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office has released their Improving California’s Forest and Watershed Management report.  It is an excellent report and clearly lays out the scientific and economic basis for what the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) and many others are trying to achieve.  It is available on the download page on ABC’s blog/website.

The June meeting is scheduled for Tuesday June 5th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

May Meeting Summary

Our meeting on May 1st, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 16 members of the public and agencies.

Dr. Emanuele Ziaco of the DendroLab at the University of Nevada, Reno gave a fascinating presentation on his research on tree rings, and how they can be used to measure climate in the past with a precision down to a couple of weeks.  They can also measure tree growth on an hourly basis.  All of our previous presentations on forest health have focused on the macro picture, and to see how looking at individual cell characteristics can reveal previously unknown important information was fascinating.

The process of moving to a 501(c)(3) corporation advanced with approval of the draft bylaws.  Initial directors are Mary Rawson, Michael Barton, Annie Dean, Irvin Jim, Don Hittenmiller and David Griffith.

Participant updates included the following.  Matt Driscoll of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy reported that he was the new East-Subregion Area Representative and that he looked forward to attending more ABC meetings.  Gavin Feiger reported he was leaving the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) to take a position with the League to Save Lake Tahoe.  The next meeting of the AWG will be May 8th at 5:30 pm at the Mad Dog Café.  Mark Schwarz reported that the Markleeville Enhancement Committee was meeting on May 5th to clean up the empty lot at Montgomery Street and Hwy. 89.  He also reported that the community consensus was to refurbish rather than replace the welcome signs at the entrances to Markleeville.  They hope to complete refurbishing the signs by July 4th.  Tim Roide, BLM, reported there will be 200 acres of maintenance treatment in the fall of 2019 at Turtle Rock Park, Poor Boy Ridge and Indian Creek Campground.  Ron Hames reported that the Alpine Fire Safe Council will be holding public meetings to review the Community Wildfire Protection Plan at 6:00 pm on May 17th at the Markleeville Fire Station and at 6:00 pm on May 29th at the Woodfords Fire Station.  He also reported that the Board of Supervisors had had a discussion of the upcoming Adjacent Lot Ordinance and that the first public hearing would be held at the June 19th Board meeting.  David Griffith reported that the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and the California Natural Resources Agency were beginning discussions on a Good Neighbor Authority agreement.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday June 5th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  At the moment we are still seeking a speaker for this meeting.  Dr. Hugh Safford, Senior Vegetation Ecologist for the USDA-Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, is scheduled for July.  Ali Ursa, a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno will be addressing us in August.  Dr. Wesley Kilasten of the US Geologic Survey will be presenting his research on meadow restoration and water supply in the Carson River basin in September.

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

Dr. Emanuele Ziaco to present at May meeting.

At the May meeting Dr. Emanuel Ziaco of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) will be presenting his research on tree-rings and woody cells: revealing past and present climatic signal in xylem anatomical structure of conifers species in the western USA.  Our previously announced presentation by Eric Morway of the US Geologic Survey has had to be rescheduled.

Mountain ecosystems in the western United States host some of the most iconic long-lived conifer species, which have provided millennia-long tree-ring records of climatic and environmental changes.  Increasing temperature and moisture stress forecasted by greenhouse warming simulations for the American west pose a vital threat for the survival of these natural systems, affecting plant phenology, species distribution, and vegetation dynamics.  Understanding the mechanistic linkages between climate and tree growth at seasonal, sub-seasonal or daily timescales has therefore become a crucial challenge for both plant physiologists and palaeoclimatologists.  Dr. Ziaco will present the results of four years of field research on cambial phenology (i.e., onset/offset of wood formation), xylem anatomy, and plant-water relationships (i.e. circadian cycles of stem size variation) conducted on Great Basin conifer species: bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva D.K. Bailey), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum Engelm.), limber pine (Pinus flexilis E. James), pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla Torr. & Frém.), and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco).  Using a combination of PRISM data and higher-resolution data from a gradient-based network of monitoring stations (the Nevada Climate-ecohydrological Assessment Network – NevCAN), they identified the main climatic drivers of seasonal wood formation and stem water usage for these foundation species, including the effect of climatic patterns at the regional (i.e. the North American Monsoon) and global (i.e. ENSO, the El Niño/Southern Oscillation) levels.  Improved comprehension of plant morpho-physiological adjustments in response to environmental stressors at the cellular level allows us to integrate existing ring-width based climatic reconstructions with multi-centennial chronologies of anatomical parameters to capture the footprint of extreme episodes (i.e. severe droughts) on the hydraulic architecture of conifer species.

Dr. Ziaco is a broadly trained forest scientist with a scientific background in forest ecology and dendroecology, but he has also acquired experience in wood anatomy, cellular dynamics of xylem formation, and climate-ecosystem interactions during my years as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Nevada, Reno.  He is currently a co-Principal Investigator of a grant funded by the National Science Foundation to study relationships between regional climatic patterns, wood anatomy, and hydraulic architecture of conifer species in the western US, focused on the impacts of El Niño/Southern Oscillation on forest ecosystems of the western USA.

He has conducted field studies in Europe and in the Great Basin of the United States, developing successful international collaborations with research groups from the US, Canada, Germany and Italy, which have led to multiple publications in peer-reviewed journals.  His work in old-growth and unmanaged stands of Southern Europe investigated forest structural dynamics and disturbance regimes to develop guidelines for forest restoration and sustainable silvicultural practices, with particular attention to the management of deadwood and habitat trees to sustain forest ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation.

Since 2013 he has actively collaborated in establishing and maintaining a research program in wood anatomy and cellular dendroclimatology in the western United States, in close connection with the Nevada Climate-ecohydrological Assessment Network (NevCAN).  This system of long-term mountain observatories in eastern and southern Nevada was established to assess the adaptation of Great Basin conifer species to drought, and their vulnerability under future scenarios of greenhouse warming. I have also experience in environmental education related to forests and ecosystem services, acquired during my professional and teaching activity. His current (and future) research on xylogenesis and wood anatomy integrate and improve our understanding of ecosystem functioning, bridging the gap between tree physiology, structure of plant communities and stand dynamics, helping to preserve the productive, recreational, and biological value of forest species in the Western United States.

On the corporate front the draft bylaws (available here) will be up for approval and the ABC will be selecting its initial directors.  If you are concerned about forest and watershed health, and sustainable local economy please consider serving.  Thanks to Michael Barton for his work on preparing the draft bylaws.  An application has been filed for an Alpine County Small Grants Program grant to help us with the cost of our monthly meetings and the filing of an application for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation.

The May meeting is scheduled for Tuesday May 1st at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

April Meeting Summary

Our meeting on April 3rd, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 14 members of the public and agencies.

We may be making headway with getting the Humboldt-Toiyabe (HT) and California to work together to negotiate a Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) agreement.  California and Region 5 of the Forest Service have such an agreement and Nevada and Region 4 do too.  But the eastern side of Alpine County and much of Mono County are in Region 4 of the Forest Service and hence are not covered by a GNA agreement.  A GNA agreement makes it easier for well-funded agencies such as CalFire and hopefully the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to do work to improve forest health on federal lands.  Senator Feinstein’s office was instrumental in getting the conversations going.  Stay tuned.

Dr. Sarah Bisbing of the University of Nevada, Reno gave an impressive presentation on her research on how climate change is affecting the resiliency of the forests of the Sierra Nevada.  If we act proactively there is a good possibility that although the species mix may be different there will still be forests in the Sierra Nevada.  If we don’t, the existing mixed conifer forests may not survive a warmer and drier climate.  Interestingly, one of the species that has shown itself to be most adaptive is the sequoia.  Areas planted with sequoia 30 years ago by Sierra Pacific Industries now have trees up to 50 feet tall.

Amy Horne of Saving the West updated us on the Mass Timber Conference which had about 1,100 attendees.  Mass timber includes various types of engineered wood products that can be used to construct large buildings and in many instances can replace concrete and steel.  By using mass timber instead of concrete and steel the greenhouse gas emissions associated with concrete and steel can be avoided, and the wood used effectively sequesters carbon that otherwise would be released to the atmosphere in the form of the greenhouse gas CO2.  Some of the mass timber can be produced from trees as small as 5” dbh (diameter breast height).

Amy Horne also briefly discussed the Little Hoover Commission’s report on Rethinking Forest Management in the Sierra Nevada.  The Little Hoover Commission is an independent California state oversight agency with the mission of investigating state government operations and policy, and through reports and legislative proposals make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature to promote economy, efficiency and improved service in state operations.  Their report neatly summarizes all the presentations we have had to date with respect to what makes a forest healthy and resilient, and what needs to be done to return our forests to a resilient state.  It is available here.

Participant updates included the following.  Gavin Feiger reported that the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) will be having an event at Grover Hotsprings to celebrate Earth Day on April 21st.  During the year the AWG will be constructing an ADA trail at Grover Hotsprings, and they will have a small restoration project in Hope Valley.  Steve Wilensky reported the CHIPS crew will have prescribed fire training in May which will increase their capacity for work.  He also reported that Blue Mountain Electric has signed an offer sheet for $21 million dollars for their planned biomass-to-bioenergy plant, however despite the California Public Utilities Commission ordering Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to sign a power supply contract with Blue Mountain Electric, PG&E has so far refused to do so.  Should PG&E continue to refuse to sign the contract public pressure will be brought to bear through a civil disobedience campaign.  David Griffith reported that there is a Sierra to California All Lands Enhancement (SCALE) conference planned for May 7th and 8th in Sacramento.  The Sierra Institute was willing to sponsor one vehicle to Sacramento and one hotel room per collaborative and anybody interested in taking advantage should contact him.  He reported that the federal omnibus bill just passed included $3.8 billion for wildfire management and $614 million dollars for fuels reduction.   It was also promised to fully fund the Secure Rural Schools program.  He also reported that he sent a support letter to Los Angeles Water and Power in support of their pending decision to purchase power from the Loyalton cogen biomass-to-bioenergy plant.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday May 1st at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  We have gone from famine to feast with respect to future speakers.  Eric Morway of the US Geologic Survey will be speaking on water availability in the Carson River basin in May.  Merv George, Forest Supervisor of the Six Rivers National Forest, will speak in June.  Dr. Hugh Safford, Senior Vegetation Ecologist for the USDA-Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, is scheduled for July.  Ali Ursa, a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno will be addressing us in August.  Dr. Wesley Kilasten of the US Geologic Survey will be presenting his research on meadow restoration and water supply in the Carson River basin in September.  October will feature Dr. Emanuele Ziaco of the University of Nevada, Reno presenting his research on tree ring analysis of environmental change.

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