February Meeting Summary

Our meeting on February 6th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 15 members of the public and agencies.  It was agreed to change the name of the Alpine Biomass Committee to the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC), and go ahead and file Articles of Incorporation for a 501(c)(3) non-profit.  The draft bylaws are almost completed and will be presented for consideration at the next meeting.  The reason for the name change is that it better describes our current level of activity and collaboration is considered essential to qualifying for grant funding.

Our application for $20,000 in matching funds for a potential Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant was approved the Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF).  The funds will be advanced as a 0% interest forgivable loan.  This would not have happened without the strong support of CHIPS, which will be our fiscal agent, and Steve Wilensky.  Many others contributed to our success in ways that they will never know.

Unfortunately although there is Greenhouse Gas Reduction funding available for watershed scale forest health project, it appears that the West Carson project will not benefit from it.  The Forest Service simply does not have the capacity to file the required grant application.  The original ~18,000 acre project has been cut back to about ~2,000 acres this year.

Dr. Malcolm North presented his research on the relationship between optimal habitat for the Spotted Owl and a healthy, fire-resistant forest.  Only about 8% of the needed fuels reduction/forest thinning is being done in comparison with the best estimates of how much was done naturally by wildfire prior to European settlement.  Historical protection of habitat for the Spotted Owl is one of the reasons for this problem, but recent research has shown that knowledge of the preferred habitat was wrong, and in fact their preferred habitat is consistent with our understanding of what makes a healthy forest.

Specific findings are that: 1) cover in tall trees is the most important habitat feature, 2) tall tree cover and canopy cover often co-occur, and since canopy cover is easily (incorrectly) measured, it has been assumed to be most important, 3) tree cover in the height strata associated with ladder fuels is significantly avoided by the owls so reducing ladder fuels should not adversely impact them, and 4) owls do not avoid gaps except in nest selection (i.e., no gaps within 113 m of their nesting location).  Gaps of all sizes are just as present in owl habitat as the surrounding landscape.  Consequently fuels reduction and forest thinning programs that concentrate on the understory should not adversely affect owl habitat and in some cases may enhance it.  Other benefits include a reduction of the risk of catastrophic wildfire, enhanced carbon sequestration as the remaining large trees have more resources (primarily water) to resist disease, and improved economic opportunities in rural areas.

Participant updates included the following.  Gavin Feiger of the Alpine Watershed Group reported that they will be celebrating Earth Day on April 21st at Grover’s Hot Springs.  David Griffith reported that the Sierra Nevada Conservancy was looking for a new Area Representative for Alpine, Mono, and Inyo counties.  He also reported that the Governor’s Proposed Budget included $180 million of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds (GGRF) for forest health for next year.  In the next few months CalFire will be calling for proposals for their Fire Prevention Grant Program (formerly SRA Grant Program) which would be a good fit for the ~1,000 acres that the Forest Service already has completed the required NEPA documentation.  He also stated that there have been preliminary conversations with staff from Senators Feinstein and Harris about encouraging Region 4 the Forest Service and the Humboldt-Toiyabe to take advantage of the GGRF funding available from California.  Steve Wilensky reported that CHIPS had completed the BIOMAT auction process and their bid to generate energy from biomass was accepted at a price of 19.725¢/kwh.  CHIPS estimates that they anticipate being profitable at a price of 17.5¢.  They have broken ground on constructing the facility and are negotiating with three organizations for financing a 3 MW facility.  Their Washoe crew will be working on reseeding a 4,000 acre burn near Carson City.  Ron Hames reported that the Sierra Nevada Conservancy was planning for possibly receiving up to $305 million dollars in funding depending on the fate of the Senate Bill 5 proposition in June and the Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018 proposition in November.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday March 6th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Currently there is no speaker scheduled but we will announce who will be making a presentation about a week before the meeting.  Future speakers include Merv George Jr. of the US Forest Service in June and Hugh Safford of the US Forest Service in July.

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Dr. Malcolm North to Present at February Meeting. NCCLF Loan Approved.

There is good news with respect to financing a scoping study of how best to utilize the excess biomass in our forests.  The Northern California Community Loan Fund has approved a $20,000 zero interest non-recourse loan which will serve as the matching funds for a still to be applied $80,000 Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant.  This would not have been possible without the support of CHIPS which is acting as our fiscal agent.  Special thanks are due to CHIPS and Steve Wilensky for helping us qualify for these matching funds.  Many others helped in ways they will never know, but the key support came from CHIPS and Steve Wilensky.

The February meeting will be about recent research on the relationship between forest cover, forest health and the spotted owl’s preferred habitat.  Dr. Malcolm North, Research Forest Ecologist with the US Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station will be presenting the results of his research.

Spotted-Owl

Western dry forest restoration often focuses on decreasing fuel loads, canopy cover and tree density, treatments that could reduce preferred habitat conditions for sensitive species such as the spotted owl.  In particular, high levels of canopy cover (>70%) have been widely reported as an important feature of spotted owl habitat, but stand-level averages of forest cover do not provide important information on foliage height and gap structure.  In an effort to provide better quantification of canopy structure, we used airborne LiDAR imagery to identify canopy cover in different height strata and the size and frequency of gaps that were associated with owl nest, protected activity center (PAC), and territory scales across four study areas and 316 owl territories.  Although total canopy cover was high in nest and PAC scales, the cover in tall (>48m) trees was the canopy structure most highly selected for, while cover in lower strata (2-16m) was avoided compared to availability in the surrounding landscape. Tall tree cover gradually decreased and lower strata cover increased moving from the nest to the landscape.  Large (>1000m2) gaps were avoided near nests, but otherwise for PAC and territory scales there was no difference in gap frequencies and sizes from the surrounding landscape. With cluster analysis we classified canopy conditions into five structural classes and four levels of canopy cover to assess the relationship between total canopy cover and tree size in nest, PAC and territory scales. High (>70%) canopy cover mostly occurs when large tree cover is high, indicating the two variables are often confounded. Our results suggest that the area in tall trees may be a better measure of preferred owl habitat than total canopy cover as the latter can include cover in the 2-16 m strata that owls actually avoid.  Management strategies that preserve and facilitate the growth of tall trees while reducing the cover and density of understory trees may improve forest resilience to drought and wildfire and may also enhance future owl habitat.

Malcolm North is a Research Forest Ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, and an Affiliate Professor of Forest Ecology, Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis.  He received his Master of Forest Science at Yale University and his PhD in Forest Ecology from the University of Washington with Dr. Jerry Franklin.  Malcolm has worked on understanding many aspects of the ecology of Sierra Nevada forests, including the effects of fire suppression, carbon dynamics, ecosystem resilience and management constraints on increasing pace and scale and the broader use of fire.  He is also the lead author of the Forest Service publication GTR 220, an ecosystem management strategy for Sierran mixed-conifer forests.

We will also be continuing the discussion on the advisability of forming a 501c(3) (non-profit) entity to make it easier to attract funding and complete projects.

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

December Meeting Summary

Our meeting on December 5th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 13 members of the public and agencies.  Discussion about the advisability of changing to a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation are continuing.

Our application for $20,000 in matching funds for a potential Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant is still pending with the Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF).  Hopefully there will be a favorable decision soon.

Devon Snyder, Rangeland Ecologist with the University of Nevada, Reno gave a Continue reading

December meeting features research on pinyon-juniper

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The December meeting will be about collaborative watershed research projects in areas of pinyon pine and juniper and what has been learned about the effects of tree encroachment and removal treatments on understory vegetation, soil moisture, and watershed hydrology.  Devon Snyder, Rangeland Ecologist with the University of Nevada, Reno will be presenting the results of her research. Continue reading

November Meeting Summary

Our meeting on November 7th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 18 members of the public and agencies.  The Alpine Biomass Committee (ABC) is continuing to operate on funds provided by two anonymous donors.  Discussion about the advisability of changing to a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation are continuing.

Our application for $20,000 in matching funds for a potential Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant is pending with the Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF).  Hopefully there will be a favorable decision by the end of the month.

Shelly Blair, the California Fish and Wildlife Land Manager for Alpine County gave a Continue reading