October Meeting Summary

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Dr. Becky Estes showing long-term trends in wildfire occurrence and climate.
Photo: Mary Rawson

Our meeting on October 3rd, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 15 members of the public and agencies present.  The Alpine Biomass Committee (ABC) is continuing to operate on funds provided by two anonymous donors.  Discussion about the advisability of changing to a 501c(3) non-profit corporation are continuing.

In cooperation with CHIPS the ABC is continuing to pursue a grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF) for a “feasibility study” on biomass utilization.  So far the NCCLF, which hopefully will be supplying the matching funds required for an EDA grant, has been most encouraging.  Time will tell.

Dr. Becky Estes, the USDA Forest Service Central Sierra Province Ecologist gave a presentation on forest health in the Sierra and forest restoration after major disasters such as catastrophic fire or extreme die-offs due to insect infestation and drought.  The object is to design science-based restoration programs that will maximize the possibility that the new forest will be resilient into the future.  It is anticipated that the climate will generally be warmer, but that some parts of the Sierra Nevada will be drier while other areas will be wetter.  This will affect the species mix which will be able to flourish.

Participant updates included the following.  The Carson Ranger District reported that the Markleeville Fuels Reduction project started today and that the contractor will be using three machines to try and get the work done before the snow flies.  They also reported that their specialists had inspected the West Carson Project and found no evidence of abnormal tree mortality.  Ron Hames reported that he is continuing to work on trying to get a fuels reduction project above Upper Manzanita Lane.  Becky Estes reported that there is a monitoring workshop with the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group (ACCG) on November 8th.  Saving the West reported that their Wood Innovation project was progressing well.  They are currently examining how much biomass might be available on a sustainable basis and what economic use could be made of it.  They also reported that the 18 MW biomass-to-bioenergy plant will be restarting in November.  It has a power purchase agreement with a consortium of public utility energy consumers.  The Lahontan and Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Boards are working together to set consistent non-point pollution standards for federal lands.  The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) reported that Susanna Reyes is their new chair.  Senate Bill 5 will put a ballot measure on the June ballot which will provide significant funding for the SNC.  There is a SCALE workshop sponsored by the Sierra Institute coming up in December for all collaboratives.  The SNC is developing its new strategic plan.  The ABC reported that there will be a second competitive ballot measure on the June ballot which allocates even more funding for forest health etc.  The Statewide Wood Energy Team (SWET) has a conference on biomass November 14th through 16th in Fresno.  The Alpine Watershed Group encouraged all to attend the Aspen Festival this weekend.  Details at www.AspenFest.org.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday November 7th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Shelly Blair of the California Fish and Wildlife will be making a presentation on human-wildlife interactions.  With a nuisance bear and mountain lion around it should be interesting.

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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The October meeting will be about Monitoring Success of Sierra Nevada Forest Ecology and Management.

How do we know whether our meadow restoration, forest thinning or other projects to restore forest and watershed health actually result in the desired outcome?

Dr. Becky Estes, the USDA Forest Service Central Sierra Province Ecologist, will be making a presentation on ecological restoration to promote resiliency in California’s forests and waterways as an important tool that managers use.  Restoration is challenged today by the ecological implications of climate change and increased frequency of fire.  In order to understand if restoration is successful it is important to monitor and report results to managers and to the community.  The USFS Region 5 Ecology group works with managers on the forests, collaborative groups, and other agency and University scientists to monitor both ecological and social effectiveness of numerous restoration treatments.

Dr. Estes has lived in Placerville, California and served as the USDA Forest Service Central Sierra Province Ecologist for over five years working with the Eldorado, Tahoe and Stanislaus National Forests and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.  Prior to working in the Sierra Nevada, she worked as a postdoc with the Pacific Southwest Research Station in Redding, CA where she was able to work with a number of research scientists studying relevant questions throughout Mediterranean climates.  She completed her undergraduate work at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and continued her education at Auburn University in Alabama where she completed her Master’s and Ph.D. in Forestry in 2006. She now assists forests with a number of complex management needs in the province and the region, including the importance of managing post-fire landscapes to ensure future resilience in the face of a changing climate.

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

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

September Meeting Summary

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Danna Stroud making her presentation.

Our meeting on September 5th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was well attended with 20 members of the public and agencies present.  This was the last meeting sponsored by the National Forest Foundation (NFF).  Although the ABC has been frugal and did not spend the entire grant, it expires on September 15th.  Two private donors have agreed to sponsor the ABC for the time being until it figures out what direction it will take.

The ABC is continuing to pursue a grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF) for a “feasibility study” on biomass utilization.  In some quarters there have been false allegations that there are plans to use tribal lands for a possible biomass facility.  There is absolutely no truth to these allegations and those who are spreading them should know that.  We have enough problems with “alternate facts” in Washington and shouldn’t have to put up with them here as well.

Part of the ABC’s mission statement is to advance local economic development.  Danna Stroud of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) organized a series of presentations on the economic development possibilities of recreation.  In her introduction she pointed out that outdoor recreation is currently a $887 billion dollar industry in the US and it is growing faster than the overall economy.  Each year in California it consists of $92 billion in consumer spending, provides 691,000 jobs paying $30.4 billion in wages, and raises $6.2 billion in state and local taxes.  Alpine County is ideally suited to take advantage of this and the success of Sorensen’s Resort is ample proof.  Just this last weekend Sorensen’s served over 1,000 people that were here to participate in muscle-powered recreation.

Joe Flower of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) National Forest and Devin Middlebrook of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) made a joint presentation on what the Lake Tahoe Sustainable Recreation Working Group is doing in the Tahoe Basin.  Between 2010 and 2015 visits to the LTBMU increased by 33% to about 7.7 million annually.  Cell phone data indicates that the actual visits may have been as high as 9.6 million annually.  With a declining budget, partly due to “fire borrowing”, the Forest Service needs to collaborate with other agencies, state and local governments, and non-government organizations to maintain sustainable outdoor recreation for all.  Alpine County is uniquely located to take advantage of the increased interest in outdoor recreation.

Jonathan Cook-Fisher, the USFS’s National Recreation Special Uses Program Manager, made a presentation on how the Forest Service at the national level is working to encourage simplification of the various bureaucratic requirements that impede the ability of businesses and organizations to advance outdoor recreation in the nation’s forests.  There are categorical exemptions from NEPA and Nominal Effects Determinations that can often be used to streamline or eliminate permitting bottlenecks.  Or as he said, make it easier for the local Forest Service management to say “yes”, rather than “no”.

Dan Morris, the Recreation Manager for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (HT) reported on the HT’s outdoor recreation program along with the financial challenges they face.  He also reminded us that the HT would be updating their Forest Plan, probably beginning in 2019, and that outdoor recreation would be a larger part of it.

Summing up, if the community, County, state, and federal agencies want to build a recreation economy in Alpine County, and we all collaborate, we can make it happen.  Upcoming revisions to the Stanislaus, Eldorado and Humboldt-Toiyabe forest plans will be a great opportunity to get involved and make outdoor recreation a more important activity in Alpine County.

Participant updates included the following.  The Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) reported that the Aspen Festival will be held Oct. 7th and 8th in Hope Valley, that beer would be available for sale there, that Markleeville Creek Day will be at 9:00 am on Sept. 9th at the Library, and that on Sept. 8th at 4:30pm at Turtle Rock Park all 28 of the AmeriCorps volunteers working in the Sierra were having their graduation ceremony and that everyone was encouraged to attend.  The HT reported that work on the Markleeville Fuels Reduction project was on track to start the first week of October.  The BLM reported that they will be preparing more vegetation treatments in the County and that they are preparing a statewide program in California to take care of “hazard trees” on BLM lands.  The Alpine Trails Association reported that they had workdays planned for Sept. 16th and 23rd and that volunteers were welcome.  The ABC reported that Netflix had a new series starting Sept. 8th on wildfires in California with CALFIRE and the L.A. Fire Department, that the Fire Tax was gone, and that the ABC would have a stand at the Aspen Festival.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday October 3rd at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Becky Estes of the Eldorado National Forest will be making a presentation on monitoring the success/failures of projects.  How does one know that a particular project delivered the promised benefits?  She will focus primarily on the environmental aspects, not the social aspects.

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

The Alpine Biomass Committee is supported by a grant from the National Forest Foundation with funds coming from Region 5 of the U.S. Forest Service.  This organization is an equal opportunity provider.

How to Build a Sustainable Recreation Economy in Alpine County at August meeting.

We live in a beautiful forested mountain community, but with a few exceptions we don’t take full advantage of it.  Recreation, in particular muscle-powered recreation, can be the basis of a vibrant economy.  This month we are lucky to have a number of experts to share their experiences elsewhere and give us ideas of what we could achieve here in Alpine County.

Joe Flower, a Presidential Management Fellow, detailed to the USFS Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and Devin Middlebrook, Sustainability Program Coordinator for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will be presenting on the collaborative sustainable recreation planning process in the Lake Tahoe Basin.  Joe and Devin will share why they’re pursuing a sustainable recreation plan for the Basin and how Alpine County might consider looking at its recreation assets and experiences.

Jonathan Cook-Fisher, National Recreation Special Uses Program Manager at the Washington DC office of the USFS Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Services program will be presenting on national policy and legislation related to outdoor recreation planning and permitting within the USFS.  He will share insights on the programs he’s developing that may improve processes for improving recreation experiences on USFS public lands.

Dan Morris of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest will be talking about what the Humboldt-Toiyabe is doing to promote recreation in the Humboldt-Toiyabe.

Lastly, but not least, Danna Stroud of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy will by presenting recently released recreation and tourism economy data.  Also, many thanks to Danna for organizing this month’s presentations.

This will be our last meeting sponsored by the National Forest Foundation.  Although we didn’t spend all the money we did run into an immovable deadline.  A couple of individuals have stepped forward and have agreed to continue to fund us for the foreseeable future.  To celebrate there will be a light supper available at the meeting, and it will include some sinful deserts as well as an healthy alternative.  The celebration is not that the National Forest Foundation grant is expiring, but that there are individuals that believe enough in what the ABC is doing to support it financially.  We hope you can come.

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

The Alpine Biomass Committee is supported by a grant from the National Forest Foundation with funds coming from Region 5 of the U.S. Forest Service.  This organization isis an equal opportunity provider.

August Meeting Summary

Our meeting on August 1st, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was poorly attended with just 11 members of the public and agencies present.  Nevertheless the presentation was informative and generated lots of questions.

Jason Davenport, Master Craftsworker with Mono County, described the funding, project design, costs savings and productivity of the Mono County thermal biomass boiler.  The unit, which was manufactured in Germany, generates sufficient heat for Mono County’s Public Works buildings in Bridgeport, the coldest place in California.  The feasibility study for the project was funded by the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District and a Sustainable Communities Planning Grant, and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy funded the purchase and installation of the boiler.  The boiler was installed last fall and replaced an aging propane fueled boiler.  Estimated operating costs for the biomass boiler were $24,600/year in comparison with the propane boiler cost of $74, 600/year producing a saving of $50,000/year.  Biomass fuel primarily comes from municipal wood waste that was previously sent to a land fill, but the unit also uses excess biomass from the forest.

Participant updates included the following.  Amy Horne, Saving the West, reported that the Annual Lake Tahoe Summit is August 22, at Valhalla Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe.  Ron Hames reviewed possible locations for a wood processing campus, including BLM ground around Turtle Rock Park. David Griffith reported the Economic Development Administration (EDA) is interested in funding a feasibility study for a wood processing campus.  David Griffith also reported that the EDA grant matching funds are reduced from 50% to 20% for Alpine County because of its designation as a disaster area.  One possible source for the 20% matching funds is the Northern California Community Loan Fund.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday September the 5th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  The subject of the meeting will be the economic development possibilities of a recreation economy and will feature presenters from the US Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the National Recreation Special Uses Program, and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

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

The Alpine Biomass Committee is supported by a grant from the National Forest Foundation with funds coming from Region 5 of the U.S. Forest Service.  This organization is an equal opportunity provider.

July Meeting Summary and August Meeting Heads Up

Our joint meeting with the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) on July 11th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was well attended with 24 members of the public and agencies present.  Unfortunately, due to a large number of fires in the area Forest Service and BLM personnel were unable to attend.  Gavin Feiger of the AWG stepped up to the plate at the last minute and put on a great presentation of the West Carson Project.

Updates were presented by the AWG on the Carson Water Subconservancy District’s (CWSD) Carson River Adaptive Stewardship Plan.  Specific projects included American Rivers Blue Lakes Road, Log Crib Stabilization, Cut Off Protection, and the Carson Watershed Meadows Assessment.  On July 26th the Carson Meadows stakeholders will be holding a meeting from 10 am to 1 pm.  Contact Gavin Feiger (awg.gavin@gmail.com) if you are interested in participating or learning more.  The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Environmental Protection Agency discussed the new Vision Priority program that they will be conducting on the West Fork.  They anticipate completing their assessment in 2020.

Aly Cheney completed the data summary of water quality in Alpine County that she has been working on.  In addition to making the data available to the public it describes how a water body gets listed as impaired. It is presented as a monitoring story map available here.

A discussion was held on the practice of “fire borrowing” which is what happens when federal agencies such as the Forest Service and BLM spend their entire fire-fighting budget before the end of the fiscal year.  Any additional funds needed for fire-fighting are taken from the agencies’ other budgets such as planning, fuels reduction and forest thinning etc.  These are the very programs that reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.  It was agreed to send a letter to our political masters in Washington requesting that they resolve this problem.  There is a growing bi-partisan consensus on solving it, and copies of the letters are available here.

Participant updates included the following.  The AWG’s Markleeville Creek Day is Sept. 9th and the Aspen Festival is Oct. 7th and 8th.  The Alpine Trails Association has worked at Kurtz Lake and Thornburg Canyon and will return to work once the summer heat abates.  They also reported that Kirkwood and Bear Valley are considering adding mountain biking to their activities.  The Alpine Fire Safe Council is working on the Community Wildfire Protection Plan and there will be public meetings prior to its finalization.

The August meeting will be a bit different from what we have been used to.  Jason Davenport, a Master Craftsworker with Mono County, will be giving a presentation on their new biothermal heating plant (or boiler) that Mono County installed to heat their public works buildings in Bridgeport.  Mono County had been spending as much as $100,000/year for propane to heat the buildings.  In Mono County’s case the biomass does not currently come from the forest, but is municipal wood waste that Mono County was required to divert from their waste stream.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday August 1st  at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

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

The Alpine Biomass Committee is supported by a grant from the National Forest Foundation with funds coming from Region 5 of the U.S. Forest Service.  This organization is an equal opportunity provider.

Alpine Watershed Group and Alpine Biomass Committee July Joint Meeting

The Alpine Biomass Committee (ABC) and Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) are combining their regularly scheduled meetings in July, bringing together a larger audience to discuss the West Fork of the Carson River watershed. There are a number of entities working on forest and watershed and this will be an opportunity to further collaboration. Some of the familiar areas of the West Carson Watershed include Hope Valley, Charity Valley, Faith Valley, Blue Lakes, and Burnside Lake. The Forest Service (Carson Ranger District) is working towards a larger landscape view for the restoration activities that take place on the district. The USFS goal is to integrate their past, present, and future activities to develop restoration actions addressing all resources in a multiple use approach. With that goal in mind, the USFS West Carson River Watershed Restoration project will provide for wildlife habitat, forest health, watershed improvements, fuels reduction, and improved recreation uses. Similarly, U.S. EPA and Lahontan Water Board have named the West Carson a “Vision Priority” river which allows a new approach to watershed planning. Many other partners such as Friends of Hope Valley, American Rivers, The Washoe Tribe, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Carson River Subconservancy District, Bureau of Land Management, and the Alpine Watershed Group have small and large projects in the watershed. We look forward to project updates and discussions in order to cooperatively address the many goals and objectives in the West Carson watershed.

After the joint meeting the ABC will have a short organizational meeting that will include deciding on whether to apply for an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant, and what to do about funding going forward.

The July meeting is scheduled for Tuesday July 11th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

The Alpine Biomass Committee is supported by a grant from the National Forest Foundation with funds coming from Region 5 of the U.S. Forest Service.  This organization is an equal opportunity provider.