April Update

There will not be an ABC meeting in May due to lack of a presentation.  Our next meeting will be at 6:00 pm on Tuesday June 7th at Turtle Rock Park.  Dr. Jonathan Long, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service and Rhiana Jones, Environmental Program Director with the Washoe Environmental Protection Dept. will be making a joint presentation on Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) with respect to forest management.  Dr. Long will be giving an overview on TEK throughout California and Ms. Jones will be discussing the practices of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.

Prior to European settlement the forests were much healthier and resilient than they are today, although wildfire was actually more common.  The people that lived here then were part of that environment and some of their practices are now being adopted by the agencies that manage our forests today.

The Alpine Watershed Group and the Alpine Trails Association’s initial tree planting workday within the Tamarack burn scar was a great success and another workday is scheduled for May 1st.  50 volunteers planted some 2,085 seedlings on April 9th, and 70 volunteers have signed up to plant an additional 2,000 seedlings or so on May 1st.   To sign up for the waiting list or for more information go here.  Thanks are also due to Anna Belle Monti of the Forest Service for all her work to make it a success.

2022-04-09_Tree Planting Workday_Group

Photo by Kimra McAfee

With respect to a possible biomass-to-bioenergy plant in Alpine County exploratory discussions are ongoing between a potential developer and Liberty Utilities.  The discussions are at a very early stage and time will tell if they bear fruit.

Future Meetings:  Please send suggestions for future speakers to dGriffith.9@gmail.com.  Presentations need to be on topics that relate to our mission statement.

March Meeting Summary

The March meeting was attended by 14 people in person.  Since no actions were taken there will be no notes for this meeting, only this summary.

The presentation was by CalFire’s Jim McDougald, Assistant Chief for the Home Hardening Program working under the Department’s Community Wildfire Preparedness and Mitigation Division.  It was a sobering presentations on how homes ignite during a catastrophic wildfire.  While defensible space can partially protect a home from radiant heat and direct flame contact related to vegetation, it doesn’t help much with embers which are the cause of over 60% of the homes lost to catastrophic wildfire.  It also doesn’t help when the homeowner or neighbor has flammable sheds, boats, or vehicles etc. too close to the home.  In the event of a catastrophic wildfire, a home that has not been hardened is highly unlikely to survive unless there are sufficient suppression forces available onsite.  Had the suppression not been present in Markleevillage as the Tamarack Fire approached it is likely that most of the homes would be gone.

CWMP_HH_Informational

This work is based on research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), CalFire, and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).  Their publication First-of-a-Kind Guidance for Holistic Home and Community Wildfire Protection was just published March 1st, and can be found here.

Home hardening is expensive, and it costs an average of about $40,000 to retrofit homes to make them safe in the event of a catastrophic wildfire.  CalFire has a pilot program in San Diego and Shasta counties to harden existing homes.  Funding depends on the state and federal governments, but the hope is to rapidly expand the program statewide in the next few years.

The entire presentation is available here for the next month or so.

Participant updates:  Unfortunately the quality of the audio recording was not good and consequently not all the updates have been completely captured.

Don Hittenmiller reported on his initial discussion with CalFire regarding programs for private forest landowners.  Ed DdCarlo’s report was unfortunately inaudible on the recording.  Jason Glaze reported that STPUD was working with the Alpine Fire Safe Council on a fuels reduction project on their lands near Diamond Valley Rd. and Hawkside Drive for next spring.  Matt Croswait of the BLM reported that they completed reseeding much of their land that was burnt during the Tamarack Fire and seeded approximately 60,000 lbs. of seed by helicopter.  The BLM will also be monitoring the success of the program and looking at what else they can do to advance restoration.  Chris Anthony of CalFire reminded everyone that there currently is a lot of funding available through CalFire and other state and federal agencies for community fire protection, home hardening, etc.  Rachel Kieffer of the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) reported that the AWG would be hosting the 4th Forum on the West Fork Carson Vision Plan with emphasis on ranching Tuesday Mar. 8th at 5:30 pm here at Turtle Rock Park.  She also mentioned the upcoming Markleeville Creek Floodplain Restoration Project which will have a public meeting Mar. 30th at 1:00 pm at the Government Center in Markleeville.  People interested in volunteering for water monitoring are always welcome.  Anna Belle Monti of the U.S. Forest Service reported that they planned to have an in-person public pre-scoping meeting to discuss plans for restoration of the Tamarack Fire.  She also mentioned that there is concrete interest from a private group to establish a saw mill in the Carson City area.  This will make a huge difference in what can be done in the way of fuels reduction here on the east side of the Sierras.  David Griffith mentioned that there is still some possible interest in starting a tree nursery in Alpine County and efforts to firm that up are continuing.  There has also been some very preliminary conversations about having a seed gathering program later in the year to provide seeds for restoration of the Tamarack Fire.  He also reported that a developer is potentially interested in the biomass-to-bioenergy project and will be meeting next week with Liberty Utilities and the Tahoe Fund.

Future Meetings:  At this time we don’t have a presentation lined up for a meeting in April, but are continuing to reach out to possible speakers.  Stay tuned.  Suggestions for speakers whose work or research dovetails with our mission statement are always welcome.

CalFire’s New Home Hardening Program

Our March meeting will be at 6:00 pm on Tuesday Mar. 1st at Turtle Rock Park.   CalFire’s Division Chief Jim McDougald of their Home Hardening Program will be giving a presentation on CalFire’s new program on home, parcel, and community hardening.

Defensible space around homes is an important defense against losing our homes in the event of a catastrophic wildfire.  However during a catastrophic wildfire embers can be easily carried by wind for more than a mile, and can ignite homes that have good defensible space.  In addition a recent study by Dr. Eric Knapp on the city of Paradise after the Camp Fire showed that best predictor of whether a house burned was whether another structure within 200 ft. caught fire.  Defensible space was not sufficient.  CalFire has initiated a pilot program to help harden homes and communities against catastrophic wildfire.  Ideally homes and communities would be able to survive a catastrophic wildfire even if no suppression forces were available.  There is good information on home hardening in Appendix 7 of Alpine County’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Chief McDougald has worked for CalFire since 1994.  He has served as the Battalion Chief Pre-Fire Coordinator for the Southern Region, where he was responsible for implanting the Strategic Fire Plan for California and developing statewide programs for fuels reduction tracking and damage inspection.  In 2014, he was promoted to Assistant Chief in the Fresno Kings Unit as the Protection Planning Chief where he oversaw the Fire Prevention Bureau, Resource Management and Pre-Fire Programs as well as Protection and Planning for the Fresno County Fire Protection District.  During that time, he worked with local cooperators to develop a county wide response to local tree mortality.  This included the development of community fuel breaks, evacuation route clearance, and community protection planning county wide.  Chief McDougald’s current assignment is the Assistant Chief for the Home Hardening Program working under the Department’s Community Wildfire Preparedness and Mitigation Division.

Barring a covid explosion the meeting will be at 6:00 pm on Tuesday March 1st at Turtle Rock Park.  Masks or face shields are required to be worn.  In the event covid gets out of hand the meeting will be switched to Zoom and the connection information will be shared as soon as a decision is made.

Future Meetings:  Please send suggestions for future speakers to dGriffith.9@gmail.com.  Presentations need to be on topics that relate to our mission statement.

February Meeting Summary

The February meeting was well attended with 24 people attending via Zoom.  Since no actions were taken there will be no notes for this meeting, only this summary.

The presentation was by Michelle Coppoletta, an Ecologist with the Forest Service’s Sierra Cascade Province.  Her presentation was on the influence of post-fire vegetation and fuels on fire severity patterns in reburns and Implications for restoration.  In a nutshell where there is high-severity burning in one wildfire it is likely that the next wildfire in the area will have high-severity burning in roughly the same places.  Her research dovetails with that of Meg Krawchuk last may who showed us that refugia after multiple wildfires tended to reoccur in the same places.

Pages from ABC_ReburnSeverity_Coppoletta_PDF

The recording of Michelle Coppoletta’s presentation is available here for one month.  References that may be of interested for those looking for more detail include:

  • Safford, Hugh D.; Stevens, Jens T. 2017. Natural range of variation for yellow pine and mixed-conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada, southern Cascades, and Modoc and Inyo National Forests, California, USA. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-256. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 229 p. (https://doi.org/10.2737/PSW-GTR-256)
  • Meyer, Marc D.; North, Malcolm P. 2019. Natural range of variation of red fir and subalpine forests in the Sierra Nevada bioregion. Gen Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-263. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 135 p.(https://doi.org/10.2737/PSW-GTR-263)
  • Our Ecology program website (https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r5/plants-animals/?cid=stelprdb5434436) also has some additional assessments that we completed for the Sierra Nevada – i.e., aspen, chaparral, sagebrush, and meadows.
  • Malcolm P. North, Ryan E. Tompkins, Alexis A. Bernal, Brandon M. Collins, Scott L. Stephens, Robert A. York.  Operational resilience in western US frequent-fire forests.  Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 507.   Contact dGriffith.9@gmail.com for a copy.

Participant updates:  Coreen Francis of the BLM reported that they hope to set up climate plots to see how various reforestation techniques fair in a changing climate.  Anna Belle Monti of the Forest Service reported State and Private Forestry had granted the County $1.815 million for restoration of the Tamarack Fire, Grovers Hot Springs $15,000 and the Washoe Tribe $150,000 for a nursery.  The Forest Service will be holding a public meeting for pre-scoping the Tamarack Fire restoration.  Matt Croswait of the BLM reported that they have 40-50,000 lb. of seed ready to be spread by helicopter over parts of the Tamarack Fire as soon as they finalize the helicopter contract.  Jessica Gwerder of the NRCS reported that the original applicants for assistance have all been accepted into the Tamarack Fire fund pool.  More funding opportunities are coming up and property owners should contact her to get on the list.  Kim Dow of the BLM reported that planning for the boundary fence around Indian Creek Reservoir is moving ahead.  Kimra McAfee of the Alpine Watershed Group announced that their next meeting will be March 8th and will be on the West Fork Carson Vision Project with respect to ranching.  Matt Driscoll of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy announced that the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership’s (ESSRP) Town to Trails project will be going before their Board at the March meeting.  The ESSRP’s Camp Like a Pro project will hopefully go before their Board at the June meeting.  Shane Romsos of South Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD) announced that STPUD was having their first public meeting on their Recycled Water Strategic Plan on Tuesday March 8th between 4 & 5 pm.  More information is here.  Trevor Seck of the National Forest Foundation is seeking funding for seasonal recreation staffing for the northern portion of the Carson Ranger District.  Should this be successful they intend to expand it to lands in Alpine County.  David Griffith reported that the community had lost Mike Gard who recently passed away.  When the volunteer fire department was collapsing some 20 years ago Mike was one of the people that stepped up to reconstitute it and has continually supported it.  He will be sorely missed.  CalFire’s Business Development Program has up to $1 million dollar grants to start a tree nursery or seed gathering business.  Contact him for details.  VP Harris on her visit to California announced the award of $600 million to Region 5 of the Forest Service for restoration type activities on past wildfires in California including the Tamarack Fire that is in Region 4.  Hopefully the Humboldt-Toiyabe will aggressively pursue this large pot of money.  The Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force is moving rapidly to implement California’s Action Plan to reduce our vulnerability to wildfire.  The ESSRP’s Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway project is on hold for lack of a sponsor and likely grant funding so Alpine County will need to proceed on its own to upgrade the Hwy. 89 California Scenic Highway to a National Scenic Byway.  An exploratory meeting was held with Liberty Utilities and the Tahoe Fund to measure interest in pursuing a biomass-to-bioenergy facility in the Woodfords area.

Deep enough!

Future Meetings:  The March meeting will feature Jim McDougald, Home Hardening Program Division Chief with the Wildfire Prevention Engineering section of the Office of the State Fire Marshal.  His presentation will be on home, parcel, and community hardening and the new CalFire and CalOES program to help fund this work.  The primary reason more homes were not lost in the Tamarack Fire was due to suppression resources being present.  Next time we may not be so lucky and our homes may need to survive on their own.

Assuming that there is no covid explosion the March meeting will be at the Turtle Rock Park Community Center at 6:00 pm on Tuesday Mar. 1st.  Masks or face shields will be required and we will need to maintain social distancing.  If there is a covid explosion the meeting will be on Zoom.

Post-Fire Restoration and Subsequent Fire Severity

Our February meeting will be on Zoom due to the current covid explosion.  It will be Tuesday Feb. 1st at 6:00 pm.  Zoom link is at the end of this posting.  Michelle Coppoletta, an ecologist with the Forest Service’s Sierra Cascade Province will be giving a presentation on how post-fire vegetation and woody fuels are important drivers of subsequent fire severity.

In the face of changing climatic regimes and increases in extreme fire events, many western forests are poised to burn, not only once but multiple times, sometimes in short succession.  In areas where fire patterns have been dramatically altered, there is increasing concern that contemporary fires have the potential to set forests on a feedback trajectory with successive reburns, one in which extensive stand-replacing fire could promote more stand-replacing fire.  In this presentation I will present the results from a set of studies conducted in a northern California landscape that has burned repeatedly since 2000. Taken together, the results of these studies suggest that post-fire vegetation and woody fuels are important drivers of subsequent fire severity patterns.  In areas where repeat high severity fire is undesirable, managers will need to consider a wide range of strategies to maintain and increase the resilience of remnant forests to future fire.

Michelle Coppoletta is currently an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service in the Sierra Cascade Province, which covers the Modoc, Lassen, and Plumas National Forests.  She has worked as an ecologist and botanist with the Forest Service, National Park Service, and US Geologic Survey for over 20 years.  Although much of her enthusiasm these days is reserved for her family, garden, and the wildlands near her home, she continually finds reasons to love her job.

Future Meetings:  Please send suggestions for future speakers to dGriffith.9@gmail.com.  Presentations need to be on topics that relate to our mission statement.

Zoom Connection Information:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86385568257?pwd=aDlCb0JpQ3IwemU1Q0RSaTJhT3pZdz09

Meeting ID: 863 8556 8257; Passcode: ABC; Phone: 408-638-0968 or 669-900-6833