August Meeting Summary

Our meeting on August 7th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 14 members of the public and agencies.

Alexandra (Ali) Urza, a plant ecologist and PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno, gave a presentation on the expansion and increasing dominance of highly flammable invasive cheatgrass in the Great Basin.  At certain elevations and environments cheatgrass outcompetes native species after wildfires, including prescribed burns.  While there are a number of treatments that can control it at a small scale there are currently no economically viable treatments at the landscape scale, and this is what is needed.  Research is ongoing to find the best way to deal with it.

An update was given on the $80,000 grant application that the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) has with the Economic Development Administration (EDA).  The EDA met with some of the Directors as part of the their due diligence on ABC.  CHIPS’s President Steve Wilensky was also present as CHIPS is the fiscal agent and partner in the application.  After the meeting with the ABC Directors the EDA representative met with the County’s Community Development Director and discussed other opportunities that the EDA could help the County with.

The discussion was continued on how best to improve the community’s and County Board of Supervisors’ understanding about what the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) is and what its goals are.  The half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories about the ABC expressed by Jim Holdridge at the Aug. 7th Board of Supervisors’ meeting were discussed as an example of what the ABC needs to overcome.  A presentation on the ABC’s activities and accomplishments will be prepared for the Board of Supervisors, probably for one of their September meetings.  The Sierra Institute has offered to help, as this is a problem that other collaboratives have encountered before.

Participant updates included the following.  January Riddle reported that construction on her new house was proceeding well.  Coreen Francis announced that the permanent District Manager for the Carson City District is Colleen Dulin.  The BLM in California has begun a programmatic Environmental Assessment for tree removal, vegetation management within 200 ft. of all roads, powerlines, trails, private property etc. that crosses or border the lands they manage.  A decision is expected this fall or winter.  The BLM is significantly reducing the size of its environmental review documents and time frames for the environmental review process.  Mo Loden reported that the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) is hosting its annual Markleeville Creek Day on Sept. 8th, after which “tree cookies” will be provided to participants by Ron Hames.   Julia Keane mentioned that deadline for registration is Aug. 31st.  Marina Vance reported that the next meeting of the AWG is Sept. 11th at 5:30 pm.  Ron Hames reported that an individual objected that the fees he paid for his off-road vehicle did not grant him access under California Fish and Wildlife’s Land Pass program, and that Alpine County is petitioning that the program be cancelled in Hope Valley.  He also announced that the Donnell Fire in southern Alpine Fire that is producing most of our current smoke is being allowed to burn and may not be out until winter.  David Griffith reported that the ABC was not successful with its grant application for an Alpine County small grant.  The Central Sierra Economic Development District of which Alpine County is a part received a $178,000 Rural Development Grant from the US Dept. of Agriculture to study the feasibility of excess biomass removal and local economic development.  The ABC has filed its application for 501(c)(3) status.  The Calaveras Fire Safe Council has been awarded $3.1 million in grants form CALFIRE for several fuels reduction projects.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday September 4th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Dr. Wesley Kilasten of the US Geologic Survey will be presenting his research on meadow restoration and the effect of climate change.  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.  November’s speaker is pending.  In December Kevin Vella of the National Wild Turkey Federation will be making a presentation.  The National Wild Turkey Federation does a lot of forest and habitat restoration on Forest Service lands nationally.

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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Alexandra (Ali) Urza to present at August meeting.

At the August meeting Alexandra (Ali) Urza, a plant ecologist and PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno, will be addressing the expansion and increasing dominance of highly flammable invasive cheatgrass in the Great Basin.

Expansion and increasing dominance of the highly flammable invasive annual grass, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), is transforming native ecosystems in the Great Basin, resulting in increased fire risk and altering ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and soil water flux and storage.  Where pinyon-juniper woodlands and sagebrush shrublands overlap, prescribed fire and other tree-reduction measures are often used to maintain native shrub- and grass-dominated habitats and conserve sagebrush obligate animal species.  Post-fire management objectives typically prioritize the recovery of perennial herbaceous species that can increase resistance to invasion by fire-adapted exotics such as cheatgrass.  However, fires can also facilitate cheatgrass invasion, and a major management challenge is predicting which parts of the landscape are most susceptible to invasion (and how to manage landscapes that are susceptible).  She will share the lessons they have learned from a long-term study of understory vegetation responses to prescribed burning in pinyon-juniper woodlands.

Alexandra (Ali) Urza is a plant ecologist who studies the role of disturbance and climate in shaping ecosystems of the western US.  She has a B.A. in Policy Studies from Reed College, an M.S. in Ecology from Colorado State University, and is currently in the last stages of a completing a PhD at the University of Nevada-Reno.  Ali previously worked for the BLM as a Natural Resource Specialist and a wildland firefighter.  Her science addresses basic questions of the drivers of plant species distributions while supporting the sustainable management of natural resources.

The Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) was not successful in its application for one of Alpine County’s Small Grant Program grants.  A working group is being formed to work to improve relations with the County.

The August meeting is scheduled for Tuesday August 7th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

July Meeting Summary

Our meeting on July 3rd, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 16 members of the public and agencies.

Dr.Hugh Safford, Regional Ecologist for the USDA-Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region gave a provocative and entertaining presentation titled Fear and loathing in the Sierra Nevada: confronting a wicked problem.  Like many of our previous speakers, Dr. Safford laid out a convincing case that if we want to continue to have our forests and the benefits they provide, we must invest in restoring their health.  One of the key benefits of course is the quality and to some extent the quantity of water that we all depend on.  Dr. Safford’s latest publication can be accessed here.

The application for an $80,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been submitted and is undergoing an expedited review.  Hopefully there will be a favorable decision in the next couple of months.  The grant, together with the $20,000 0% interest forgivable loan will be used to conduct a “feasibility study” on how best to reduce the excess biomass in our forests and improve the local economy.  Applying for this grant would not be possible without the support of CHIPS which is the fiscal agent.

A discussion was held on how best to improve the County Board of Supervisors’ and staff’s understanding of what the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) is and what its goals are was discussed.  It was agreed to put an item on the next agenda to decide how best to proceed.

Participant updates included the following.  Matt Driscoll, SNC, reported that pre-applications for the Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 grant program are due July 25th and final applications are due October 1st.  Elissa Brown plans to offer a grant writing workshop in the fall.  Marina Vance, AWG, reported that the Markleevillage Fuels Reduction Project is complete.  She thanked the ABC for sponsoring her to attend the SCALE conference.  Ron Hames reported that the Community Wildfire Protection Plan is available online.  Mark Schwartz reported that the refurbished of welcoming signs to Markleeville will be finished soon.  Thanks to efforts by Mary Rawson the Markleeville Enhancement Club received $3,400 in contributions and a Frontier money grant from the County.  David Griffith reported that he attended a meeting on climate adaptation and funding sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.  Current calculations by CalEnviroScreen eliminate rural counties from the needs list, however the Office of Emergency Services does have mitigating funding for fuels reduction available for public and private lands.  The ABC and others can apply for these funds once the County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan is approved, which could happen as early as August 7th.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday August 7th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  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.

Dr. Hugh Safford to Present at July Meeting.

At the July meeting Dr. Hugh Safford, Regional Ecologist for the USDA-Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region will be making a presentation titled Fear and loathing in the Sierra Nevada: confronting a wicked problem.  Dr. Safford is not only a respected scientist, but as can be seen by the title of his presentation, he is also provocative, and as those who have heard him before can attest, a very entertaining speaker.

So-called “wicked” problems are difficult to solve because (1) knowledge is incomplete or contradictory, (2) there are many people and opinions involved, (3) conditions and requirements are changing, (4) there is potentially a large economic burden, and (5) there is much interconnection between these problems and other problems.  The current forest management situation in the Sierra Nevada meets all of these requirements.  The climate in the Sierra Nevada has been warming and is projected to warm much more before the end of the current century.  Although long-term trends in mean annual precipitation are mostly steady or rising in the northern half of the State, summers are drier, and the snowpack is diminishing.  At the same time, the recent millennial drought and subsequent wettest year on record remind us of the high interannual variability in the California climate, and this variability – which has fundamental effects on California ecosystems – is increasing.  Warmer, drier summers, coupled with the legacies of a century of sometimes misguided human management, are leading to a notable increase in the frequency, extent, and severity of forest fires in the Sierra Nevada.  The recent drought added large-scale beetle-driven mortality to the mix.  These and other factors are leading to possible threshold-type dynamics in montane forest ecosystems. Dr. Safford will discuss the management implications of this developing situation for the Sierra Nevada and adjoining regions, and will outline how the use of historical forest reference conditions can provide some level of guidance for forest restoration in the Range of Light.

Hugh Safford is Regional Ecologist for the USDA-Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region (California, Hawaii, Pacific territories), and a member of the research faculty in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California-Davis.  Safford manages a staff of Forest Service ecologists that provide expertise in vegetation, fire, and restoration ecology, climate change, inventory, and monitoring to the 18 National Forests in the Pacific Southwest Region.  The Safford Lab at UC-Davis is focused on applied ecological support to resource and fire management in California, neighboring states, and other Mediterranean climate regions.  Safford is director of the Sierra Nevada section of the California Fire Science Consortium, co-chairman of the California Research Natural Areas committee, and he serves on science advisory boards for a number of national environmental collaboratives and NGOs.  Safford provides international technical assistance on fire, forest management, and climate change issues in partnership with the US-Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Program of the Forest Service; recent projects include fire management planning in northern Mexico, climate change adaptation in SE Brazil, and forest restoration in North Africa and the Levant.  Safford is a current Fulbright Global Scholars Program fellow, studying post-fire ecosystem restoration practices in the Mediterranean Basin.  Safford grew up in SW Montana, he has lived in California since 1986 and currently splits his time between Davis and the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) is adding its signature to the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group’s (ACCG) letter of support for California Senate Bill 1079 which would allow CalFire to advance up to 25% of a grant prior to receiving proof of payment.  This would eliminate an obstacle to small organizations that don’t have sufficient working capital to pay contractors and then wait to be reimbursed.

The July meeting is scheduled for Tuesday July 3rd at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

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.