June Meeting Summary

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Craig Thomas  photo by Annie Dean

Our meeting on June 6th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was well attended with 18 members of the public and agencies present.  At least a couple of participants were not able to attend due to their volunteer service on the fire department that was fighting the Payne Fire.

Craig Thomas with the Sierra Forest Legacy gave a presentation on the importance of restoring fire on the landscape in the Sierra Nevada.  Fire has been an important part of the Sierra Nevada’s forests probably since the end of the ice age approximately 10,000 years ago.  Prescribed fire was practiced by Native Americans for at least several hundred years prior to European settlement.  Consequently fire was a key part of the environment that produced the ideal natural forest that we think of and have tried to protect by suppressing fire.  Unfortunately in many places this has led to an overstocked unhealthy forest which is prone to catastrophic wildfires that did not occur prior to about 1880 when the policy of fire suppression was implemented.   Prescribed fire or controlled burns can restore fire to the landscape and reduce the risk of future catastrophic wildfires.  Craig Thomas’ presentation is available on the downloads page and is well worth reviewing for those that were unable to attend the meeting.

The MOU Fire Partnership was initially formed between the Sierra Forest Legacy and CALFIRE to promote the return of fire to the landscape.  The partnership has since been joined by Region 5 of the US Forest Service, the California Forestry Association, several other non-government organizations, and three prescribed fire councils.  We are hopeful that the Carson Ranger District and/or the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest of Region 4 will also join.

Participant updates included the following.  The Alpine Watershed Group’s monitoring training is up and running.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service is interested in collaboration on private land to promote forest and watershed health.  The BLM is looking at options for fuels reduction near Manzanita Lane. The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest has policy changes related to cutting firewood and portions of the Washington Fire area will be open for firewood cutting.  The CHIPS crew has embarked on a four year Tahoe Restoration Agreement with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit for work on sacred grounds and fuels reduction.  Up to 32 members will receive fire training and two or three will be selected for full time training and positions with the Forest Service.  The Sierra Forest Legacy is reviewing the El Dorado and Stanislaus National Forests’ updates to their forest plans.  The Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Governing Board approved new Proposition 1 grant guidelines and the grant application process will open on June 15.  Eight million dollars are available.  There will be a Trails Workshop in Mammoth on July 8-9, combining classroom and outdoor training with high level experts.  The Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group is working on a six month strategic planning process to prepare beyond CFLRA funding.  Saving the West was awarded a Wood Utilization Grant for $250,000 to study the availability of biomass and possible commercial uses for it in the eastern Sierra Nevada and western Nevada.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday July 11th in the late afternoon and evening  It will be a joint meeting with the Alpine Watershed Group and will include a tour of the West Carson Project followed by a discussion and regular meeting.  Details to come.

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.

Craig Thomas to present at June meeting.

Craig Thomas of the Sierra Forest Legacy (SFL) will be making a presentation on prescribed fire and the Fire MOU Partnership between Region 5 of the US Forest Service, CALFIRE, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the California Forestry Association, SFL and several other non-government organizations, and three prescribed fire councils.

The purpose of the Fire MOU Partnership is to increase the use of fire to meet ecological and other management objectives.  It is grounded in the understanding that while it will always be important to protect human life and property,  fire exclusion and a century of intensive fire suppression comes with some serious costs including ecological, economic, carbon, and  public health and safety.  Fire has helped define the California landscape for tens of thousands of years, as has precipitation, but recently we are seeing increasing fire size and intensity and emissions outputs that are extremely damaging to public health.   While there is no-no fire option for a landscape like California’s there are ways to work with fire to increase the natural resource and public benefits. Increasing the pace and scale of restoration must include a significantly expanded, well managed, fire program if we are to attain landscape resilience.

Close coordination with air quality regulators is also essential in dealing with the challenging issues of emission trade-offs, burn windows, achieving ecological scale of forest resilience, early public notification and other important factors.

Craig Thomas was the co-founder of SFL in 1996.  He started out work as SFL’s Conservation Director and became Executive Director in 2000 until 2012.  During this time he oversaw all of SFL’s programmatic work, fundraising, strategy and engagement with stakeholders, media, agency and political decision-makers and staff oversight.  Today he has stepped back to part-time and coordinates SFL’s Forest Conservation Program.  He has been intimately involved in the protection and restoration of the forests of the Sierra Nevada for over twenty-five years and continues working to find solutions to the threats facing Sierra Nevada forests and communities today.

Craig has a BA degree in cultural ecology, which is the study of the ecological, economic, social and spiritual relationship of people to their landscapes.  He has lead SFL’s efforts to not only defend the Sierra Nevada from excessive logging but to also protect Sierra communities from wildfire and to find environmentally sustainable solutions to reducing uncharacteristic fire hazard through the utilization of small diameter trees and biomass removed in forest thinning efforts.  Before founding SFL twenty years ago, Craig taught sustainable small-scale agriculture at Chico State and often lectured at local universities on sustainable farming practices and holistic agriculture.

Craig is a 37-year resident of the Sierra Nevada and calls the foothills north of Placerville his home.  When he is not working on forest restoration and forest planning Craig and his wife Vivian, operate Seven Grandfathers Farm, the first certified organic acres in El Dorado Co., selling produce at farmers markets, food-co-ops and on the farm.

The June meeting is scheduled for Tuesday June 6th 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.

May Meeting Summary

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Rick Hopson giving his presentation

Our meeting on 02-may-2017 at Turtle Rock Park was well attended with 19 members of the public and agencies present.

Rick Hopson, Amador District Ranger, gave a presentation on the Caples Ecological Restoration Project which is in the Caples Creek watershed in parts of Alpine, Amador and El Dorado counties.  The project will include about 8,800 acres of prescribed burning over the next few years.  To a significant extent the project is happening due to excellent collaboration between various agencies and NGOs.

The West Carson Project Working Group has been making progress on what economic activity can benefit from the West Carson Project.  Discussions centered on a possible firewood business and/or heart-of-center timber.  There is possible interest by the Washoe Tribe in these businesses, but there still are many questions to be answered including where the businesses would be located.  About twenty acres are needed and the BLM will be approached about possible locations.

The Alpine Biomass Committee is sponsoring Alyson Cheney to attend the SCALE (Sierra to California All Lands Enhancement) workshop in Sacramento.  Alyson is an AmeriCorps intern working with the Alpine Watershed Group.  The workshop is sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, the National Forest Foundation, and the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment to advance peer learning, all-lands management, and capacity-building of community-based and other collaborative forest management groups in California.

Participant updates included the following.  The CHIPS/Washoe Crew is being reconstituted and some of the new members will be from Carson City.  The USFS Carson Ranger District is close to finalizing an agreement with CHIPS.  Teresa McClung is now the Acting Forest Supervisor of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit while Forest Supervisor Jeff Marsolais has been seconded to the Region 5 office.  CHIPS reported that their proposed biomass-to-bioenergy facility in Wilseyville is number three in the queue and that they have several prospective developers interested in partnering with them.  The current offer to buy such power is $0.13787/Kwh which nobody is taking up.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday June 6th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Craig Thomas of the Sierra Forest Legacy will be making a presentation.

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.

Rick Hopson to present at May meeting.

Rick Hopson, Amador District Ranger will be making a presentation on the planned Caples Ecological Restoration Project which will utilize prescribed fire.  The Caples Creek watershed is located approximately 30 miles east of Placerville, California and encompasses portions of Alpine, Amador and El Dorado counties.  It is more than 20,000 acres in size and primarily managed by the Eldorado National Forest (ENF).  Fire suppression over the past century has increased fuel accumulation, decreased forest health and resilience, and increased the time between natural fires in the watershed.  Lengthening of fire return intervals has led to significant increases in fuel loading, tree density, canopy cover, and snag density as well as shifts in species composition.  These conditions have greatly increased the risk of high intensity wildfires that could have significant effects on water quality during a post-fire recovery period.

The Caples Ecological Restoration Project environmental analysis that was conducted by the interdisciplinary team analyzed approximately 8,800 acres of prescribed burning within the Caples Creek watershed, which included approximately 4,400 acres in the lower elevations (western portion of the project area) and 4,400 acres of vegetative island burning in the higher elevations (eastern portion of the project area).  This project would re-introduce fire back into the landscape to improve forest health and fire resiliency, meadow and aspen ecosystems, and wildlife habitat.  Approval to implement the Caples project was signed in February, 2016 and will be implemented over the next several years.

Rick Hopson is the District Ranger for the Amador Ranger District, the southern-most district of the Eldorado National Forest, located in Pioneer CA.  His education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Minnesota (1993) and a Master of Science in Forest Hydrology from Oregon State University (1997).  Rick started his Forest Service career in 1994 as a Hydrology Technician on the Chequamegon National Forest in northern Wisconsin, and has worked as a hydrologist for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Inyo and Sierra National Forests in California as well as the Intermountain Regional Office in Ogden, Utah.

Workshops:  For those that are interested in rural community development and wood utilization there is a two day workshop on May 16th and 17th in Sacramento sponsored by the Sierra Institute.   On Day 1 participants will have an opportunity to hear project updates from community bioenergy and other wood utilization projects, learn about the outcomes of the state’s Tree Mortality Task Force work, and gain insights on financing and business plan development.  The morning of Day 2 will feature presentations from organizations developing wood product campuses, insights on brownfields cleanup, and a dialogue on how rural communities can successfully partner with for-profit entities while ensuring community benefits.  The afternoon of Day 2 will feature presentations on biomass feedstock and conversion technologies from researchers, as well as a facilitated conversation between community organizations and researchers associated with the Waste to Wisdom Project.  Financial support for travel, accommodation and food is available from the Statewide Wood Energy Team.

On May 23rd and 24th a workshop in Sacramento focused on all-lands management and community capacity building is being sponsored by the National Forest FoundationUS Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region and the Sierra Institute.  Financial support for travel, accommodation and food is available from the Alpine Biomass Committee.

Both of these workshops offer the opportunity to learn more about how we can overcome the challenges to improving forest health and rural economies, and network with others that have been making progress in this regard with their communities.  If you are interested in attending either of these workshops and want financial support please contact me.

The May meeting is scheduled for Tuesday May 2nd 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.

 

April Meeting Summary

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Gavin Feiger making presentation  (photo by Mary Rawson)

Our meeting on 04-apr-2017 at Turtle Rock Park was well attended with 21 members of the public and agencies present.  Thanks are due to Gavin Feiger of the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) for organizing the meeting.  More detailed notes of the meeting are available here.

Gavin reviewed the Markleevillage Fuels Reduction Project and led a discussion on historical fuels reduction projects by the Forest Service, BLM, Alpine County and the Alpine Fire Safe Council.  The AWG provided a series of maps showing the CALFIRE Fire Hazard Ratings, previous and existing fuels reduction projects, and land status.  Participants marked areas that they considered priorities for projects and the AWG will be making the results available later.

Danna Stroud of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) reviewed the state of Sierra Nevada’s forests and explained how their Watershed Improvement Program (WIP) was designed to improve forest and watershed health.  There are three focus areas in the WIP: investment in watershed restoration, policy and process constraints, and the need for infrastructure to utilize biomass.  She stressed the importance of a watershed scale all-lands approach and briefly discussed their Tahoe-Central Sierra, French Meadow, and Tuolumne County projects.  Revised grant guidelines for the next round of Proposition 1 grant applications will probably allow for combined meadow and forest restoration projects.

The West Carson Project Working Group has had one meeting and will be setting up regular meetings with the Forest Service to participate in planning the West Carson Project.

Sponsorships are available to two sets of workshops in Sacramento.  On May 16th and 17th the Rural Development Initiative by the Sierra Institute will be holding a workshop on community and economic development projects focused on biomass utilization followed by the Waste to Wisdom project spearheaded by researchers from Humboldt State University which is exploring ways to advance biomass utilization.  On May 23rd and 24th two workshops are being held jointly with the National Forest Foundation, US Forest Service and the Sierra Institute.  The workshop on May 23rd focuses on all-lands management while the workshop on May 24th focuses on advancing peer learning, all lands management, and capacity-building of community-based and other collaborative forest management groups in California.  Please contact us if you would like to attend any of the workshops.

It was agreed to send a letter supporting continued funding of AmeriCorps.

Participant updates included the following.  Norma Santiago reported that the Ultimate Gasification System may have an opportunity to test its unit, and that there will be a demonstration of a smaller unit in Las Vegas.  Those interested should contact her.  Irvin Jim reported that the CHIPS/Washoe crew will be starting work in the Tahoe Basin about June 1st.  It is part of a three year, $750,000 grant with a 20% match.  They will also be completing training on prescribed burning.  Brian Peters reported that the County was progressing on the vacant lot ordinance.  Aly Cheney encouraged everyone to attend AWG’s Earth Day event at Grover Hot Springs on April 22nd.

More detailed notes on the meeting are available here.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday May 2nd at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  The agenda is still being confirmed but we hope to have Craig Thomas of the Sierra Forest Legacy.

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 to present at April meeting.

Our first meeting led by a local group will be on Tuesday April 4th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park, and will feature the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG).  The AWG will lead a group discussion of local fuels reduction projects and needs.  There will be a presentation about the Markleevillage Fuels Reduction Project, which is a 234 acre project in Pleasant Valley and Thornburg Canyon.  Funding for this project has been provided by a grant from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC).  The AWG, Alpine County, Alpine Fire Safe Council (AFSC) and the Carson Ranger District of the US Forest Service are partners in this project.

In addition the SNC will provide information about landscape level initiatives, including the Tahoe-Central Sierra Restoring Project, and Sierra-wide efforts like the Watershed Improvement Program (WIP).  There will also be an interactive exercise in which meeting participants will browse maps of the whole county in order to prioritize certain projects and areas of need.  This activity will provide an opportunity to discuss other fuels reduction needs in the county such as environmental planning, using the local workforce, and fuels reduction techniques.  Representatives from the Forest Service, SNC, AFSC, Alpine County, CAL FIRE, Bureau of Land Management, and other relevant agencies and landowners will share information about upcoming projects and provide input on priority-setting.  The prioritized project list created will be publicly available in order to provide guidance to groups looking to pursue fuels reduction projects in Alpine County.

Region 5 of the US Forest Service and the Sierra Institute are holding two back to back workshops in Sacramento on May 23rd and May 24th.  The theme of the first workshop is capacity building of community-based and other collaborative forest management groups in California and the theme of the second workshop is all-lands management.   The Alpine Biomass Committee can sponsor a limited number of people who would like to attend.  Details about the workshops are available here.

The April meeting is scheduled for Tuesday April 4th 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.

March Meeting Summary

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Larry Swan explaining CAL FIRE High Hazard Zones (photo by Mary Rawson)

Our meeting on 07-mar-2017 at Turtle Rock Park was well attended with 25 members of the public and agencies present in person and one more attending by phone.  Thanks are due to Irene Davidson and the Carson Ranger District for the use of their conference line, and also to Chuck Leonard (the County’s IT specialist) who set up the VoIP phone for the meeting.

Larry Swan, the Forest Service Wood Utilization and Biomass Specialist for California (Region 5), gave an excellent presentation on how much biomass (wood and wood fiber) from the forest might be available in and near Alpine County, and what the economic development possibilities might be.  He described potential supply, markets, and processing alternatives.  Some small scale development that helps restore forest health and brings jobs to Alpine County appears to be possible.  He will be updating his PowerPoint presentation and once it is available it will be on the downloads page of our blog/website.  Julie Kies, the Forest Service Regional Biomass Coordinator for Region 4, attended by telephone.  Thanks to Irene Davidson for arranging this meeting.

A letter was sent to the Forest Climate Action Team (FCAT) commenting on the draft Forest Carbon Plan.  CalFire’s 2017-2018 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) program may have $40 million available statewide for grants.  It is expected that their program may be ready to accept applications in June, and it was agreed that some areas where the Forest Service has already completed the required NEPA clearance for fuels reduction could be candidates for grant applications.

Participant updates included the following.  The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) reported that their update on the state of Sierra Nevada forests is available here.  This report is well worth reading.  They also reported that applications for $8.2 million of Proposition 1 grants will be available starting June 1st.  Mono County’s biothermal plant in Bridgeport is now up and running successfully and an opening ceremony is being planned.  The biothermal plant was supported by an SNC Proposition 84 grant.  CHIPS and the Washoe Tribe have signed a partnership agreement with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit that will initially put 15 people to work starting May 1st at higher wages.  The crew may be expanded up to 30 people eventually.  This is a great accomplishment and Irvin Jim and Steve Wilensky are to be congratulated.  CHIPS’s proposed Wilseyville biomass-to-bioenergy facility is now in the queue to supply energy to PG&E.  The Nevada Division of Forestry is working with the Bureau of Land Management to investigate restarting the biomass-to-bioenergy plant at the prison in Carson City.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday April 4th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park and will feature a presentation by the Alpine Watershed Group on the Markleevillage Fuels Project.  The May 2nd meeting is still being confirmed but we hope to have Craig Thomas of the Sierra Forest Legacy along with Malcolm North who wrote the Forest Service guidelines for forest management attend.

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.