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.
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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.