At the November meeting Steve Wilensky, Chair of Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS), and Irvin Jim, Chair of the Woodfords Community Council, will be making a presentation on the CHIPS/Washoe crew. The advances they have made in just two short years, the work they are doing, and where they see themselves in the future.
CHIPS was founded in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit to put people in economically depressed communities back to work. CHIPS currently has more than 45 employees, including some 20 members of the Washoe Tribe from the Hung-a-lel-ti Community in Alpine County. They perform a variety of work, including forest and meadow restoration, watershed stewardship, cultural site work, fire-safe fuel reduction, and fuel break construction in the wildland-urban interface. They currently work under agreements and contracts with the Amador Fire Safe Council; the Stanislaus, El Dorado, and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests; the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit; the National Park Service; the Bureau of Land Management; and numerous private landowners. CHIPS has purchased a former lumber mill site in Wilseyville and have a contract with PG&E to sell electricity generated from excess biomass removed from the forest.
The Hung-a-lel-ti community, also known as the Woodfords Community, is the southern band of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. In 2016 the Washoe Tribe partnered with CHIPS to train tribal members in forest and meadow restoration, cultural site restoration, fuels reduction, prescribed burning, and other work directed to reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. This year the crew won a “best in Tahoe” award from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit for their restoration work at Spooner Summit.
Before the Washoe Tribe contracted with CHIPS the unemployment rate in the Hung-a-lel-ti community was in the order of 67% and it was generally believed that people did not want to work. The crew has shown that that was far from true, and given the opportunity there were many men and women that were eager to work and improve their situation. It is a great success story and credit goes to a number of people and organizations, and most importantly to the members of the crew themselves. The Alpine Biomass Collaborative’s role was simply to connect CHIPS and the Woodfords Community Council, and then they took it from there.
The November meeting is scheduled for Tuesday November 6th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.