Prescribed Burning in Alpine County and the Smoke Management Plan

Our April meeting over Zoom will feature Carson District Ranger Matt Zumstein discussing prescribed burning and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District Air Pollution Control Officer Phill Kiddoo presenting their Smoke Management Plan.

For thousands of years prior to European settlement the people who lived in the Sierra were part of the environment, and used fire to improve their food supply, protect their communities from catastrophic fire, and maintain a resilient forest.  The use of prescribed fire today is based in part on these thousands of years of practice prior to European settlement.  Prescribed fire does produce a certain amount of smoke which can bother some people, but the smoke is regulated and far less than the uncontrolled emissions associated with catastrophic wildfire.  Matt Zumstein and Phill Kiddoo will cover both the use of prescribed fire and the regulation of any resulting smoke.

Abstracts:  Prescribed fire is one of a number of tools that are available to reduce excess biomass in the forest and to improve forest health and resilience.  Examples will be given of different types of prescribed fire treatments.  The Forest Service’s criteria for using prescribed fire, the precautions that are taken to minimize the possibility of it getting out of control, and the Carson Ranger District’s possible prescribed fire projects will all be discussed.

On March 5, 2020, the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (District) Governing Board adopted revisions to the District’s Smoke Management Program and Rule 411- Wildland Vegetation Management Burning in Wildland and Wildland/Urban Interface Areas.

A summary of amendments to the Smoke Management Program and District Rule 411 include:

  • Language updates to state that burning shall be managed to minimize smoke impacts to populated areas, protect public health, and to prevent public nuisance.
  • Removal of the prohibition from burning on Sundays and holidays.
  • Incorporation of requirements for unplanned or naturally ignited wildland fires managed for resource benefits.
  • Clarification of requirements and removal of redundant sections.
  • An emphasis on prioritizing public outreach and protection of public health.
  • Inclusion of a Procedures Checklist to summarize the requirements of the Smoke Management Program and District Rule 411 to facilitate communication and cooperation with the land management agencies.

The District’s revised Smoke Management Program and Rule 411 ensures the District retains appropriate regulatory authority and discretion to protect public health while providing for necessary land management agency prescribed burning programs.

Biographies:  Carson District Ranger Matthew Zumstein has contributed more than 16 years of public service as a land management professional.  He has served in a variety of positions at various levels of the agency, including NEPA Specialist, Natural Resources Specialist/Snow Ranger, Recreation Staff Officer, and as District Ranger for the Norwood Ranger District of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests and Carson Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.  As District Ranger Matthew takes pride in his ability to forge and maintain strong relationships with partners and communities in an effort to sustainably manage national forest lands for multiple uses and benefits.  He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California Davis and a Master’s degree from Michigan Technological University.  He is an avid outdoorsman; enjoying his free time skiing, biking, hiking, camping, surfing…pretty much anything outdoors.

Mr. Kiddoo received a Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Zoology form the University of California Santa Barbara in 1998 with an environmental ecology focus.  He began his scientific career with the California Department of Fish and Game in 2000 working on high mountain lake ecological restoration projects in the Sierra Nevada.  After five years of alpine lake restoration, Mr. Kiddoo took a position at the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (District), a local unified regional agency comprised of Alpine, Mono and Inyo counties.  He has served the district as a Research Systems Analyst, Senior Research and Systems Analyst, Supervised the District’s Data Systems and Technology Division, and since 2015 has been the Air Pollution Control Officer (APCO), which oversees all operations and functions of the District.  The APCO is the District’s Chief Executive and General Manager, responsible for enforcing all federal, state, and local air quality laws to protect public health and the environment from the harmful effects of air pollution.

The Carson Ranger District is collaborating with partners to increase the pace and scale of vegetation management on Forest Service lands within Alpine County.  There will be time at the upcoming meeting to discuss the public’s ideas on areas of concern and priority, so please come prepared to discuss the areas as identified by ABC at past meetings.  The Forest Service will be focusing potential treatment near communities, infrastructure, road corridors, and other accessible areas in need of management. Legislated Wilderness Areas will not be considered for treatment, however Inventoried Roadless Areas are a possibility if the Forest Service can address access and develop a path to either remove the fuel or address it on site.

Information on Fuel Breaks:  The Great Basin Fire Science Exchange is hosting a multidisciplinary webinar series and discussion on fuel breaks.  Details are available here, where it is also possible to view recordings of the webinars that have already happened.

Future Meetings:  For May there will be a presentation on the role and importance of refugia after wildfires by Dr. Meg Krawchuk of the University of Oregon.  In June we will have a presentation on Postfire Restoration Framework for National Forests in California (the just released GTR 270) with Dr. Marc Meyer et al, of the USFS.  Suggestions for possible speakers are always welcome.

The April meeting it will be Tuesday April 6th at 6:00 pm via Zoom video conference.  The Zoom link will be active beginning about 5:45 pm to give people time to chat and resolve any technical problems.  The connection information is below.  This time I tested the Zoom link to make sure it is correct!

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