Our Zoom meeting on April 6th was attended by 16 members of the public and agencies. The main topic of the meeting was prescribed burning and regulation of smoke due to prescribed burns. Presentations were made by Carson District Ranger Matt Zumstein and Air Pollution Control Officer Phill Kiddoo of the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District. A productive discussion was also had on priority multi-jurisdiction fuels reduction projects that could be eligible for CalFire or Sierra Nevada Conservancy funding.
Prescribed fire is one tool in the tool box that can be used to improve forest resilience and restore our forest to the resilient condition they were in prior to European settlement. Native Americans in the Sierras used what we today call prescribed fire for thousands of years to maintain a resilient forest and improve food supplies for themselves and the wildlife that they relied on. The term prescribed fire includes pile burning, understory burning, broadcast burning, and managed fire. It reduces hazardous fuels, protecting communities from extreme fires, minimizes the spread of insects and disease, removes unwanted species that threaten species native to an ecosystem, provides forage for game, improves habitat for threatened and endangered species, recycles nutrients back to the soil, and promotes growth of trees, wildflowers, and other plants.
Prescribed fire is only used when it is the appropriate tool considering what needs to be done, and the temperature, humidity, winds, vegetation moisture, and smoke dispersal are such that it can be carried out safely. Somewhere in the order of 1% of prescribed fires get out of control, and unfortunately they are the ones that make the news. The Great Basin Unified Air Quality Control District has a Smoke Management Plan and works with the Forest Service and other agencies to minimize the amount and spread of smoke. The amount of smoke produced from prescribed fire is trivial in comparison to that emitted from catastrophic wildfire. Prescribed fire also significantly reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
Fuels Reduction Project Priority Discussion: CalFire and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy have funding available for fuels reduction projects and the Forest Service requested input on what priority area they should follow up on with respect to lands that they manage. Wilderness Areas are off limits, but Inventoried Roadless Areas are a possibility. A consensus was reached that the area around Grover’s Hot Springs and to the west was the highest priority. Subsequent to the ABC meeting, a project in this area that involved State Parks, the Forest Service, and Alpine County looks like it could be competitive for funding from CalFire. All of the agencies involved are working collaboratively to try and make this happen.
Participant Updates: Brian Newman reported that CalFire will be providing defensible space inspections in Alpine County in the next 6-8 weeks. He has been working with Kris Hartnett. They are upstaffing two new fire crews in Lake Tahoe; these crews will be involved in work with the State Parks and the Hot Springs Corridor project. Matt Driscoll reported that the SNC does not have a deadline for the wildfire resilience grants; they are waiting for budget approval (subsequent to the meeting the grant deadline was set as April 30th). The next fiscal year will include funding for implementation or planning grants. Mo Loden reported that the AWG will have continued discussion on Zoom, May 11th, 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m., regarding the impact of recreation trends on the West Fork of the Carson River. Matt Zumstein reported the Forest Service is getting ready for fire season. He will contact David Griffith and January Riddle about reactivating the Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) to access $130,000 of funding. David Griffith reported he predicts the supervisors will be proactive. Matt Zumstein is meeting with Steve Wilensky regarding opportunities for CHIPS. Tim Roide reported that the BLM is gearing up for fire season. They will treat 290 acres between October and November on Poor Boy Ridge and south and southwest of Turtle Rock Park. There are challenges at Indian Creek Campground, which remains closed. They are replacing the water line this summer and the bath house is being rebuilt; both projects are delayed. The delay will allow them to address fuels reduction at the campground. Crews will remove hazard trees. Tim Roide is looking for woodcutters to remove tree bowls; anyone interested can contact him by email. Trina Johnson reported the NRCS has program funding opportunities through their Regional Conservation Park Program. The emphasis is on climate smart agriculture and forestry. Details of this program are available here.
Future Meetings: May: Presentation on the role and importance of refugia after wildfires, Dr. Meg Krawchuk of the University of Oregon. June: Post-fire Restoration Framework for National Forests in California, Dr. Marc Meyer, et al., USFS. Any suggestions for possible speakers are welcome. Depending on whether our agency partners will be permitted to attend an in-person meeting, there is a good chance that we will be able to resume in-person meetings beginning in June.
The May meeting will be via video conference at 6:00 pm on Tuesday May 4th.