June Meeting Summary and Fuels Reduction Field Tour

First of all an apology to all those whose surname is in the last half of the alphabet as I clicked on the wrong e-mail list and instead of you all getting the meeting announcement a totally different group got an e-mail that would have looked strange to them.  Sorry.  The video recording of the meeting will be available here for the rest of the month for those that are interested.  It is 290 MB in size.  If anyone would just want to review the slide presentation let me know and I will send it to them.

Our Zoom meeting on June 1st was attended by only eight members of the public and agencies due to the lack of distribution of the meeting notice as described above.  Dr. Marc Meyer of the U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Ecology Program made a presentation on the new Framework for Post-fire Restoration in California’s National Forests.  The presentation was a summary of the recently published report PSW-GTR-270 which can be found here.  There was also a major discussion on how best to get property owners comfortable with fuels reduction and willing to sign letters of commitment

Guiding principles for forest recreation include restoration of key ecological processes, consideration of landscape context, promotion of regional native biodiversity, sustainability of diverse ecosystem services, establishment of a prioritization approach for management interventions, and incorporation of adaptation to agents of change.  Implementation means thinking more broadly and strategically especially in terms of landscape-scale goals, and identifying different areas that would benefit most from maintenance or restoration and defining the desired conditions.  New tools, especially spatial data tools, should be used.

The Need for More Competitive Grant Applications:  The County was not successful with its grant application to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy for a fuels reduction program in the Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan (WRMP) Tier 1 projects.  Essentially the project was not competitive due to lack of demonstrated property owner support and willingness to sign a letter of commitment to the project.  This has been a problem for some time and there was a major discussion on how best to give property owners the information they need to feel comfortable with a project.  Don Hittenmiller suggested the most effective way to do this would be to show property owners examples of pre- and post-fuels reduction.  Further discussions subsequent to the meeting have resulted in plans to host property owners within the WRMP Tier 1 area on a field tour on a weekend in late June or early July.  The Forest Service will provide the technical experts, the County will cover invitation printing/mailing and food/refreshment costs, and the ABC will contribute organization.

Resource Advisory Committee (RAC):  The Forest Service is working with the Board of Supervisors to recruit members for the RAC.  It will be advising the Forest Service on what projects to fund in Alpine County for the benefit of Forest Service land.  The initial amount available is ~$120,000.  The time commitment is for two to four meetings per year.  The primary qualification is to be a California resident, which means for example that someone that may work in Alpine County but live in South Lake Tahoe would be eligible.  The aim is to have members of the RAC that represent a broad range of interests in Alpine County.  Historically projects funded through this program have included those proposed by volunteer groups working to improve the environment in Alpine County, so it is in your interest to participate.

For application forms or questions contact Carson District Ranger Matt Zumstein, matthew.zumstein@usda.gov, 775-884-8100, or myself, dGriffith.9@gmail.com.  The deadline for accepting applications is July 2nd, so please don’t let this sit on the back burner.

Pyregence’s Forecasting Tool Demonstration:  There is a demonstration of this new tool for forecasting wildfire behavior on June 18th.  To register or learn more go here.  Some of the researchers that have made presentations to the ABC over the years are part of the team that developed this tool.  Thanks to Shane Romsos for the information.

Participant Updates:  Matt Driscoll reiterated that the major reason the Alpine County application was not funded was not having enough landowner support.  The SNC is waiting for the June budget to be passed; they don’t anticipate major contention over wildlife funding.  Anna Bell Monti reported that the National Forest Foundation (NFF) was awarded a grant through the SNC for treatments on approximately 800 acres on the West Carson and Monitor Pass projects.  Steve Brink reported the North Fork Bioenergy Plant is erected but not running yet.  The interconnection fee with PG&E has not been resolved.  The project cost $15 million for the two megawatt plant.  David Griffith reported USFS is working with the BOS to recruit 15 members for the Alpine County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC).  The purpose of RAC is to make recommendations to the Forest Service on which projects it should pursue in Alpine County.  There is $120,000 available.  The committee will meet two to four times per year.  David Griffith urged ABC members to volunteer for RAC or recruit others.  The deadline is July 2, 2021.  David Griffith reported that, unfortunately, Zach Wood is leaving the County to work for a consultant.  It will take time for new employees to acquire Zach’s skill set.  He also reported there is some progress on the scoping study which identified two projects with excess biomass.  Though the SNC Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan grant was not funded due to lack of letters of authorization from landowners, the CalFire grant that the County applied for on behalf of USFS for 600 acres of fuels reduction west of Grover Hot Springs, looks promising.  A generous donation from an anonymous donor allowed the ABC to hire Brian Peters to write the grant; we should know in July if it gets funded.

Future Meetings:  July:  Depending on when the field tour for property owners discussed above is scheduled there may not be a July meeting.  If there is it will be a presentation on the Value of Environmental Services and the Risk to Alpine County’s Economy from Climate Change.   Any suggestions for possible speakers are welcome.

The July meeting is pending, but if there is one it will be via video conference at 6:00 pm on Tuesday July 6th.

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