Our meeting on February 6th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 15 members of the public and agencies. It was agreed to change the name of the Alpine Biomass Committee to the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC), and go ahead and file Articles of Incorporation for a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The draft bylaws are almost completed and will be presented for consideration at the next meeting. The reason for the name change is that it better describes our current level of activity and collaboration is considered essential to qualifying for grant funding.
Our application for $20,000 in matching funds for a potential Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant was approved the Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF). The funds will be advanced as a 0% interest forgivable loan. This would not have happened without the strong support of CHIPS, which will be our fiscal agent, and Steve Wilensky. Many others contributed to our success in ways that they will never know.
Unfortunately although there is Greenhouse Gas Reduction funding available for watershed scale forest health project, it appears that the West Carson project will not benefit from it. The Forest Service simply does not have the capacity to file the required grant application. The original ~18,000 acre project has been cut back to about ~2,000 acres this year.
Dr. Malcolm North presented his research on the relationship between optimal habitat for the Spotted Owl and a healthy, fire-resistant forest. Only about 8% of the needed fuels reduction/forest thinning is being done in comparison with the best estimates of how much was done naturally by wildfire prior to European settlement. Historical protection of habitat for the Spotted Owl is one of the reasons for this problem, but recent research has shown that knowledge of the preferred habitat was wrong, and in fact their preferred habitat is consistent with our understanding of what makes a healthy forest.
Specific findings are that: 1) cover in tall trees is the most important habitat feature, 2) tall tree cover and canopy cover often co-occur, and since canopy cover is easily (incorrectly) measured, it has been assumed to be most important, 3) tree cover in the height strata associated with ladder fuels is significantly avoided by the owls so reducing ladder fuels should not adversely impact them, and 4) owls do not avoid gaps except in nest selection (i.e., no gaps within 113 m of their nesting location). Gaps of all sizes are just as present in owl habitat as the surrounding landscape. Consequently fuels reduction and forest thinning programs that concentrate on the understory should not adversely affect owl habitat and in some cases may enhance it. Other benefits include a reduction of the risk of catastrophic wildfire, enhanced carbon sequestration as the remaining large trees have more resources (primarily water) to resist disease, and improved economic opportunities in rural areas.
Participant updates included the following. Gavin Feiger of the Alpine Watershed Group reported that they will be celebrating Earth Day on April 21st at Grover’s Hot Springs. David Griffith reported that the Sierra Nevada Conservancy was looking for a new Area Representative for Alpine, Mono, and Inyo counties. He also reported that the Governor’s Proposed Budget included $180 million of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds (GGRF) for forest health for next year. In the next few months CalFire will be calling for proposals for their Fire Prevention Grant Program (formerly SRA Grant Program) which would be a good fit for the ~1,000 acres that the Forest Service already has completed the required NEPA documentation. He also stated that there have been preliminary conversations with staff from Senators Feinstein and Harris about encouraging Region 4 the Forest Service and the Humboldt-Toiyabe to take advantage of the GGRF funding available from California. Steve Wilensky reported that CHIPS had completed the BIOMAT auction process and their bid to generate energy from biomass was accepted at a price of 19.725¢/kwh. CHIPS estimates that they anticipate being profitable at a price of 17.5¢. They have broken ground on constructing the facility and are negotiating with three organizations for financing a 3 MW facility. Their Washoe crew will be working on reseeding a 4,000 acre burn near Carson City. Ron Hames reported that the Sierra Nevada Conservancy was planning for possibly receiving up to $305 million dollars in funding depending on the fate of the Senate Bill 5 proposition in June and the Water Supply and Water Quality Act of 2018 proposition in November.
The next meeting is set for Tuesday March 6th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park. Currently there is no speaker scheduled but we will announce who will be making a presentation about a week before the meeting. Future speakers include Merv George Jr. of the US Forest Service in June and Hugh Safford of the US Forest Service in July.
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