Dec 12 1994
Lassen National Forest
Plumas National Forest
Tahoe National Forest
We would like to give our suggestions for the one million dollar allocation. Our suggestions are of two kinds: criteria for choosing which projects to activate, and examples of specific projects that would meet those criteria reasonably well.
CRITERIA. (Not numbered, since the order does not necessarily imply priority.)
-- How efficient would the project be in implementing the fuel break strategy?
Projects should be prioritized according to how well they fit the overall strategy to reduce the probability of catastrophic wildfire.
-- How consistent would the project be with other aspects of the QLG Community Stability Proposal of November 1993?
In addition to fire and fuels, the QLG Proposal includes other objectives and a strong emphasis on monitoring that would support adaptive management in the pursuit of each objective. Adequate provision for monitoring should be included in each of the projects.
-- How soon would the project yield results?
With a high and rising probability of catastrophic wildfire, delay multiplies hazard. Results must be effective, but they must also be quick. How quickly could the project be NEPA-ready? Can the project be implemented in '95?
-- Does the project demonstrate a process that could be scaled up?
This amount of money won't have much direct effect on the major problems that must be faced, so most of it should be used to demonstrate processes that could readily be scaled up for effective longer-term attach on those major problems. This implies a need to focus on just a few projects and monitor them well, because uncertainties multiply when you try to scale up from too small a base or when you can't quantify the baseline with valid data.
-- Can the project use the Salvage Sale Fund to establish revolving monetary support?
Wherever its use can be justified, the Salvage Sale funding cycle would be another way to multiply the beneficial effect of a demonstration.
-- How visible would the results be to the Public, to Congress, and to the Forest Service?
A successful demo needs to be seen, and it must be persuasive. The Public needs to learn and accept new ideas about forest management, and to participate in fuel reduction at the urban interface. Also, public support is a strong argument for Congressional support. Congress can make or break the effort to scale up a successful demonstration project. Not least, the Forest Service itself needs to recover from its current sense of futility and low morale. We think the best treatment for that would be to take a highly visible step in the right direction.
In trying to put together specific suggestions quickly, we find ourselves short on detailed information that covers the whole landscape, so we have probably not considered all possible projects that would meet the criteria. Therefore you should consider these suggestions as examples, not a comprehensive evaluation. We are aware that the Forest Service, after obtaining appropriate public input, has both the obligation and authority to choose which projects to implement. We hope to be useful in monitoring that process and offering updated suggestions when appropriate.
Suggestion: For the whole three-forest Quincy Library Group area.
Prepare master documents to support strategic fuel reduction and enhanced fire protection. We believe it would be cost-effective to develop the fundamental elements of fuel management on this multi-forest basis, including landscape-scale identification of priorities, fuels prescriptions specific to different vegetation types, Forest Plan Standards and Guidelines, and an EIS to support adoption of these elements into the Forest Plans. We believe it is reasonable to put about $100,000 of this allocation into that effort, supplemented if necessary by support from regular FY 95 and FY 96 appropriations. This is the kind of immediate up-front expenditure that can greatly facilitate many individual projects over at least the next several years.
Suggestion: For each of the three forests.
At least one fuel break that should be:
- Part of the overall strategic pattern.
- Long enough to provide significant protection.
- Readily accessible and visible.
- Associated with an urban interface.
- If possible, connected to private land fuel management.
If such a fuel break on each forest is not already in progress, it should be initiated with high priority.
Suggestion: For the Lassen National Forest
The only work-in-progress we are aware of that might be a suitable candidate is the Butt Creek project. In its current form, that plan would not seem to meet the criteria well enough, and it would probably go forward adequately without this additional funding. On the other hand, if the plan were revised to bring its fuel break aspects into line with the overall strategic plan, and take better advantage of opportunities to thin hazardous stands, a modest boost to the Butt Creek project might be worthwhile.
Probably more useful would be to concentrate on one or two very good examples of the fuel breaks suggested above for each forest. The Lassen has particularly good opportunities to coordinate fuel breaks with the fuel management efforts of large privately held forests in the area.
Suggestion: For the Plumas National Forest
Examples of projects that might be expanded or speeded up would be the fuels work associated with Greenhorn Ranch and/or Butterfly Valley.
If the Greenhorn or Butterfly projects are found not to be effective or sufficient as fuel break demonstrations, then one or two major fuel break efforts should be initiated elsewhere, similar to that described above in the LNF suggestion.
Work which has already been proposed for Community Protection Zone Analysis and Planning might well be incorporated into the three-forest fuel management planning and documentation effort described above.
PNF should take advantage of opportunities to leverage the effect of money by using established channels for cooperation with Plumas Corporation and other "State and Private" agencies.
Suggestion: For the Sierraville Ranger District
The Kyburz project appears to fit most of our criteria, except the fuels work is apparently unfunded. The question is whether modest additional funding would enhance or speed up that project sufficiently to make it the best use of the money.
Another project that qualifies well is a fuel break associated with the community of Calpine. This is in the early planning stage, where extra funds would significantly speed up implementation.
Comment: Regarding allocation of the funds.
We understand that an allocation has been proposed whereby $400,000 each would go to the LNF and PNF, with $200,000 to the Sierraville District. Also, that specific percentages would go to thin and remove work and to natural fuels treatment. And that in each case at least 1/3 is intended for contract work. We hope that this kind of allocation is only tentative and is quite flexible. Considering the complaints about rigid budget categories and too many "buckets", it is ironic, to say the least, that the first definite action regarding the million dollars seems to be distribution into some new kind of pails. We would have preferred to see some work done first to decide which projects are most worthy, area-wide, then allocate the money mostly by project, not be political subdivision. If that opportunity is already gone,then at least we would like to see flexibility in expenditure. That is, the ability and a willingness to shift some funds or lend a specialist, wherever that would enhance the overall effort.
This million dollars is only about two percent of the the entire 50-million budget for this area, so we hope that it is not thought of as the entire amount to be dedicated to the aggregate suite of problems identified by the Quincy Library Group. Considering that significant additions to the total budget are not likely, we think that this million should be seen as a one-time opportunity to demonstrate better ways to re-allocate existing resources, not depend on new money to meet each problem that comes along.
We hope our comments and suggestions are useful. Our committee will remain available to answer any questions.
The "Million Dollar" Committee
of the Quincy Library Group