Here's the weekly news digest from Greg Giuisti:
Jewell halts 'Blueways' program, E&E Daily, July 18, 2013
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell this morning said she has stopped a controversial program designed to recognize conservation of valuable watersheds, a move aimed at appeasing Republican critics ahead of a House hearing on the program this afternoon (E&E Daily, July 15). Jewell this morning told the Natural Resources Committee she has ordered a "pause" on the National Blueways program while she briefs herself on the issues. No new blueway designation will occur "until we figure out the future of the program," Jewell said......
Groups file FOIA request over Six Rivers National Forest Service maps, Catherine Wong, Eureak Times-Standard, 07/18/2013
Six Rivers National Forest Service officials said Wednesday that the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights and multiple recreation groups have filed a Freedom of Information Act request for map data. Forest Service spokeswomen Peggi Lawrence said the office received the request by email on Tuesday from HumCPR, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, Disabled Adventure Outfitters and the Northern California Horsemen's Association. ”We're currently looking for the requested material,” she said......
Climate change forces US Forest Service to shift its strategy on larger fires,
Molly Peterson, 89.3 KPCC, July 17th, 2013
Climate change is forcing the US Forest Service to rethink how it fights large wildfires. Global warming has increased the intensity of fires, forcing the USFS to spend more and more of its money fighting them. Now the agency has decided that it should be less aggressive in attacking big blazes, so long as they are not threatening property. In 1991, the US Forest Service’s spent 13 percent.....
Huge central Oregon timber stand could become carbon offset, Portland auctioneer says, Richard Cockle, The Oregonian, July 16, 2013
PRINEVILLE – Portland real estate agent John Rosenthal leans against the wooden railing of a fire lookout, gazing east toward the lonesome Mill Creek and Bridge Creek wilderness areas. Below the 80-foot structure spreads a rugged, 32,475-acre tapestry of a pine-fir-larch forest that Rosenthal plans to auction July 25 in an unusual timberland sale. Rosenthal believes buyers will be as interested in carbon sequestration and recreational uses as they are in the timber volume of the huge stand belonging to Ochoco Lumber Co......
California Coastal Commission: Bill could give commission teeth to fine violators, Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News, 07/15/2013
Facebook billionaire Sean Parker's extravagant wedding last month made international headlines when he agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle violations of California's coastal laws for building rock walls, a stone bridge, a cottage, dance floor and other structures in a sensitive Big Sur forest without permits. But it turns out the case is the exception rather than the rule......
New round of fire fee bills coming, Michael Gardner, San Diego Union Tribune, July 13, 2013
SACRAMENTO — A controversial fire prevention fee charged to Californians who live in rural regions defended by CalFire enters its second year with a new round of bills going out Friday. The fee brought in a little less than $77 million the first year, according to a new state accounting of receipts that go through June 28......
ARB fines nine companies under greenhouse gas law, Capitol Weekly, July 12, 2013
State officials have fined nine companies for violating California's greenhouse gas law, which requires facilities to annually report their emissions. The fines totaled $285,000, with the largest single penalty, $120,000, levied against ExxonMobil, the Air Resources Board announced......
DC Circuit ruling leaves door wide open for EPA to quickly amend greenhouse gas regulations, National Alliance of Forest Owners, July 12, 2013
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit) in Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday vacated EPA’s three-year deferral of the agency’s greenhouse gas regulations (Tailoring Rule) for biomass on strictly technical grounds. Although the Court found that EPA did not adequately justify its deferral decision in the administrative record, the Court left wide open the prospect that EPA can proceed with its amendments to the Tailoring Rule to appropriately account for the carbon benefits of biomass energy. .....
Court rejects EPA rule that deferred carbon standards for biomass industry, Greenwire, July 12, 2013
A three-judge panel scrapped a U.S. EPA rule today that had given biomass-burning facilities a pass on compliance with federal greenhouse gas emission standards. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit panel found EPA failed to justify its 2011 decision that provided a three-year exemption to its greenhouse gas rules for facilities that burn materials ranging from wood and algae to scrap tires......
Firefighter risks grow as development sprawls into woodlands, Greenwire, July 11, 2013
"Be firewise. Create defensible space." About 50 signs carrying that message are found all over the city of Prescott, Ariz., and in surrounding communities, reminding residents that they live in one of the most fire-prone areas of the West. The signs have been in place for about a decade. Yet many homes in the Prescott area still have trees brushing against rooftops, shrubs hugging walls and firewood stacked by the back door -- all of which can help a wildfire jump from forest to house or vice versa......
Home prices rise in May by most in 7 years, Christopher S. Rugaber, USA Today, July 2, 2013
Housing prices experienced their biggest jump in 7 years in the month of May, a sign that the housing recovery is gaining speed. Story Highlights
• Home prices in May were up 12.2% from a year ago
• Prices rose in every state except Delaware and Alabama
• Prices rose 2.6% from April to May.....
Before dawn at UC’s Sagehen Creek Field Station north of Truckee, wildlife biologist Walter Clevenger sets up almost invisible nets to capture birds rising from their roosts.
After measuring their wings and gently blowing aside the feathers on their tiny pink abdomens to determine gender and general health, Clevenger sets the birds free. All the data is recorded by California Naturalist Jen Cubias.
California Naturalist Kaitlin Backlund of Truckee visits the 450-acre station several times a week. She trains volunteers to monitor plants, animals and insects at the site using the phone app/website iNaturalist.
Both Cubias and Backlund were members of Sagehen’s first class of California Naturalists, who were certified in 2012. Another 10-week class is underway at Sagehen this summer and an intensive one-week class was held July 8-14. California Naturalist classes are being offered by University of California Cooperative Extension and collaborating organizations up and down the state, including Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Mendocino, Santa Ana and Pasadena.
The program champions the state’s unique ecology and engages volunteers in stewardship and study of California’s natural world. A love of nature and a desire to share their passion prompt people to commit time to becoming and serving as California Naturalists.
Forest ecology is a natural for the Sagehen Creek course. The woods of the Sagehen Creek watershed were clear cut in the late 1800s to build the Transcontinental Railroad and shore up mines in Virginia City, said Sagehen director Jeff Brown.
Trees grew back, but the suppression of intermittent fires that under natural circumstances create a diverse forest environment with sugar pine, Jeffrey pine and ponderosa pine instead favors dense stands of white fir and underbrush, which could fuel a catastrophic fire.
“It’s time to do something,” Brown said.
Brown is working with Scott Conway, vegetation management officer with the U.S. Forest Service Truckee Ranger District, to employ a complex management system in the Sagehen basin that takes into consideration wildlife needs, slope, aspect, ridges and drainages to establish locations for prescribed burning, discontinuous logging and smart planting.
“According to computer models, these treatments will work like speed bumps for fire,” Conway said. “We’ll also be encouraging a return to Sagehen’s natural forest diversity.”
Mike Hamilton, a lifelong naturalist and director of UC’s Blue Oak Ranch Reserve in Santa Clara County, took Sagehen’s aspiring naturalists on a botany tour of the station. With the diversity of plants to view, the group didn’t go far.
“A typical botany walk is 100 inches, and then the day is over,” Hamilton said.
The sundew is a native carnivorous plant with prickly leaves that emit a sticky liquid, trapping tiny insects for food.
“It’s the coolest plant in the Sierra Nevada,” Hamilton said.
A session on wildlife included hands-on viewing of preserved wild animals that are found at the station, including bats, shrews, mountain lions, beavers and flying squirrels. During a water monitoring session, naturalists analyzed water samples to determine the dissolved oxygen, nitrate level and alkalinity in Sagehen Creek.
“This valley was here at least 5 million years before Yosemite Valley was formed,” Raines said. “But it wasn’t 7,000 feet high back then.”
During a geology walk, Raines asked the group how a several million-year-old and very large granite boulder could be found on top of the much younger andecite deposit.
“Probably a glacier,” he said.
Learning about nature is critical for California Naturalists, but learning to interpret nature is equally important. The program prepares its volunteers by introducing the iNaturalist.org website/app for cataloging observations of plants, insects and wildlife into a database that can be used for scientific research. The aspiring naturalists also learn about interpretation of nature through art – such as storytelling, journaling, photography and drawing.
“Interpretation involves making meaning and forming connections, not just rattling off facts,” said Laura Cassidy Rogers, a doctoral student in modern thought and literature at Stanford University. “Let the natural world be your guide. Capitalize on happenstance sightings and zero in on what your constituents find interesting.”
All participants conduct a “capstone project” to complete California Naturalist certification. The capstone encourages the naturalists to apply their new skills by taking part in citizen science, offering interpretive opportunities to the public, providing program support to their sponsoring organizations or conducting stewardship work that benefits the California natural environment. To learn more, see the California Naturalist website.
Here's the weekly news digest from Greg Giuisti:
Groups oppose listing of frogs, toads under ESA, Kate Campbell
Ag Alert, July 10, 201
An outpouring of comments on proposed listing under the federal Endangered Species Act of two California frog species and the Yosemite toad has prompted reopening of the public comment period. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said listing the species for protection could include designating about 1.8 million acres in 17 California counties as critical habitat and restrict grazing and recreation activities on public land.....
CA Sierra Club rips energy source that’s cut emissions: natural gas, Chris Reed
Cal Watchdog, July 8, 2013
A visit to the California Sierra Club’s priorities page illustrates one of the funniest and most ironic public-policy developments of our time. The club’s top three priorities are getting California “Beyond Coal,” “Beyond Oil” and “Beyond Natural Gas.” All fossil fuels are evil, you see. But it is the gigantic boom in natural gas — not the....
Quincy Library Group contemplates its future, Debra Moore, Plumas County News, 7/8/2013
Though Congress has not yet renewed the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, and the prospect seems unlikely, the legislation’s influence will be felt for years to come. Many of the timber harvest projects developed under the Quincy Library Group model are in the Forest Service pipeline, but perhaps even more critical is its legacy. .....
California’s Market for Hard-to-Verify Carbon Offsets Could Let Industry Pollute as Usual, Maureen Nandini Mitra and Michael Stoll, Earth Island Journal
San Francisco Public Press, Jul 8 2013
Timber, dairy and chemical companies line up to sell credits to biggest emitters
One hot day this spring John Buckley scrambled up a dusty slope of a patch of deforested land in the middle of California’s Stanislaus National Forest in the Sierra Nevada, five miles west of Yosemite National Park, and surveyed the bleak landscape: 20 acres of blackened tree stumps and the shriveled remains of undergrowth. On neighboring ridges, similar brown expanses dotted the green forest canopy. .....
'One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire' campaign U.S. Forest Service Sierra Star, July 8, 2013
The U.S. Forest Service and other land management agencies have a new fire safety campaign in California. The ‘One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire’ campaign is designed to provide constant reminders during this fire season to reduce the numbers of human-caused vehicle and equipment wildfires throughout the state......
Biomass company excited to be headquartered in Sacramento, Mark Glover, Merced Sun Star, July 7, 2013
Situated amid homes in a quiet, leafy section of midtown Sacramento is the headquarters of one of the nation's leading biomass energy firms. "We're probably No. 4 or 5 in the country right now, but we want to be the largest," says Hugh Smith, president and CEO of Greenleaf Power LLC. Given what Greenleaf has done in short order in the comparatively young biomass power industry, Smith's words don't come off as an idle boast......
Wildfire Season So Far: Tragic, Destructive And Below Average, Howard Berkes
Capitol Public Radio, July 3, 2013
So far during the 2013 wildfire season, more than 800 homes and businesses have burned to the ground, nearly 1.6 million acres were scorched and over 23,000 blazes have required suppression. And two dozen firefighters have died. But as dramatic as it's been, the season has yet to kick into high gear. It may seem like wildfire Armageddon out there, given the tragic deaths of 24 wildland firefighters this year, more than 800 homes and businesses burned to the ground, nearly 1.6 million acres scorched and over 23,000 blazes requiring
Here is a weekly digest of California forestry news by Greg Giuisti:
US Forest Service awards nearly $2.5M for renewable energy projects, Federal grants support the development of clean renewable energy, help reduce the risk of wildfire and provide economic opportunities to rural communities, June 20, 2013
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today announced the award of nearly $2.5 million in grants to 10 small businesses and community groups for wood-to-energy projects that will help expand regional economies and create new jobs. “These grants help grow new jobs, support clean energy production and improve our local environments, especially in reducing fire threats,” said Tidwell. “Communities from Massachusetts to Alaska will benefit from the program this year.”.....
House defeats farm bill in surprise move, Paul Kane, Washington Post, June 20, 2013,
A broad five-year farm bill went down to a surprise defeat in the House on Thursday when Republican conservatives revolted against the legislation, arguing that it would cost too much, while Democrats defected, saying it would not spend enough on their priorities. The 234 to 195 vote was the latest rebuke to House GOP leaders, who have struggled to muster enough control of the chamber to pass major legislation......
As fires rage, feds cut funding on prevention, Sacramento Bee, June 19, 2013
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- As the West battles one catastrophic wildfire after another, the federal government is spending less and less on its main program for preventing blazes in the first place. A combination of government austerity and the ballooning cost of battling the ruinous fires has taken a bite out of federal efforts to remove the dead trees and flammable underbrush that clog Western forests. .....
Secretaries Vilsack and Jewell highlight federal preparedness for 2013 Western wildfire season, Forest Business Network, June 12, 2013
During a visit to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell outlined the Federal Government’s efforts to ensure collaboration in protecting Americans from wildfire, and urged homeowners and local communities to take steps to reduce their risks during the 2013 fire season. The outlook for the fire season is severe across much of the Western United States......
House boosts funding for prevention, Phil Taylor, Greenwire, Friday, June 7, 2013, (subscription required)
The House yesterday passed a bill boosting funding for projects that reduce the cost and severity of wildfires. The measure was included as an amendment to H.R. 2217, a $38.9 billion bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security that passed the chamber on a mostly party-line vote. The wildfire language by Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) would provide an additional $7.7 million to the pre-disaster mitigation fund at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides grants to state, local and tribal governments and to universities to reduce the risks of disasters, including wildfires. Projects could include creation of "defensible space" around homes, the construction or retrofitting of structures with flame-resistant materials or the thinning of hazardous fuels around structures......
Climate expert takes on new Calif. job with adaptation focus, Anne C. Mulkern, ClimateWire, June 18, 2013 (subscription required)
A climate change expert has been named to the California Natural Resources Agency, where she'll work in part on adaptation planning. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) appointed Amber Pairis, 38, assistant secretary for climate change at the department. The La Jolla resident will be supporting the secretary for natural resources on climate-related work.....
Watering the forest for the trees’ emerging as priority for forest management, Forest Business Network, June 18, 2013
A new analysis led by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station encourages resource managers to consider a broadened view of forests as consumers of water. A shift in thinking toward reducing the risk of water stress to vegetation can help forests maintain their resilience and health in a changing climate, according to a paper published online in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment......
Ninth Circuit Holds Cumulative Effects Analysis Not Necessary For Informal Consultation, Ben Rubin, | JDSUPRA Law News, 6/18/2013
In a published opinion (pdf) affirming the denial of preliminary injunctive relief, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that "there is no statutory mandate to consider cumulative effects during informal consultation." Conservation Congress v. U.S. Forest Serv., No. 12-16452 (June 13, 2012). In order to address issues in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service proposed the Mudflow Vegetation Management Project (Project). The Project included a variety of activities, including thinning, sanitation, and
regeneration. Because the Project area included designated critical habitat for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), the Forest Service prepared a biological assessment (BA) analyzing the impacts of the Project on the Owl and its critical habitat......
Court agrees to drop Sierra logging case, Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, June 17, 2013
After fighting a government plan to increase logging in Sierra forests throughout California all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a conservation group concluded it might hurt its cause more than it would help. On Monday, the court granted its request to drop the case. The plan allows logging to more than triple on 11.5 million acres in 11 Sierra forests. The Bush administration adopted the plan in 2004, saying it would reduce fire dangers, and the Obama administration has defended it in court......
Housing starts climb 6.8% in May, Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2013
Home builders ramped up construction in May, providing an economic boost while they sought to take advantage of an improving housing market defined by low inventory. Housing starts increased 6.8% from revised April figures to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 914,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was 28.6% higher than May 2012.......
TD forecasts lumber prices will rise 30% by end of 2014, John Shmuel
Trading Desk, 13/06/13
Lumber prices have fallen more than 25% since their peak in mid-April, but TD expects prices will rebound by 40% by the end of next year. A new report from TD predicts the recent slump in lumber, which has seen prices drop 25% in the past two months, will reverse course by next year. North American lumber prices reached a nine-and-a-half year high in mid-April, boosted by increasingly more optimistic numbers from U.S. housing. But several factors this year have conspired to wipe away most of the price gains seen in the past 12 months......
Senate panel OKs renewal of timber county funding, JEFF BARNARD, San Francisco Chronicle, June 18, 2013
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A U. S. Senate committee on Tuesday endorsed legislation to extend federal subsidies for timber counties one more year, and to protect more wilderness and wild rivers in Oregon. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the two bills are part of his effort to solve the funding crisis for Oregon timber counties, which are struggling to finance law enforcement, and other services, in the wake of expired subsidies and voter reluctance to increase taxes......
New tool determines areas at high risk of forest fire, Tahoe Daily Tribune, June 18, 2013
With California officials predicting the worst fire season in a century, finding areas at high risk of wildfire before the flames start is crucial. That’s how a new tool to help forest managers assess regions exposed to multiple threats could save lives and resources. A May study published in the “Journal of Forestry” offers a way to identify areas where wildfire, insects and disease, and
urban development threats intersect. “Rather than looking at these individual threats, they can see where these threats combine,” the study’s lead author Jeff
Kline said. “It matters where these threats overlap.”....
ARLINGTON, Va.-- While some activist environmental groups push for a
monopoly, a new study released today found that a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) monopoly on forest certification in the U.S. could destroy tens of thousands of American jobs and hurt forest economies in the South and the Pacific Northwest. The study also found that a FSC monopoly would significantly reduce wood flows in the U.S., resulting in ubstantial economic losses for landowners and job loss for direct employees such as foresters, loggers, and millworkers......
Delimbinator makes its West Coast debut, Debra Moore, Staff Writer
Plumas County News, 6/13/2013
Forest Service personnel and timber industry leaders gathered June 5 just north of Graeagle to get their first look at the “delimbinator” — a device that can delimb a grapple full of logs at one time. According to Greenville logger Randy Pew, this is the first machine of its kind to operate west of the Mississippi and it is pivotal to the success of his family’s latest business venture. His son, Jared, has started a new logging company, J&C Enterprises. While the younger Pew is still bidding traditional logging jobs, he is also working with his father on the new venture, which involves the delimbinator......
reprinted from Public Affairs, UC Berkeley | May 31, 2013
Public comment to FEMA has been invited through June 17. As the public considers the project, UC Berkeley’s Tom Klatt, campus environmental manager and a member of the UC Fire Mitigation Committee, answered the NewsCenter’s questions about it.
Q: Why does UC Berkeley want to cut down trees in the hills?
A: In 1973, H.H. Biswell, professor of forestry and conservation at UC Berkeley, made this prophetic statement: “When eucalyptus waste catches fire, an updraft is created and strong winds may blow flaming bark for a great distance. I think the eucalyptus is the worst tree anywhere as far as fire hazard is concerned. If some of that flaming bark should be blown on to shake roofs in the hills we might have a firestorm that would literally suck the roofs off the houses. People might be trapped.”
Biswell was absolutely right. Eucalyptus, planted by land speculators, along with equally flammable Monterey pines, have been implicated in several disastrous conflagrations in the East Bay hills, especially the deadly 1991 firestorm that took 25 lives, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and cost $1.5 billion.
Reducing this risk means removing high-risk trees and vegetation.
Tom Klatt, manager of Emergency Services, at work clearing trail and brush in Strawberry Canyon in December 2005. (NewsCenter photo by Jeffery Kahn)
Eucalyptus are a special risk because they drop tons of dead leaves and branches on the forest floor, litter that provides excessive fuel to fires. Their low branches serve as fuel ladders up to their high crowns, and their volatile oils burn hot and fast. When eucalyptus catch fire, flames shoot up to the crowns, which send embers flying. High winds can carry the embers across firebreaks and clearings and into residential areas.
Eucalyptus groves on steep hillsides — like those in the East Bay hills — are extremely flammable when hot Diablo winds of late summer and fall start blowing and make control of a moving flame front impossible until the winds stop.
As a result, CalFIRE (the state firefighting agency) has categorized the East Bay hills, particularly Berkeley and Oakland, as a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.
Q: Is cutting down trees the only option for reducing the hazard?
A: Australia, where eucalyptus are native, uses prescribed burns to keep fuel loads below six tons per acre in wildland areas and two tons per acre near homes. Mechanical methods can also be used to remove large amounts of vegetation. But the practicability, costs and environmental impacts of doing so — and repeating the removal every five years — remains mind-boggling, especially on steep hillsides.
Reluctance to use prescribed burns in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills starts from the risk that a fire could escape near a residential area. Also, there is a lack of fire crews trained and experienced in the use of this technique near residential areas, and the climate window for prescribed fire on steep hillsides is narrow. Prescribed fire also has an impact on air quality, and carries significant costs.
Furthermore, the blue gum eucalyptus groves in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills are significantly different and apparently more flammable than groves of the same or similar varieties of eucalyptus near cities in Australia, according to recent research.
Q: Will more trees be planted to replace the eucalyptus?
A: Yes. In similar projects over the last 12 years, the university has found that native trees such as bay laurel, coast live oak, buckeye and willow readily colonize areas suitable for tree growth. Some areas will convert to native scrub or grassland, depending upon the slope, aspect and soil conditions. Historically, the hills have not been as heavily forested as we now find them. Rather, grassland and scrubland was much more common, with tree growth following the creeks, riparian zones and north-facing slopes.
Q: Don’t oaks and other native trees burn too?
Yes, all vegetation will burn, given the right conditions. However, our native plants produce less litter and live biomass (fuel) and don’t have the extreme ember-casting characteristics of the blue gum eucalyptus.
Q: And what about all those wood chips. Why leave them there, and aren’t they a fire hazard too?
The wood chips do not pose a fire hazard. Composted wood chips produce only incidental flaming with smoldering as the primary form of combustion, according to research by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Retaining the wood chips also controls erosion, recycles nutrients and suppresses the germination of the millions of eucalyptus seeds that have accumulated beneath the trees. These seeds are viable for up to 10 to 12 years, but covering the heaviest seed accumulations with chips kills these potential trees without the use of herbicide. Lastly, retaining biomass on site avoids thousands of truck trips needed to haul the material 100 miles to a waste-reuse facility and saves substantial taxpayer dollars.
Q: Why is herbicide necessary?
A: The eucalyptus trees on UC land are not killed by felling alone. Virtually all of UC’s eucalyptus trees have been cut at least once, many of them twice prior to 2001. It is estimated that more than 95 percent of the trees re-grew from their cut stumps. Had herbicide been used effectively in earlier work, this project would not be needed. However, the eucalyptus trees did re-grow, and instead of a single trunk, they grew as clusters of trunks, a far more hazardous condition from a fire-management perspective.
Q: How will the environment be protected during application of a herbicide?
A: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the use of herbicides is not likely to adversely affect either the endangered Alameda whipsnake nor the California red legged frog, and the National Marine Fisheries Services concluded there would be no adverse impact to fish or aquatic life proximate to the project areas. Strict best-management practices, rules and regulations will be followed at all times to ensure the application of herbicide is consistent with the hundreds of rules that regulate their use. These measures are fully outlined in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. (LINK) http://ebheis.cdmims.com
Q: Some people are upset about this. What do you tell them?
A: There should be absolutely no confusion or argument about the serious nature of fire risks in the East Bay hills.
Under normal weather conditions, fires that start in the hills are efficiently controlled by firefighters, and do not usually reach residential areas. During most of the year, temperatures are moderate and vegetation is relatively moist and fire-safe. Summers bring overnight and morning fog along the hills until noon, with moist midday winds blowing westerly in from the coast. Westerly winds can fan flames in a fire almost anytime during the year, but embers, if they are created, will be carried in an easterly direction away from East Bay hills’ residential areas.
However, there are a few red-flag days each year when all of the conditions are in place for extreme wildfire, usually during August through November. On these days, vegetation will experience a “perfect firestorm condition” with unusually hot temperatures above 90 degrees, humidity below 10 percent and strong Diablo winds blowing from the east, over the high ridge tops and down leeward slopes into densely populated residential areas. Any eucalyptus grove fire that occurred under these conditions could produce millions of burning embers and firebrands that could blow over fuel breaks and other cleared areas and then drop to ignite homes and landscapes.
Three official reports — the 1995 Hills Emergency Forum Vegetation Management Consortium Plan, the 2010 Park District Fire Mitigation Plan EIR, and the 2013 FEMA East Bay Hills Hazardous Fire Risk Reduction EIS — clearly document the problem and identify eucalyptus and pine groves as contributors to this area’s high-risk fire hazard potential.
As a responsible agency, UC is fulfilling its obligation to mitigate this risk on land under its control.
Q: How will the tree-management project affect wildlife?
A: The project should be beneficial to many species of wildlife, resulting in both greater diversity and abundance of native plants and animals. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that the UC project will remove zero acres of habitat suitable for the endangered whipsnake and will result in over 120 acres of new snake habitat, as well as reversing the ongoing loss of habitat as the eucalyptus groves expand over time.
Q: Has this been done before, and if so, what were the effects?
A: While the earliest UC efforts were not successful in eliminating the eucalyptus, projects undertaken using the FEMA-proposed methodology have resulted in the removal of over 19,000 re-sprouted trees on 185 acres in the UC hill area over the past 12 years. Not only have the eucalyptus and pine been effectively extirpated, native plant and animal communities have grown phenomenally without the competition from the large, tall, invasive trees.
A demonstration forest is growing at the top of Claremont Canyon; the south side of the road was cleared of eucalyptus and pine, while the north side has a dense eucalyptus overstory. The treated side has achieved a substantial biodiversity in just over a decade, and is on the path to becoming a sustainable, native-plant community that is thriving and teeming with life. Of course, these plants can burn, but are expected to burn with far less intensity, with lower frequency and in smaller fire footprints. Most importantly, eucalyptus trees and the potential for their shooting “roman candle” embers has been eliminated, successfully mitigating the fire risk to many thousands of Berkeley and Oakland residents.
Written comments may be sent to FEMA before midnight on June 17, 2013 by email at EBH-EIS-FEMA-RIX@fema.dhs.gov, by FAX at (510) 627-7147, or by mail to P.O. Box 72379, Oakland, CA 94612-8579.