- Author: Kim Ingram
In California, ~9 million acres of forestland are owned by individuals, with ~90% of these owners owning less than 50 acres each. Considering California has ~33 million acres of total forestland, that 9 million acres makes up to a lot of our state's forests that individuals are responsible for. The costs of managing these forestlands can be substantial for some private landowners. Zsolt Katay, CALFIRE Forestry Assistance Specialist, in Tuolumne, Calaveras, Madera, and Mariposa Counties, has some advice for forest landowners on applying for CALFIRE's California Forest Improvement Program (CFIP), which can assist landowners in paying for some management activities.
Q: How can CFIP benefit private forest landowners?
A: CFIP is designed to encourage private and public investments in forestlands. It's a reimbursement program, which can pay for 75-90 % of the costs incurred by non-industrial, private forest landowners when managing forests. This work can be performed either by contractors or the landowners themselves. If work is performed by a contractor, advance payments can be requested.
Q: What types of projects will CFIP fund?
A: The CFIP program allows reimbursement for a California Forest Management Plan prepared by an RPF, as well as non-commercial forest improvement treatments such as site preparation and planting, pre-commercial thinning, pruning, herbicide application, and slash disposal. The program may also reimburse for specific land conservation and habitat improvement projects upon approval by the CAL FIRE Forestry Assistance Specialist (FAS). For a more complete list, please download the CFIP Users Guide.
Q: Are there eligibility requirements in order to apply for CFIP?
A: Forest landowners must have a minimum of 20 acres of forestland, and no more than 5000 acres. The forestland must be at least 10% covered by native trees and be zoned for uses compatible with forest management. Land not zoned for timber production must be maintained by the owner for 10 years, and this is recorded through a Land Use Addendum in the landowner's County Recorder's Office. Treatment areas must be at least a 5 acres, but there is no minimum acreage for land conservation or habitat improvement.
Q: What are the steps required to apply for CFIP?
A: STEP 1 – Contact your local CAL FIRE Forester of Forestry Assistance Specialist (FAS);
STEP 2 – Contract with a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) who will prepare the application package;
STEP 3 – A CAL FIRE FAS will schedule a field visit to your property;
STEP 4 – Submit an application if your project is deemed eligible for funding;
STEP 5 – A final agreement package will be compiled, including the addition of any other required documents;
STEP 6 – Your CFIP application will be ranked against other submitted applications.
Please note that any activity where reimbursement is expected under a CFIP agreement, including a management plan, cannot be started until a fully executed and signed copy of the agreement is received from CAL FIRE.
Q: If my application is approved, what are my next steps?
A: STEP 1 – Hire a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) and make sure you have funds in hand to pay for work until your reimbursement is awarded (unless you are able to apply for advance funding – see below);
STEP 2 – Complete and submit a California Cooperative Forest Management Plan, unless one is in place. CFIP does require a prepared and approved CCFMP prior the project being started. An existing Non-industrial timber management plan (NTMP), Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) management plan may also be used;
STEP 3 – A CEQA review must be completed and submitted by your RPF. Do not begin your project until your local FAS has confirmed steps 2 & 3 have been satisfied;
STEP 4 – Start you project!;
STEP 5 – A field inspection will be conducted by a CAL FIRE Forester for every submitted invoice;
STEP 6 – Submit invoices for all project related costs. Reimbursement rates will vary depending on things such as if the work was contracted out or if you completed the work yourself. Cap rates can be found on the Cal Fire website.
Q: Can I receive money in advance for forest management activities instead of receiving a reimbursement?
A: Yes, you can submit a written Advance Payment Request, including a project description identifying how funds will be used over a six-month period. The written Advance Payment Request must be accompanied by an invoice that contains the same level of detail as a regular invoice. Consult your local FAS for more information.
Keep in mind that CFIP cannot be used on the same area as other cost-share programs (e.g., EQIP). You will also receive a 1099R form for the tax year(s) in which you receive a CFIP reimbursement payment. Consult your tax advisor/CPA before applying.
To locate and contact a FAS in your area, please visit the Cal Fire Website and download the ‘Contact a CFIP Forest Advisor' spreadsheet.
For more information on cost-share programs, please see Forest Stewardship Series 23 Technical and Financial Assistance, UC ANR Publication 8253.
- Author: Lynn Wunderlich
Mike McGee grows Christmas trees in El Dorado county and has been using stump culture on his 19 acre Choose n' Cut Farm for 36 years. According to Mike, stump culture reduces the time to harvest for a White Fir from 8-10 years to 5-7 years. One stump can provide as many as eight harvested trees.
For those of you who think growing Christmas trees is as easy as planting a few conifers and forgetting about them, beware. Christmas tree production and stump culture takes work to produce a good looking tree. The cut, number of nurse branches, and selection of final tree sprout all affect the resulting success and tree quality. McGee goes back to each harvested stump in January and recuts the stump using a sharp saw to produce a clean cut. He then paints the stump using a 4 inch roller and an elastomeric coating, which is dense and will stretch. The coating helps to prevent the stump from rotting until the tree's nature sap overgrows it, sealing the stump.
The bigger the tree stump, the more nurse branches that are left. Typically this means leaving 10-12 branches around a white fir. New trees will grow up from either a nurse branch limb that turns up-not desirable due to the bend in the bottom- or a new sprout which will grow straighter, and is therefore more desirable than a tree grown from a turned up limb. The limbs fold up and shade the cut stump, nature's way of protecting the cuts that heal better when they have shade.
- Author: Pam Kan-Rice
Californians have been dealing with wildfires, the pandemic, power shutdowns, excessive heat and drought, sometimes all at the same time. In every county, UC Cooperative Extension is there to assist community members.
To better serve their clientele, nearly three-quarters of UC Cooperative Extension employees say they need professional development related to disaster response, according to a new study led by Vikram Koundinya, UC Cooperative Extension evaluation specialist in the UC Davis Department of Human Ecology.
Koundinya and coauthors Cristina Chiarella, UC Davis doctoral graduate student researcher; Susan Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for the Central Sierra; and Faith Kearns, California Institute for Water Resources academic coordinator, surveyed UC ANR personnel to identify existing disaster management programs and future needs. Their research was published in the October 2020 edition of Journal of Extension.
“It's becoming so common that our folks are being put in the role of responding to disasters, while not having much training or background to do so,” Kocher said.
“And, it's really cross-disciplinary,” she added. “Right now, our nutrition folks are doing so much with assisting their communities with food access during COVID. Others, like Faith Kearns, have been working hard to address drought and help clientele weather drought impacts. There are the individual events like the LNU Lightning Complex fires [wildfires caused by lightning strikes in Lake, Napa, Sonoma, Solano and Yolo counties that burned from Aug. 17 to Oct. 2, 2020], but really, so many of us are currently doing disaster work across our disciplines and that role will only continue to expand with climate change-induced disasters. Once you frame it as ‘disaster work' you can start to see how our system needs to be much more prepared and to learn from and collaborate with each other and with disaster organizations.”
The survey showed that about one-third of the 224 respondents had been involved in preparing for, responding to, or helping communities recover from disasters. Respondents also noted a variety of needs related to disaster preparedness, response and recovery systems, procedures, materials and equipment, and educational materials.
“UC ANR personnel reported a need for professional development related to understanding how we fit into broader disaster response systems (73%) in California, what Extension resources are available for disaster response (63%), how the landscape of disaster risks in California communities is changing (62%), how communities can mitigate or manage disaster risks (62%), how to develop pre-established networks within the organization for responding to disasters (52%) and coordination with local and state entities (48%),” Koundinya said.
The authors note in the journal article, “Even though UCCE has been playing a critical role in disaster response for decades, because of the size and geographic spread of the UCCE system, disaster management approaches and materials have tended to develop piecemeal on a program-by-program and often county-by-county and disaster-by-disaster basis.”
The article, “Disasters Happen: Identifying disaster management needs of Cooperative Extension System personnel” can be viewed at https://joe.org/joe/2020october/a2.php.
“We recommend that the findings be used for designing professional development on the topics and needs identified by the respondents,” said Koundinya.
- Author: Bill Stewart
The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) publications office today announced the release of a new book, “Reforestation Practices for Conifers in California”, a practical manual for landowners and managers that explains the why, where, who, when, what, and how of getting sustainable forests back into California's diverse landscape. It is available now for immediate viewing and downloading for free on the Forest Vegetation Management Conference's website: www.fvmc.org. Next year the book will be published in full color print and web format by
“The primary takeaway from this book is that the most successful reforestation happens if planning begins as soon as the flames die down,” said Dr. Bill Stewart, Co-Director, Berkeley Forests. “The manual presents a planning process, with a detailed explanation of the options at each step. These basic steps are the same for a small landowner, large landowner, or an agency.”
The recommended practices are the result of 50 years of concentrated effort to improve reforestation success and reduce costs under the difficult conditions present in most of California. Significant lessons have been learned since the last reforestation manual for California was published in 1971. The 16 co-authors of the new book present the best practices gleaned from their combined experience of planting over 100 million conifer seedlings on hundreds of thousands of acres of public and private land in the state. Funding for the preparation of this book was provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the U.S. Forest Service, and private donors.
Successful reforestation is nothing like landscaping a yard and going down to the nursery to buy a few fruit trees to plant and water in your backyard. Because reforesting burned forestland depends on natural precipitation and not costly irrigation systems, reforestation requires careful evaluation of the site and the availability of locally adapted native seeds. If seeds are available, then foresters prescribe treatments for the site and the quantity of seedlings of each species needed. Over the next two years, the forester will plan and implement site preparation, plant nursery grown seedlings, and arrange follow-up treatments as needed.
Bob Rynearson of W. M. Beaty & Associates, Inc, a forestland consulting firm in Redding, California and one of the book's authors explains, “Experience has shown controlling competing vegetation results in the retention of sufficient soil moisture for excellent seedling survival rates, even on very dry sites during prolonged droughts, when high quality, locally adapted native seedlings are planted properly. If you don't properly plan and implement the sequence of each time-critical reforestation step, then you're probably wasting your money, time, and valuable conifer seed.”
“To maintain the carbon capturing potential of our forests, significant investments in effective reforestation on private and public forest lands will be necessary,” said Dr. Stewart. “The bottom line is that achieving success is critical if the growing backlog of California's fire damaged forests are to once again be filled with healthy trees.”
The president of the non-profit organization Forest Landowners of California, Claire McAdams, is enthusiastic in support of the book: “The loss of family forests due to wildfires, often after one or more decades of ownership and careful husbandry, is emotionally gut wrenching. The new Reforestation Practices for Conifers in California publication by UCANR is an excellent guide to both the process and issues facing non-industrial forestland owners seeking to reforest their land. This publication belongs on everyone's reference shelf.”
Bill Stewart of the University of California' Berkeley Forests and Agricultural and Natural Resources is the technical editor for the project. “The final book includes more than 500 pages, 200 figures, and 800 scientific references. It will be a valuable resource for landowners, practitioners, and policy makers” he said. The process involved 16 co-authors and more than 25 peer reviewers. Given the time sensitive need to get this information out in the public arena while UCANR is completing the copy editing, final high quality illustrations, and hard copy publication, we agreed to post all of the peer reviewed chapters for easy download on the Forest Vegetation Management Conference website, noted Stewart. The Forest Vegetation Management Conference made major contributions to both the accumulation of the new knowledge that led to this book's creation and to the process that led to this book becoming a reality rather than just an idea.
- Author: Kim Ingram
For private forest landowners, the decisions of if or when to harvest trees can be confusing. Understanding costs and revenues is important, even if a landowner only wants to reinvest everything back into the land. Bill Stewart, Cooperative Extension Specialist in forestry at the University of California Berkeley, says landowners should consider harvesting trees as just one piece of their forest management plan. Landowners should ask themselves: Why do I own forest land? What goods or service might I want to sell? How willing am I to invest money now for future benefits? Most trees will grow, some will die, but which products will go up or down in value?
Q: Can forest landowners harvest trees to help address their management goals?
A: Yes. Remember that trees are always reproducing. In forests today, there are often too many trees per acre (300 – 500) which is too high for the water resources available. This results in smaller, less healthy trees. If you thin to ~60 trees per acre, then those remaining trees will grow bigger, faster, and be more resilient. Thinning out excess trees may also help fund other work you'd like done such as masticating brush or other practices for fire hazard reduction.
Q: Why is the price of timber so variable?
A: The price of wood is very volatile and varies depending on several factors such as:
- The species of trees you are harvesting – Historically in California, redwood has greater value than fir or pine. However, species prices can vary by region.
- Home construction - The more houses being built, the greater the demand for lumber which means higher prices for timber.
- The number of sawmills in your area – if you live in an area with numerous wood processing facilities, that will increase the competition and mills may bid higher for your timber. However, if a mill owns their own forested acres, they will often use their own timber and not buy from outside sources. The Asian export market out of the Port of Oakland can be very competitive for forest landowners near the port, though demand has been going down in recent years.
- Timber size - The competition to bid on, and the price for, smaller diameter trees for products such as paper or pulp is not as high as for larger diameter trees used in home construction. Trees measuring 20” diameter at breast height (dbh) or higher will often fetch a good price. For trees measuring between 10” and 12” dbh, they could still be valuable as saw logs, depending on the market. Trees measuring under 10” dbh, have a much smaller market, mostly as wood chips, and are often not as valuable.
You might also consider working with neighbors to increase the potential number of trees for harvest, which in turn, could help in increasing the overall bids for your projects. It is not necessary for neighbors to be on contiguous properties, but is helpful if they are on the same road systems and have the same species of trees.
Q: Can you sell diseased or dying trees? What about trees that have been blown down?
A: Yes, so long as the wood quality is still there. However, dead, dying and/or diseased trees, in many cases, have already decomposed and so do not have the monetary value that green trees do. Because blown down trees are dead, you have to determine if it is worth hauling them out or leaving them. Do you have enough to fill up a log truck? If so, it may pay for itself. If you only have a few down, then consider leaving them as the cost would be too high to remove them. If the blow down or burn has been widespread, there is often a glut of this material and mills will often prioritize processing logs off their own lands rather than buying additional logs, making the market weak.
Q: Who do we need to hire to fall the trees and haul them to a mill?
A: You typically have several forestry professionals working on your management projects. Start with a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) that you hire. The average rate for an RPF is ~$75 - $145/per hour and will vary by location. Some RPFs work for mills or forestry companies. You want an RPF that works only for you, and who will work to serve your legal, economic and aesthetic interests. The RPF will help plan the management activities based on your management goals and objectives. The RPF will then recommend a Licensed Timber Operator(LTO) to fall the trees. A truck driver/ log hauler will need to be hired to take the trees to the mill.
Q: Can I sell timber as woody biomass?
A: Possibly, though only if it doesn't have to be hauled long distances to a biomass facility. Since it is low value it is harder to make it ‘pay its way' out of the woods. Biomass electricity is currently a small player in California electricity markets. However, biomass could eventually replace much of the coal and natural gas we use from out of state sources. Currently, there are limited biomass facilities in California and there are no current plans to build additional, state-of-the–art industrial scale bioenergy plants.
Q: I have yet to see the results of logging look lovely. Can this be minimized?
A: Yes. Logged areas can look ugly for a few years. Soil disturbances often look better after a year or so depending on the amount of rain or snow the next winter and how fast vegetation grows. However, you will still have broken branches and stumps to look at. If you are harvesting within the view-shed of your home or business, you may want to consider spending more money on cleanup practices to improve the overall look of the logged area.
Q: What permitting is needed to harvest trees?
A: If a forest landowner decides to harvest and sell timber, either a Timber Harvest Plan, Non-industrial Timber Management Plan, or an exemption must be submitted and approved through Cal Fire. Forest landowners should work with their RPF to ensure they are in compliance of all harvest and environmental rules and regulations. Additionally, exemptions for removal of fire or insect damaged trees that lose value the longer they are left in the forest are much quicker and easier to complete than a full timber harvest plan and can be prepared by RPFs who would also manage the harvest.
For more information on timber harvest considerations, please see Forest Stewardship Series 21: Economic Considerations in Forest Stewardship, Publication 8251.