- Author: Greg Giusti
Reposted from the UCANR Green Blog
It's Deja Vu all over again
- Yogi Berra
Once again I'm asked to provide some perspective on yet another catastrophic situation affecting the North Coast. In 2015, it was the Valley Fire. In 2016, it was the Clayton Fire. This year there are so many fires I'm having difficulty recalling their names...14 at last count.
The cause for these 2017 conflagrations will be apparent once the elements of the fires are assessed. Tornadic winds hitting 50 mph Sunday, October 8, will most likely have started most if not all. Winds of this intensity can ignite fires by impacting electrical infrastructure by breaking lines and causing transformers to explode. The cause of the fires will come out in time. Thick stands of vegetation, the result of mid-20th century land management practices, years of fire suppression, homes built in rural locations in steep terrain, old legacy roads too small to accommodate modern fire-fighting equipment, and exurban development without the necessary resources to address fire prevention. All this leads to almost impossible conditions to arrest a fire being pushed by wind.
I would argue there is no better fire-fighting force in the world than those found in California. What these men and women do is nothing short of extraordinary. But they are faced with an impossible task in the absence of an equally focused program of fire prevention.
What have I learned from Lake County as a result of the Valley and Clayton fires?
The Lake County fires have provided insights that can help with the recovery and reconstruction of the most recent events. Specifically, resources must be secured to assist landowners and communities in better incorporating fire resilience into local rural and suburban planning and projects, to prepare for the eventuality of another fire by creating and maintaining conditions that allow the fire to be controlled before getting out of hand. Admittedly, the recent fires were wind-driven events that became uncontrollable. However, these fires are the exception to the rule. There are hundreds of fires a year in California that are quickly controlled and extinguished. Fire resiliency must incorporate plans and projects that can address less catastrophic conditions, in the hopes of arresting a fire before it becomes a conflagration.
Other aspects for communities to consider when addressing fire resiliency may include fire-fighting equipment scaled to accommodate old, rural roads, resources to retrofit old roads to accommodate evacuees and first responders, and rural lands with poor or non-existent internet service need to re-establish fire sirens to alert residents of impending danger. Local statutes need to establish and enforce vegetation management standards on absentee parcels. And, finally, a sustained dialogue addressing fire resiliency must be incorporated into all land-use planning discussions to help landowners recognize and implement actions to help reduce the risk of catastrophic fire.
None of this will be easy or inexpensive. But neither is fighting hundreds of thousand acres of wildland fires every year.
Admittedly, the weather conditions responsible for these fires may negate the best plans and efforts. But again, those conditions are the exception to the rule.
For every acre burned this year there are ten more, in the same condition, that didn't, providing next year's opportunity for a conflagration. The road forward to address California's wildland fire threat is long, and full of twists and turns. But as with all long journeys, each begins with the first step.
Greg Giusti is a UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus specializing in forests and wildlands ecology.
- Author: Pam Kan-Rice
Reprinted from UCANR news
In August, the Clayton Fire burned nearly 4,000 acres and 198 homes and businesses in Lake County. In 2015, the Valley, Rocky and Jerusalem fires together burned 170,623 acres and destroyed 2,078 structures. But the devastating Lake County wildfires haven't put a damper on fishing at Clear Lake, which reels in roughly $1 million to the community annually, according to a report from UC Cooperative Extension.
“The lake's economic attraction has not been negatively impacted by the fires,” said Greg Giusti, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Lake County and author of the study. “The fish are fine and the anglers keep coming.”
Giusti's report outlines the economic value of fishing on Clear Lake, highlighting the importance of the outdoor pastime to the local economy.
Bass, crappie, catfish and bluegill thrive in Clear Lake's warm water, with its rich plant life and abundant food supply.
“People come from all over the country to fish Clear Lake,” said Giusti, who studies fisheries and freshwater ecology.
Teeming with fish, Clear Lake's reputation attracts serious anglers. Bass Master Magazine (July/August 2016) rated Clear Lake third out of the top 100 bass fishing lakes in the country and first among the nine western states.
More data need to estimate true economic value of fishing
Based on a conservative estimate of the number of anglers and multiplying by $58.16, (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's estimate of an angler's average daily fishing-related expenditure), Giusti concluded Clear Lake fishing is a $1 million enterprise. He considers the true value of fishing on Clear Lake to be much higher because limited data was available to understand the full economic value.
To estimate the number of anglers, Giusti doubled the number of quagga mussel stickers sold and added the number of people registered for Clear Lake fishing tournaments. Before entering the lake, boats must pass the county's monthly quagga mussel inspection for the invasive species and receive the sticker. Giusti assumed an average of two anglers per boat, for a total of 10,156 spending $590,673 annually. Since 6,498 Lake County residents have fishing licenses, he estimated that they spend at least $377,923.68 on fishing annually.
He thinks local businesses can capitalize on fishing to bring even more revenue into the community by enticing anglers and their families to engage in other activities during their visit.
“Because access to the lake is open and free, we don't know how often anglers return to Clear Lake and for how long they stay,” Giusti said. “While they're here, folks are spending money on food, gas, tackle and maybe lodging. If they bring their families, Dad may be fishing while Mom and the kids might be at the movies.”
California Department of Fish and Wildlife collects about $57 million in fishing license sales each year. Giusti found that more than 150,000 licenses were sold in 2014 to anglers in Lake County and neighboring Mendocino, Sonoma, Colusa and Sacramento counties, which are close enough to make a day trip to Clear Lake.
Opportunities to catch more angler dollars
Although local businesses typically gear up for summer tourists, Giusti sees marketing opportunities around fishing during the spring and fall, as the primary angling months occur before and after summer.
“Right now all the focus is on summer tourism and wine, while the most active visitor months are not recognized,” Giusti said. “Spring months are the most popular boating months. Businesses should be hanging banners downtown, putting posters in the windows welcoming anglers with specials for meals, promotional events highlighting fishing, and even sponsored fishing tournaments.”
Other California communities could also benefit by capitalizing on fishing, in Giusti's opinion.
“Freshwater fishing in California represents a $1.4 billion industry, generating 22,000 jobs and providing more than $920 million in salaries and wages,” said Giusti. “California ranks fifth in the nation based on the value of fishing economics.”
The American Sportfishing Association estimates that more than 33 million people enjoy fishing in America, and spend an average of $1,441 per year on fishing.
To download the full report, “Understanding the economic value of angling on Clear Lake – A profile of a famous lake,” visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/ClearLakeAquaticWebsite.
- Author: Monique Garcia Gunther
Reposted from the UCANR Green Blog
Many forest areas burned by wildfires this year are now facing a new threat – erosion. A UC Agriculture and Natural Resources expert says there are steps landowners can take to reduce the risk of losing soil and polluting waterways when rain falls.
“The loosened soil and ash can move quickly under proper storm conditions,” said Greg Giusti, a UC ANR Cooperative Extension forestry advisor. “Property owners should take immediate action.”
A longstanding practice in the West has been spreading grass seed after a fire, however, the seed is slow to germinate and grow during the cold months that follow fire season.
“Seeding is generally ineffective,” Giusti said. “The seed simply moves and erodes with the soil and ash following an initial rain event.”
After losing a home, homeowners may feel the need to clean up their property. However, leaving woody debris, downed trees and limbs will arrest soil movement. Stumps and standing dead trees also help protect the soil.
“The roots are still in the soil and will help hold it in place,” Giusti said. “As long as they don't pose a danger, trees should be left in place.”
Spreading rice straw or weed-free hay on the ground is another way to protect the soil from erosion. Whole bales of hay can be placed in natural drainages to slow water movement and reduce erosion. Straw wattles – long tubes of compressed straw encased in jute or another material – may be laid out across a slope and secured with stakes.
“I suggest landowners focus on areas of their property where they can have the greatest positive effect,” Giusti said. “You can't cover a whole hillside with straw. People can only do what they can do.”
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Northern California's Rocky Fire is roaring through shrublands that have no previous recorded history of wildfires, reported Kirk Siegler on All Things Considered. It has already burned 65,000 acres and is 12 percent contained, according to CalFire's Incident Report.
The area has been protected from fire for decades, primed for the type of catastrophic blaze California officials have been predicting.
"We've got miles and miles of contiguous chaparral vegetation and literally there are no breaks in the vegetation," Giusti said. "It's extremely steep and, in many cases, it's a roadless area."
Four years of drought has left the vegetation bone dry.
'When these fires get to an intensity we've seen, because of the fuel loading, because of fire suppression for the last 50 or 60 years, it allows the plant communities to get so dense, so thick and so expansive that, once a fire starts, it's beyond the capabilities of human control," Guisti said.
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Omnipresent and homely, turkey vultures are a native California wildlife species that doesn't get a lot of research attention.
But UC Cooperative Extension advisor Greg Giusti has found a surprising level of interest from the public in his Northern California research project about turkey vultures' nesting preferences in oak woodland.
“Animals with cute fuzzy faces are far more attractive in our culture,” said Giusti, a wildland ecology expert. “Turkey vultures have been overlooked. Very little is known about their biology and environmental needs.”
In the study area, the researchers counted 417 trees in all; seven of them had suitable nesting elements for turkey vultures. They found that the vultures at the Hopland facility select large hollow trees – either dead or alive, either shaded or in the sun – to lay eggs and rear their young. The tree species in the study included blue oak, interior live oak, Oregon white oak and valley oak.
The nesting trees were widely dispersed and ranged in diameter from 36 inches to 65 inches around at breast height. The nesting cavities are vertical tubes in the tree trunks that drop down as much as 13 feet from the entrance to the ground.
“This is very different from other large birds, like eagles and osprey, who build open cup nests high up in tall trees, which they may use for generations,” Giusti said.
After turkey vulture chicks hatch, the parents drop into the cavity five or six times a day to feed their young, Giusti said. How birds with a five-foot wingspan traverse a deep vertical tunnel is a mystery.
“They just shimmy up and down, I would imagine,” Giusti said. “We don't know how the young birds do it when they fledge. We've never witnessed the adult birds calling them out.”
Giusti said the scientists will continue to build on the turkey vulture nesting database they have started with results from this project. In the coming years, they hope to learn whether turkey vultures will re-use successful nesting sites and whether they may be found nesting in fallen logs or rock piles.
An initiative to maintain and enhance sustainable natural ecosystems is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.