In the past 20 years, more than 125,000 acres of Plumas County forest have burned black in devastating wildfires. Both private and public lands have seen the consequences of bad fire seasons, and some came too close for comfort.
At the board’s request, representatives from the Plumas National Forest spoke to the Board of Supervisors about what was being done to repair the damage from the fires at the board’s regular meeting April 10.
Plumas National Forest Service Supervisor Daniel Lovato presented an update on the fire settlement funds from the state. Lovato reported that with the Storrie Fire in 2000, the Moonlight Fire in 2007 and the Rich Fire in 2008, the PNFS was awarded settlements totaling over $107 million to go toward restoration efforts.
The forest service began planning projects, but the state approval system is long and arduous, Lovato said. With 82 projects in the queue, funded by the settlement money, and only a few being implemented now, the forest service is hoping for 2019-2020 to be active.
When the necessary approvals are obtained, the plans will encompass more than 17,000 acres of under-burn treatments, 407 miles of road reconstruction and maintenance, improvement of aquatic passages, and 45,000 acres of new range allotments.
“Trying to spend $100 million in a short amount of time is not an easy task,” said Lovato.
The forest service has partnered with a variety of organizations that can help spend the funds. Two partnerships were highlighted at the meeting: Plumas Unified School District and the Greenville Rancheria.
Greg Osborn, project manager for the Greenville Rancheria, presented an update on the fire restoration efforts made by the Maidu Tribal center in partnership with the forest service.
Osborn reported that their partnership with the forest service began four years ago in an effort to create jobs for tribal members. Since then, the size and scope of forest restoration projects have expanded and now almost 50 Native Americans and local community members can have seasonal work at 40 hours a week.
The partnership has been beneficial for both organizations, as Osborn said there are a lot of advantages to working as tribal group, and the approval process moves quicker for the forest service.
The second partnership highlights were presented by the Science and Outdoor Education Coordinator for the Plumas Unified School District, Rob Wade. Wade reported that funds from the forest service helped to add outdoor education and natural resource science into the curriculum at county schools.
“We get boots on the ground, smaller boots, but boots that are still getting filled to get out there and to learn about our natural resources,” said Wade. “We really want our students to grow up as mountain kids.”
Wade explained that natural science and practical forest management experience is incorporated into the curriculum from third grade all the way through high school. Students study the effects of fire on the watershed and on wildlife, and have participated in over 250 field trips to burn sites since the partnerships inception in 2010.
“They have a life changing series of experiences,” said Wade.
Lovato said the forest service will continue cultivating their partnerships and will commence forest restoration projects on the big fire sites within a year or two.