FRC is working on a collaborative project funded by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to plan improvements and protection on campus land for forest and watershed health in support of Spanish Creek and the Upper Feather River Watershed. Photo submitted

$73,000 grant supports watershed protection and reduced wildland fire danger on FRC campus

Feather River College is working on a unique joint effort to reduce wildland fire danger on campus and improve watershed health in support of Spanish Creek and the Upper Feather River Watershed.

The project is currently planning best options to hand-thin a 100-acre timbered portion of campus, construct 2 miles of trails that can serve as permanent fire lines and propose under-burning on 20 acres.

The trails would also provide educational and recreational opportunities for the public and campus and community.

FRC Environmental Studies instructors Darrel Jury and Terri Rust designed the proposal that is currently midway through its planning process, the “Watershed Improvement Project and California Environmental Quality Act  Compliance” project.

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Funding is provided by a $73,000 grant from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, with additional support from Proposition 84.

“This grant puts FRC at the forefront of fire prevention and wildlife restoration,” said Kevin Trutna, Ph.D., president of the college. “Combined with (work previously done by) a Greenville Roundhouse EQIP grant, FRC has assembled multiple partners at the state, local and national levels to restore and protect the natural-environment resources of our beautiful campus.”

With the importance of fire suppression and widespread tree mortality a serious issue in California, Jury has the lead on the FRC project and described the planning grant as designed to make use of input from resource specialists such as archeologists, botanists, wildlife biologists, foresters, faculty, and students to complete the CEQA requirements.It is not an implementation grant to do the work, he clarified.

The project is vitally important because FRC is located in the Upper Feather River Watershed, the largest watershed in the Sierra Nevada, and headwaters of the State Water Project.

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“Funding provided by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy will allow Feather River College to continue work to improve watershed and forest health,” Jury said. 

He added that Proposition 84 funds will give FRC the opportunity to work with natural resource specialists, faculty and students to plan for the next phase of work needed to make the campus forests more fire resilient.

Water originating from the forested watersheds of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada supplies water for 23 million Californians and millions of acres of agricultural land. Up to one-half of the fresh water flowing into the Delta begins as snow and rain in these watersheds.

“FRC is also looking into becoming a Firewise Community,” Jury noted. “If the College chooses to do that, FRC would be the second college in the nation to do so.”

FRC President Trutna agreed.

“This project is helping us to reduce wildfire risk, protect an important watershed tributary to water-storage facilities and promote watershed health,” he said. “This is something no other community college in California is doing.”

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Jury’s progress reports to the FRC Board of Trustees have explained the FRC project meets the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Strategic Plan, including the Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative.

“The SNC initiative fosters an economically viable and sustainable approach to reducing fire risk, creating jobs and restoring and protecting watershed health,” Jury’s recent report stated.

Additional goals on the FRC campus include thinning and under-burning in the project area’s overcrowded forests that will result in multiple watershed and ecosystem benefits. Increased water yield, improved water quality, increased resiliency to high-intensity forest fire, reduced likelihood of beetle infestation, increased ability of the forest to sequester carbon, habitat enhancement and job creation are some of the anticipated outcomes.

Other primary goals include:

– Implementing fuel treatments to reduce wildfire risks.

– Improving watershed storage capacity, protecting life and property and reducing greenhouse gases.

– Reducing the impacts of climate change on California’s communities and ecosystems.

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The project is a partnership of FRC, Plumas Audubon Society, DZC Archeology and Cultural Resource Management, Greenville Rancheria, Maidu Summit Consortium, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Plumas Fire Safe Council and Plumas National Forest.

The college anticipates final results of the planning project to be reported to the FRC Board by the end of 2019.