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AVCSD directors looking at thinning proposal

Through grant-funding, members of the Plumas Audubon Society have offered to treat 181 acres of American Valley Community Services District’s watershed. But is this what AVCSD directors really want to do?

“If they’re just going to make it nice for the birds,” it might not be what the district needs, said AVCSD Director Kathy Felker at the Thursday, Feb.  13, meeting.

The Plumas Audubon Society is planning a 660-acre project for a Quincy Watershed Improvement Project, according to Audubon Executive Director Lindsay Wood.

In a map submitted by the Plumas Audubon Society to American Valley Community Services District directors, the district’s 181 acres, noted by vertical lines, is proposed for a future Sierra Nevada Conservancy treatment plan. AVCSD directors are attempting to determine if what suits Audubon’s needs will meet the fuel reduction needs of the district. Map by Plumas Audubon Society

Under the Audubon’s plan, 181 of the acreage belongs to AVCSD and the rest is under the control of the Plumas National Forest.

“How did we get involved with the Audubon?” Felker asked other directors and AVCSD General Manager Jim Doohan. Business Manager Katie Nunn explained that the project had been in the works for a very long time. Essentially, she said, Audubon approached AVCSD.

While the initial proposal was brought to directors much earlier, directors decided Feb. 13 that they needed to learn more about what Audubon plans include.

AVCSD President Denny Churchill pointed out that the Audubon did a similar project in the Genesee area. They removed material up to a certain diameter and understory was removed, he said.

Doohan was asked to contact the local Audubon for more information on its proposal. Wood provided a letter in late January explaining it.

“Plumas Audubon Society received funds from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy for the planning phase of this project including CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) and NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) environmental compliance,” Wood explained in her letter.

Last year the Audubon staff completed wildlife surveys for the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the foothill yellow-legged frog, Wood explained.

Archaeology was also completed for the entire project area in 2019. This year, the local Audubon is completing a wildlife survey including management indicator species for the Northern goshawk and the spotted owl. Other surveys are needed for carnivore, soils, hydro and other concerns.

Wood said they expect the surveys to be completed this year.

Wood didn’t specify who would actually do the thinning work, and if there are costs beyond planning and environmental documents.

Despite Audubon’s letter, Felker said that “Because it’s an Audubon project I’m not sure the objectives are the same as the firesafe projects.” Therefore she said she wanted to know more about its actual scope.

Directors agreed that Wood should be contacted for more information. Directors weren’t wedded to the project, Felker pointed out. “We can, I believe pull out of being a part of this,” she said.

“Wouldn’t this be better than nothing?” Doohan asked.

Felker said that the application and fuels reduction might not be heavy enough for AVCSD’s needs. Churchill pointed out that the district’s property is right next to national forest land. It is also close to Quincy. If another fire like the 2018 Minerva Fire threatened Quincy again, existing fuels would increase the threat.

“Let’s find out what it is,” Felker persisted.

Director Bill Martin said he is much more concerned about protecting the town. “We’re the steward of that land,” he said.

He didn’t want to see  the district responsible for carrying a fire right on into town.

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