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Maidu Consortium hosts forum on future of Tásmam Koyóm

Hosted by the Maidu Summit Consortium, the Ecological Resources Group, made up of Consortium partners, ecologists and biologists, met at the Chester Recreational Center to present an overview of their findings regarding the ecology of Humbug Valley in Plumas County.

The Nov. 2 forum provided for various stakeholders to offer advice regarding the restoration and ecological enhancement of the valley and to update members in the progress of the Consortium’s Land Management Plan for the property.

“We felt it would be a good idea to convene partnership members and local scientists,” who have spent years instituting research projects in studies “to restore the valley’s ecosystems,” explained Ken Holbrook, Maidu Summit Consortium executive director.

The purpose of the land management plan, Holbrook continued, is to provide specific guidelines in sound land stewardship, as ownership of the 2,326-acreHumbug Valley, known as Tásmam Koyóm in the Maidu language, shifts from PG&E to the Maidu Consortium over the next couple of years.

He said that the Consortium has been following up on the recommendation that the land management plan be “created in conjunction with our partners,” including the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Feather River Land Trust.

The two organizations will be co-holding an easement for the property once the Consortium acquires title of the land, he said.

The myriad steps required to convey the land to the Maidu has been a long and arduous process for the Consortium, Holbrook noted, which began several years ago with the formation of the Stewardship Council in 2004, a public group that is intended to oversee the divestment of PG&E surplus lands, which includes Humbug Valley.

The nonprofit Stewardship Council was established after a settlement was reached in the courts after PG&E filed for bankruptcy. The settlement mandated that the company’s surplus lands up and down the Sierras would be divested, and a sum of money would be used to form and maintain the workings of the Stewardship Council, composed of a board consisting of different public interests or stakeholders.

“Through a long process over many years we were finally awarded ownership of the land,” which Holbrook estimated would likely be transferred to the Maidu sometime in 2018.

Holbrook said the Consortium has “elected to provide an environmental impact report in accordance to the land management plan and transaction process that the Stewardship Council is leading, as well as proposing other site specific enhancements.”

Such enhancements would include improving the Yellow Creek camping area, installing a small informational kiosk near the entrance to Humbug Valley, where visitors can learn more about the ecology of the valley meadow, as well as cultural information on Maidu heritage.

Holbrook noted that, “Humbug Valley has historically been open to quasi-public use, that included scientific efforts to study the valley’s environment.”

For example, the Department of Fish & Wildlife actively manages the wild trout fishery that is located in Humbug Valley.

Other professionals like Ryan Burnett, director of the Sierra Nevada group, oversees work on understanding the ecology and improving the conservation of Sierra Nevada ecosystems, including the valley’s numerous habitats.

Bethany Johnson, a biologist with the Collins Pine Co., is also a member of the Ecological Resources Group, Holbrook said, and is lending her expertise to the development of the land management plan.

Holbrook continued, “We fashioned an agreement that would allow the Department of Fish & Wildlife to maintain some of their interests in the land, specifically maintenance of the wild trout fishery, respecting their decades long commitment to preserving the fishery.”

In addition, “We thought it would be wise to partner with Ascent Environmental,” an environmental consulting firm headquartered in Sacramento, “and to contract with them to guide the process of developing our land management plan, along with the direct contribution of our partners with Stewardship Council participation.”

Another takeaway from the meeting, he said, was recognizing a scenario that incorporated western science “best practices” in cooperation with “traditional ecological knowledge” to create a better outcome for people who visit Humbug Valley.

He said the Maidu Consortium recognized the value to the public in fishing, hunting, hiking, camping and other recreational uses of the land.

A complex process leading to the final conveyance of the valley depends on a number of administrative steps that are coming up in the next several months, he noted.

The next stage in furtherance of the land transaction is to submit an environmental impact report, which will be guided by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, along with the Stewardship Council’s land conservation conveyance plan.

Once all of the different agencies and stakeholders have completed their reports and recommendations, it all goes back to the Stewardship Council’s board for review, Holbrook said.

The board will then make additional recommendations during a public review process, possibly sometime between the spring and fall of 2017, where community members can make comments that could be incorporate into the plan.

At that point, information is compiled into a final report that goes to the California Public Utilities Commission, which also requires additional state and federal regulatory review.

Of special interest to the community, Holbrook said the Consortium invites the public to an open house at the Chester Recreational Center, Thursday, Nov. 17, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., to offer ideas on the development of the land.

“We’ll be hosting the open house to provide information to those with ties to the land or have an interest in recreational opportunities in Tásmam Koyóm.”

Holbrook said it’s a way to offer an interface between the Maidu community and anyone interested in “the process that we’re undertaking to restore the land. … We’ll have a lot of information for people to look at,” he said, adding that, “We feel it’s a perfect opportunity for members of the Consortium to hear one-on-one from members of the community.”

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