On November 15th, Kyle and I attended a meeting of the Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions (YSS) collaborative group in Sonora, California. It includes a diverse array of stakeholders, such as representatives from Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, Sierra Pacific Industries, Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, the Tuolumne Group of the Sierra Club, and encompasses much of the Stanislaus National Forest, part of Yosemite National Park, and some surrounding BLM lands. Active since 2010, the group finalized a charter and other governance agreements in 2014 following the Rim Fire. Members from YSS have been active participants in the SCALE project, and our visit to the group’s meeting provided a window into their current activities.
There is a Master Stewardship Agreement (MSA) between Stanislaus National Forest and Tuolumne County. An MSA is a broad landscape-scale agreement that is implemented through Supplemental Project Agreements (SPAs), which are specific projects that contribute to the larger goals of the MSA. The group is working with the Stanislaus National Forest to implement mechanical thinning on 300 acres and conduct Stewardship timber sale preparation for 1,000 acres, as well as obtaining LIDAR data for all of Tuolumne County and the Stanislaus National Forest. This work is supported through a California Climate Investment (CCI) grant. The group continues to seek additional funds to implement forest restoration projects.
A partner-driven project in the area focused on reforestation and habitat enhancement. Three-quarters of Great Gray Owl nests were destroyed in the Rim Fire of 2013, the fifth largest fire in California history, so part of the project includes artificially creating snags, or dead tree trunks without foliage, that the owls like to nest in. A man climbs halfway up a tree, saws the top off, then carves a hollow in the top of the trunk with a chainsaw to create a nesting spot. Monitoring of these sites is informal but it appears that at least some of the nests are being used. Another part of this project involved getting community members, especially youth, into the field to plant trees. A second partner-driven project included mastication to reduce fuels and the installation of two wildlife guzzlers.
The Forest Supervisor on the Stanislaus, Jason Kuiken, then talked about the large scale planning efforts to divide part of the forest into potential operational delineations (PODs) that would have work done on them in a 15 year rotation. The goal of this method is to help prioritize work, enable landscape-scale planning and NEPA, and develop efficiencies with existing tools. This shift toward landscape-scale planning and emphasis on fuels reduction represents a focus on maintaining healthy and fire-resilient forests.
The group briefly discussed the role of upper diameter limits. Some agreed that an in-depth dialogue would be useful because in some situations the upper diameter limit can hinder the very goal of healthy and diverse stands it is intended to promote. However, others expressed concern that addressing controversial issues would be too contentious for the group and were in favor of continuing to focus on the “low hanging fruit” at this point in the collaborative’s development.
Near the end of the meeting Kyle presented an overview of SCALE to the group, which also provided an opportunity to share lessons from a SCALE case study of the innovative Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition on the Colville National Forest. The Colville NF is planning a management rotation strategy similar to the POD initiative and using retained receipts in creative ways, such as supporting collaborative facilitation. YSS members who were familiar with SCALE commended our work to the rest of the group, specifically mentioning the bi-annual SCALE meetings as a great place to discuss challenges common to many forested areas in the state and meet people working toward similar goals.
Though the visit was brief, it was exciting to hear about yet another collaborative moving toward landscape-scale planning and taking advantage of Stewardship Authority to keep funds on the forest for restoration. SCALE works to help collaboratives advocate for this type of restoration-based management and we love continuing to see successes on the ground.
By Hilary Sanders, Natural Resource Social Science Intern