Discussion

Let us know what you think about any topic related to the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project in the forums below. The Principal Investigators on the UC Science Team cannot answer every post, but they will read all comments in their areas, and respond to comments as a group at each quarterly meeting. We greatly value your input!

USFS response to Bear Grass prescription burn comments & questions by Kim_Ingram, at 1:40 p.m. on 3 November 2011,

Prescribed Burning for Beargrass Enhancement on the Last Chance Project November 3, 2011 "I was forwarded notice about a planned "Bear Grass burn area" at the Last Chance study site. Do you have information about the objectives/prescription for that particular treatment as well as what kinds of monitoring data will be collected pre/post to evaluate the effects? My colleague, Frank Lake, and I are interested in gathering information about fire effects on cultural resources as well as monitoring prescribed fires on the quality of those resources for cultural uses. Thank you, Jonathan Long Pacific Southwest Research Station." Bear grass Xerophyllum tenax, is a fire-tolerant species that needs periodic fire to produce new growth, and is often the first plant to re-sprout after a fire. Low intensity fire eliminates dead, dry blades from the previous year’s growth and encourages supple new leaf growth that is used by traditional weavers to make baskets, hats, and other items. Treatment Objectives 1. Conduct a low intensity burn consuming 80% to100% of the above-surface bear grass leaves to stimulate re-sprouting of new leaves for weaving. 2. Keep unwanted vegetation from encroaching upon the gathering site. 3. Maintain a minimum of forty percent effective soil cover. Fire Behavior Prescription 1. Flame lengths from 3 to 4 feet. 2. Effective wind speed from 6 to 7 miles per hour. 3. Scorch height from 3 to 12 feet. 4. Forward spread rate from 238 to 508 feet per hour. 5. Backing spread rate from 13 to 20 feet per hour. 6. Spotting distance not to exceed 1584 feet. Monitoring On November 2, 2011 2.9 acres of the designated beargrass enhancement area within the Last Chance Integrated Vegetation Management Project were ignited. Preliminary observations indicate that all of the treatment objectives were successfully met. While the Forest Service did not collect pre-burn data for this specific burn area, adjacent unburned fuels are representative of the pre-existing condition. For additional information, contact: Larry Peabody, Fuels Specialist Tahoe National Forest, American River Ranger District 22830 Foresthill Road. Foresthill CA 95631 (530) 367 2224 x 240

Beargrass burning at Last Chance Site by jwlong, at 10:39 a.m. on 1 November 2011,

I was forwarded notice about a planned "Bear Grass burn area" at the Last Chance study site. Do you have information about the objectives/prescription for that particular treatment as well as what kinds of monitoring data will be collected pre/post to evaluate the effects? My colleague, Frank Lake, and I are interested in gathering information about fire effects on cultural resources as well as monitoring prescribed fires on the quality of those resources for cultural uses. Thank you, Jonathan Long Pacific Southwest Research Station

SPLATs vs DFPZ discussion by Kim_Ingram, at 2:36 p.m. on 18 March 2010,

The following was sent to me from George Terhune re. the SPLATs vs DFPZs discussion:

Thank you for responding to my comments, though of course that leads to further comments and questions. 1. If SNAMP is limited to a focus on 'the forest management alternative approved in the 2004 Record of Decision', how can it be an example of 'adaptive management'? In any case, you've already gone beyond the SPLAT strategy of the 2004 ROD by including a DFPZ example in the meta-analysis, and that is entirely proper, because the 2004 ROD acknowledged and supported the demonstration of the DFPZ strategy mandate by the HFQLG Forest Recovery Act. It's apparent that Congress intended the strategy to be taken seriously as a candidate for wider application. 2. I agree that a 'more fruitful exercise' can and should be the next step. But it should not be to compare implemented DFPZs to a theoretical SPLAT design. Since it isn't possible to implement both DFPZs and SPLATs on the same ground, the most useful direct comparisons would be theoretical to theoretical, which would not only be a fairer comparison, but it would permit manipulation of both DFPZs and SPLATs over a range of conditions and assumptions. For example, what performance is delivered by each theory when different percentages of the landscape have been treated? When the first 10% is treated? Then another 10% added? Then another 10% added? One of the largest differences that could be expected to show up would be how safely and effectiviely fire suppression would be supported by various implementations of each strategy. There should also be comparisons under strict and less strict rules regarding where and when management activity is permitted. Those comparisons are needed to support management decisions on how best to adapt to rapidly changing conditions, such as climate change and water supply effects, when balances must be established among competing priorities. Finally, there should be comparisons of economic effects from implementing each strategy, because the amount of treatment that can be done is limited by the cost efficiency of the management activity, and the availability of the workforce and industrial infrastructure to do the huge amount of work required also depends on the economic practicality and efficiency of management decisions. That isn't everything that needs to be done, but maybe it would be a decent start.

UC Science team response to SPLATs vs. DFPZs questions by Kim_Ingram, at 3:33 p.m. on 17 March 2010,

George,

The following is the response from the science team to your questions and comments re. SPLATs vs DFPZs. If you have any follow up questions/comments, please feel free to use this discussion board so all interested parties may be informed.

3/17/2010

Reply to questions from George Terhune from the SNAMP FFEH Team.

1) The Meta-analysis was unpersuasive, due to the great differences among sites and treatments, which cannot be papered over with statistical manipulations.

Answer: The objective of the fire integration project is to compare the performance of disparate treatments. Thus the challenge is to construct meaningful measures of comparison. One of our attempts at comparison was with the normalized impact metric where we controlled for the percent of area treated. The resulting index does not have the intuitive meaning of the raw measures (e.g., changes in fireline intensity) but it does allow us to compare across sites. The statistical manipulations are not meant to paper over differences but to provide a valid means of comparisons.

2) Why has nobody yet done a direct comparison of the SPLAT strategy vs the DFPZ strategy, using the same terrain, fuel, weather scenarios, area of treatment, type of treatment, and modeling techniques, but varying only the pattern of treatments on the ground? After all, the fundamental difference between the SPLAT and DFPZ strategies is the pattern of treatment, and DFPZs are an exception to the Regional policy specifying SPLATs, and that exception was specifically made by Congress to "demonstrate the effectiveness" of the DFPZ strategy. It isn't enough to say "it’s effective." You have to say "How effective," "Compared to what?," and "How efficient, in terms of cost-effectiveness, effect on suppression cost and firefighter safety, and effectiveness at different levels of implementation, from a few percent of the landscape treated in early years, to perhaps 30 percent of the landscape treated after 10 or 15 years. What effect would each strategy have on suppression effectiveness and safety? If these questions aren't important enough to be investigated directly, what is it that would be more important?

Answer: The suggestion for an evaluation of multiple forest management options for one site is a good one. However it is not the goal of SNAMP. The role of the UC Science Team was defined by the federal and state agencies who signed the MOU that stated the goals of the project. The focus is on the forest management alternative approved in the 2004 Record of Decision.

The UC Science Team and the Pacific Southwest Research Station did make a commitment to collaborate in order to gain the most insight from the research efforts underway in the Sierra Nevada. The Fire Integration Study is part of this commitment. While the insights may frustrate in what they don’t do, they do support the general principle behind all coordinated landscape-level treatments. In short, their impact on modifying fire behavior across the landscape is more than the sum of the individual treatments.

A more fruitful exercise would be to compare the implemented DFPZ network in Meadow Valley to a theoretical SPLAT design for the same area. This comparison would not be perfect, but it may be worthwhile. The problem is who would design the SPLATs? A totally theoretical design (regular, louvered, rectangular treatments) would never actually happen on the ground (Collins et al. 2010). As was the case with the DFPZs in Meadow Valley the planned network differed considerably from the actually implemented network. One could imagine a similar situation with a planned SPLAT design and actual implementation. So, if a more realistic SPLAT design could be developed perhaps PSW could take on the question.

Collins, B.M., S.L. Stephens, J.J. Moghaddas, and J. Battles. 2010. Challenges and approaches in planning fuel treatments across fire-excluded forested landscapes. J. Forest 108(1):24-31.

Meta-analysis comments and questions by Kim_Ingram, at 11:32 a.m. on 3 March 2010,

Following the FFEH IT meeting on February 17th, I received some comments and questions concerning the meta-analysis. Because of our committment to open and transparent communication, I am posting them here for the public to review and as the place for the UCST to respond.

"The meta-analysis was unpersuasive, due to the great differences among sites and treatments, which cannot be papered over with statistical manipulations. Why has nobody yet done a direct comparison of the SPLAT strategy vs. the DFPZ strategy, using the same terrain, fuel, weather scenarios, area of treatment, type of treatment, and modeling techniques, but varying only the pattern of treatments on the ground? After all, the fundamental difference between SPLAT and DFPZ strategies is the pattern of treatment, and DFPZs are an exception to the Regional policy specifying SPLATs, and that exception was specifically made by Congress to 'demonstrate the effectiveness' of the DFPZ strategy. It isn't enough to say 'it's effective'. You have to say 'How effective', 'compared to what', and 'how efficient, in terms of cost-effectiveness, effect on suppression cost and firefighter safety, and effectiveness at different levels of implementation from a few percent of the landscape treated in early years, to perhaps 30 percent of the landscape treated after 10-15 years. What effect would each strategy have on suppression effectiveness and safety? If these questions aren't important enough to be investigated directly, what is it that would be more important?"

"Can the discussion be continued as an email forum on the web site? Can such a forum include the opportunity for a participant to post other visual input for discussion, for example excerpts from other Forest Service documents?"

More On SPLAT Issue by Linda Blum, at 9:49 p.m. on 10 October 2008,

Sorry to be so long in acknowledging Susie Kocher's response to my and George Terhune's critiques of SPLATs and the Last Chance Project design.

I appreciate and agree with the reply. But my comment was made more to try to head off what I believe would be an error in just accepting that the project design really reflects what the 2004 Framework directs.

As the Forest Service has taught me repeatedly over the years, there are three kinds of monitoring: implementation, effectiveness, and validation. One's conclusions about the effectiveness of any given treatment are contingent on first determining the extent to which the treatment has been implemented.

So please, UCST, monitor away. I'd just like to have everyone bear in mind that the SPLAT strategy was never described as several contiguous treatments on a ridgetop, surrounded by no other vegetation management.

Indeed, the Last Chance project design looks more like the three-tiered landscape concept advocated in the first Sierra-wide DEIS to follow the CASPO Interim Guidelines, the so-called Cal Owl DEIS. The three-tiered concept might be more effective than strategically scattered treatments in the deeply incised topography of the American River drainages, but such qualifications should be clearly stated. Thanks.

Splat Implementation - Sep 10, 2008 by Susie Kocher, at 1:21 p.m. on 10 September 2008,

Hi Linda and George,

I am emailing to respond to your email comments of several weeks ago that brought up the issue of the current design of the Strategically Placed Area Treatments on the American River District that are being studied by SNAMP. At that time, I made the commitment to you by email that the UC Science Team would consider your comments and respond to them.

The UC Science Team discussed the issue of SPLAT implementation on our conference call on September 4th, 2008. The Science Team concurred that this is an important issue, however, they reaffirmed that it is not appropriate for the researchers to comment or give input to the USFS on treatment design. A key element of our experimental design is to evaluate the impact of forest management treatments as they are implemented by the districts. One agreed upon foundation of the SNAMP project is that project design and implementation is the exclusive role of the Forest Service while evaluating the effects of these projects is the domain of the UC Science Team.

Although we are not able to address your comments about the strategic rationale of the treatments, or whether or not they truly qualify as SPLATs, UC researchers will most definitely be evaluating the spatial pattern of the treatments. Specifically, the Fire and Forest Health Team will be evaluating how the spatial arrangement of the treatments, as implemented, will affect fire behavior at the landscape scale. Results of the effectiveness of the treatment's strategic placements will be reported on by the science team after project implementation and post project data collection.

I believe that the Principle Investigators will also personally respond to your comments now that they have been posted on our website - http://snamp.cnr.berkeley.edu/.

I'd also like to thank you again for your constructive comments and involvement in SNAMP. Conducting a research project of this size and complexity with multiple partners and multiple roles is very challenging. Engagement of the public in some of these difficult issues has been important to the evolution of the project and has served to improve the study plan and hopefully the final product,

Sincerely,
Susie

Splat Implementation - Aug 22, 2008 by Linda Blum, at 12:18 p.m. on 9 September 2008,

Back again, Susie:

I just checked the SNAMP website and did not find anything relating to the discussion of Last Chance project SPLAT rationale posted there, so I'm directing this to you again in hopes you'll pass it on.

I came across essentially the same question we were asking in the Last Chance EA's Appendix A, "Scoping Comments and IDT Answer to the Comments," question #8. The USFS response includes the following: "The three SPLATs cover roughly 2,700 acres or 30% of each subwatershed. They were located in areas that were also priority from a density standpoint and designed to connect to and compliment the SPLAT that was created that was created with the Star Fire and follow - up salvage and fuels treatment."

Aside from the fact that the three SPLATs are contiguous rather than being spaced out on the landscape, I'm surprised and bewildered by the phrase "the SPLAT that was created by the Star Fire and follow-up salvage and fuels treatment."

I hope that there will be some sort of occasion within SNAMP to discuss the concept of burned areas becoming and being counted as SPLATs. Would they really produce a Finney Effect? What kind of maintenance and maintenance interval are needed for burned area SPLATs? If adaptive management is to be meaningful, I believe it must also include adaptively learning how to design and plan for future projects.

In addition, later in the same response to scoping comments, Appendix A says, "Not more than 60% of the prescribed fire only areas are predicted to support any burning at all...." This statement raises the question of whether the prescribed burn units already would perform the SPLAT function.

In befuddlement,
Linda Blum

Splat Implementation - Aug 22, 2008 by Linda Blum, at 12:17 p.m. on 9 September 2008,

It's now occurred to some of us that the SPLAT strategy may actually be only a ruse to justify spending whatever money the USFS can get on plantation maintenance. Plantations are scattered across the landscape, especially in the central Sierran forests where clearcuts and 40-year-old fires were lovingly replanted with nursery stock. Even in the HFQLG Pilot Project area, we've had a few notable instances where DFPZ projects turned out to be discontinuous treatments located in plantations.

Part of the Last Chance project is a plantation, as a matter of fact.

Splat Implementation - Aug 20, 2008 by Linda Blum, at 12:16 p.m. on 9 September 2008,

Hi Susie,

Your reactions are right on target, and give me a chance to try to clarify what it is I think we're doing in SNAMP and the Last Chance NEPA process.

The UC Science Team will eventually come to some conclusions about the effects of implementing the 2004 Framework's SPLAT strategy, right? That's the whole point of UC's involvement in SNAMP.

What George and I and others are questioning is whether the Last Chance project is really implementing SPLATs. By asking about the Tahoe's overall landscape SPLAT strategy and Last Chance's place in it, as well as asking about the site-specific rationales for the Last Chance units, we are trying to uncover why the USFS thinks this project is a true implementation of the SPLAT strategy.

What I'm most concerned about is that a bunch of conclusions will be drawn and published about the SPLAT strategy -- and, because UC will be the publisher, those conclusions will immediately take on the gloss of Truth and Science -- when in reality the Finney SPLAT theory will not have been implemented.

Secondary to that concern is the public involvement/public disclosure aspect of how the USFS carries out its NEPA process. By sharing my comments with you and Adriana, I am trying to show the SNAMP Public Participation team how the SPLAT development explanation provided by Karen really doesn't answer the questions we had, but is actually not much more than boilerplate.

Linda

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