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!

John Battles - SNAMP PI, response to comments by Kim_Ingram, at 11:35 a.m. on 21 July 2014,

The following response to Jerry Bloom's comments re. the American Fire comes from John Battles, SNAMP PI:

"As for the concern regarding the lack of monitoring of the fire-fighting efforts, it seems to me to be a challenging proposition to do the kind of "simple" monitoring Mr Bloom is talking about. Safety concerns and command needs limit access of researchers. And back-fires are often adjusted on the fly from the front lines. So knowing what is what when the emphasis is on containing the fire is anything but a simple matter.

Determining what tree will or will not die is a controversial question. From a scientific perspective, my sense is that most, but not all of those badly burned green trees will die in the next five years. During our re-measure, we will note any hazard trees in our plots that were cut but we cannot assess char and scorch height."

The following comments and concerns were sent to me from Jerry Bloom, a participant in our field trip to the American Fire, June 19, 2014:

"I went on the SNAMP tour of the Last Chance area. It was interesting but I was pretty disturbed by the lack of follow up on what actually happens when the fire runs through the study area. I know that the fire came through before anyone expected that it would but still it would have been nice to have had funds available in advance to monitor the fire behavior and the suppression activity. A good example is that there was much backfiring in the area - I would bet that much of the study area was actually backfired rather than burned by the wildfire. However, the FS has no idea as to where the backfire met the wildfire - not because they could not have made the determination - they just didn't bother to do the monitoring that would have been required.

The roadside hazard sale is really aggressive. They are taking many large old green trees that they claim are dead (they just don't know it). Where have we heard that before?

They did take us to an area where there was a large area of dead fir that they said were not killed by crown fire. The trees were green after the fire was extinguished but have subsequently died. Interestingly this was an area where they had cable logged and thus the slash had been left on the ground. They had hoped for a couple of years of snow to crush the slash down. In an adjacent area that hadn't been logged, the ground fire did not kill the trees. They thought that both these areas were from the wildfire, but I am suspicious. After returning home and looking at the maps, I think that both those areas may have been backfired. Again, with no monitoring, there is no way to know.

The SNAMP team is trying to get emergency funds to do some monitoring now but the roadside salvage is occurring regardless and I fear a great opportunity has been lost."

Jerry Bloom, Science Director Forest Issues Group Nevada City, CA

Thank you Jerry. We will have someone respond to your comments and concerns as soon as possible.

Kim

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

Owl team response to population decline question by Kim_Ingram, at 1:25 p.m. on 3 November 2011,

Dear Ms. Dobrovolny:

At the annual SNAMP meeting, I explicitly stated that I did not know what is causing this recent (past 10 years) owl decline. Our research suggests that the decline is real based on two different estimators producing the same result. I was also asked by a participant at the meeting if fuel treatments might be the cause of the decline and I said that I did not know because there were other factors that might be involved such as clear cutting on private land. By logical extension, this would apply to home development as well, as you suggested in your letter. Recall that the owl component of Last Chance includes the entire Eldorado spotted owl density study area, which encompasses a much larger area than Last Chance and has many more owl territories. Because of the uncertainty about the cause of the decline, the owl team has proposed a retrospective study to examine all observable changes in owl habitat that were due to disturbance. Presumably this would allow us to account for different types of disturbance, which would address one of your concerns. Our inference would be restricted to our study areas because we are not measuring change or monitoring owls throughout Eldorado County although our study areas might be a representative sample of this population. In addition, because of severe budget limitations, I doubt that our study could be expanded to include all of Eldorado County.

Sincerely,

R. J. Gutierrez, Professor and Gordon Gullion Endowed Chair in Forest Wildlife Research

CA Spotted Owl population questions by Kim_Ingram, at 9:38 a.m. on 3 November 2011,

The following comments and questions were asked by Lorna Dobrovolny from CA Dept. of Fish and Game:

'I work with Cal Fire foresters on wildlife issues in El Dorado County resulting from forest fuel reduction projects. There are no longer any DFG staff on timber harvesting review teams as a result of state budget cut-backs. California spotted owl has only a Species of Special Concern status. Thus, very limited regulatory protection from projects on private forest lands. I was very interested and concerned about Rocky's findings regarding spotted owls. There has been substantial timber harvesting and population expansion in the early to mid 2000s during the housing boom in El Dorado County. I'm not sure how the SNAMP research can outline a study plan to definitively show that it's the Last Chance fuel break that would be impacting the birds, given a demonstrated existing decline. Do you know how this is going to be accounted for? Also, the USFS and CAL FIRE have given much grant money to forest land owners in the past, mostly to tie together ridgetop fuel breaks for fire prevention. Most of that work was mastication, the result of which may not offer spotted owls suitable habitat."

Thanks for you comments and questions Lorna.

UCST response to re-treatment interval question by Kim_Ingram, at 11:38 a.m. on 2 November 2010,

Cathy, The following is the UCST rsponse to your question concerning information on re-treatment in a fuels break area:

This is an interesting question that is not directly addressed by the SNAMP project. In our modeling we had to make assumptions on how fuel treatments will change over time but I currently have a student working on a PhD in my lab that is investigating how the actual understories of shaded fuel breaks change over the last 20 years. Her name is Linsday and she hopes to finish her PhD by May of next year. I cant say much more about this topic until she finishes her work. Scott Stephens

Maintenance of fuels treatment projects by Kim_Ingram, at 12:50 p.m. on 25 October 2010,

In response to information from the Fire & Forest Ecosystem Health Team presented at the annual meeting re.the length of time between scheduled maintenance in fuel breaks, Cathy Koos Breazeal from the Amador Fire Safe Council has submitted the following comments and questions:

"Here in Amador County, we have been building shaded fuel breaks since 2003 and we monitor those projects regularly for maintenance and I am seeing the fuel breaks in all states of need, from pristine at 5 years, to needing maintenance after only 2 or 3 years. We are working primarily in elevations from 2200 to 4000 feet. Some of the difference I think can be attributed to how the project was laid out by the RPF (we use 3 or 4 RPFs) and what contractor did the work; as well as the obvious differences in aspect, plant community, etc.

Is there more information the FFEH team can share on this topic?"

Last Chance Fuel Treatments Update by Ann Huber, at 3:40 p.m. on 14 September 2010,

Here is a recent update on the Last Chance Fuel Treatments from Chris Fischer:

Hello Everyone,

We received additional funding from the Region to completely cover the Last Chance fuels treatments. This includes both tractor and cable units. These funds came from Regional surplus of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding.

The bid process closed last week and we received two bids on Last Chance. The District and Forest are evaluating the bid packages and I anticipate an award next week. It also appears that all work will be awarded. I am still not sure if any work will begin this year, but do think it is doubtful given the still sluggish economy and other contracts each bidder is currently working on. I'll let you know of scheduling when I find out.

All in all this is great news for SNAMP and the Last Chance project. It looks like next year will be a busy one for us. Thanks,

Chris Fischer
District Ranger
American River Ranger District, Tahoe NF

Last Chance Implementation by Shasta Ferranto, at 4:40 p.m. on 13 July 2010,

From Ann Huber, UCST Academic Coordinator:

Good news from Tahoe National Forest - Treatments on the Last Chance Site should begin in the fall. The appeal period closed on June 22; the Forest Service waited another 10 days to make sure nothing would arrive in the mail.

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