QLG Update

An excellent news report written by Joshua Sebold of the Plumas County News follows this essay. He reports on the progress that has been made by the Plumas National Forest working in collaboration with the Quincy Library Group [here].

The Quincy Library Group is a grassroots effort initiated in 1992 in Quincy, California. A group of citizens were concerned over the demise of the timber industry and the concomitant build up of hazardous fuels in the National Forests surrounding their communities. Discussions held at the local library led to a series of proposals recommending improvements for management of the Lassen N.F., the Plumas N.F., and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe N.F.

The strong community involvement also led to the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act [here]. In October, 1998, the United States Senate approved the legislation introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Representative Wally Herger (R-Chico).

The HFQLGFR Act directed National Forests in the QLG area to do 40 to 60 thousand acres per year of strategic fuel reduction in defensible fuelbreaks for five years and to implement group selection silviculture on an area-wide basis.

Numerous appeals and lawsuits followed. The usual suspects, eco-litigious pro-fire anti-logging groups, threw up roadblock after roadblock. The fuelbreaks and the thinnings were delayed. One outcome of the delays was the 2007 Moonlight Fire [here] that burned 65,000 acres and destroyed old-growth and spotted owl habitat.

See [here] for photos of the damages caused by wildfires in Plumas County and the Sierras.

But the Quincy Library Group forged ahead undeterred. In 2008 the HFQLGFR Act was extended to 2012 [here]. The fuelbreak construction has never met the 40 to 60 thousand acres per year target, exceeding 30,000 acres only once, in 2006 [here]. However, over 200,000 acres have been treated despite all the hurdles erected by eco-litigious groups.

The following news article discusses a new map showing the HFQLGFR Act on-the-ground progress made to date. Interestingly, the article indicates that Lassen National Park is considering participating. Lassen NP forests were ravaged by fires in 2009. Had they created some fuel breaks, chances are much of the damage could have been avoided.

Plumas Fire Safe Council discusses program with Supervisors

by Joshua Sebold, Plumas County News, 4/7/2010 [here]

Plumas Corporation Executive Director John Sheehan presented the Plumas County Fire Safe Council base map to the Plumas County Board of Supervisors at a Tuesday, March 16, meeting.

The color-coded map, produced by the county planning department, displays thinning projects in Plumas County that have been completed, scheduled or delayed and gives the most comprehensive view to date of all projects on public and private land.

Sheehan also gave the board an account of the history that led to the creation of the map.

He recounted the Quincy Library Group’s formation in 1992 – 93, and the creation of a map of areas in the national forests the organization felt should be worked on.

He said the map was updated in 1997, to select areas for defensible fuel-profile zones, single-tree selection and group selection to break up the landscape.

The Forest Service defines a DFPZ as an area where fuel loads are reduced to provide a defensible zone for firefighters and to break up fuel continuity.

Sheehan explained the organization “felt there was too much small material in the woods, too great a continuity of fuels, and that we had to figure out a way to break it up and that’s what Quincy Library Group was going to be about.”

He indicated QLG received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture and Congress to conduct projects in Plumas and Lassen National Forests, along with the Sierraville Ranger District in the Tahoe National Forest.

Sheehan told the board the Forests came up with a “technical fuels report” that displayed a system of DFPZs laid out along roads and on ridge tops.

He added that the law funding the thinning work, passed in 1998, called for an environmental impact statement, which “disclosed everybody involved” and displayed “where the spotted owl nesting sites were, generally speaking, and also where the habitat for spotted owls were.

“So it set up a system of thinning throughout the forests involved, and that thinning was slated to go in those places because there had been a history in this country of large fires. At that point in time, we’d already been through the Cottonwood Fire in 1994. Everybody, at least locally, felt the fire danger was increasing and we ought to deal with it.” …

He continued, “To my knowledge there’s no other area in the United States that has taken this aggressive approach to treating the fuel across jurisdictions, not just on federal lands but on public and private lands.”

Gesturing to the Almanor area on the map, he added, “So we’ve developed circumstances in various parts of our county, like around the lake, where almost an entire system of fuel breaks is completed.

“Now we’ve also made significant progress in my eyes both south and north of Highway 70 in the eastern part of the county, and there’s still areas that are unbelievably bad there. …

“We’re going to use this map; we’re already using it. I’m sure the RAC (Resource Advisory Committee) will start using it for allocation of funds.

“It really does show the level of cooperation that we’ve been doing for the last 15 years in our area.

“I’m certainly proud of it, and I think everybody involved is proud of it also. We can go back to Congress or anyone else who wants to ask about this and talk about how this is not just a figment of our imagination at this point. We have done enough to understand it works and how to do it.” …

Graeagle area Supervisor Ole Olsen asked him how much of the fuel had grown back since the first projects were completed.

Sheehan responded, “I have to say from a personal standpoint that even though we’ve done this work, we really are still getting farther behind because we need to be more aggressive than we are.” …

“There’ll have to be follow-up treatments, and they have a schedule for that. They’ll run anywhere from five to 10 to 12 years.”

Sheehan added, “That was subject to lawsuit too — that whole issue — so it was really addressed from the scientific standpoint, and they have a system set up where they talk about it and deal with it.”

Stewart told the board there were probably around 25,000 to 30,000 acres left to work on in the county with three years remaining on the congressionally authorized timetable. …

Referring to the QLG pilot project Stewart added, “We’ve said all along this is just a place to start.

“Now we want to do management in between the DFPZs. We want to continue the thinning and the activities to reduce the fires and maintain the forest health but at the same time create the social economic opportunities for our citizens so it’s very important that the county does get involved in the land management process and bring that forward.

“You do have a fire protection strategy implemented on the landscape. The worst thing we could do is just walk away from it.

“Now we need to do step two: manage in between those red lines and control the stocking loads.” …

Sheehan told the board, “Lassen Park has started talking about doing some logging projects instead of just prescribed burning, because they realize they can’t do the entire job with just prescribed burning. That’s a big thing for them to come to given their history.” … [more]

12 Apr 2010, 12:10pm
by Mike

Special thanks goes out to SOSF operative Al S. for the news tip about this report.

12 Apr 2010, 3:00pm
by Larry H.

Of course, the article makes no mention of the successful blocking of collaborative thinning projects implemented under QLG in 2007 by professional litigator-for-profit, Chad Hanson. The Plumas spent BIG bucks getting several projects finished on the ground but, since they were mostly designed by non-Forest Service personnel, the projects were seen more as an economic shot-in-the-arm than as fuels reduction projects. Taking disconnected 2 acres chunks and thinning them really isn’t going to have much of an effect on fire safety. Some of these 2 acre chunks lie away from roads, as well. The vegetation is very thick and the terrain is problematic, in some areas. Two-acre cable units?!?! Yes, I worked on a great many of those 2 acre chunks.

I also got a chance to see the damage of the fires that ravaged the eastside of the Forest, including the Moonlight Fire. Intensities were very high, even though the elevation is probably the highest in the Forest. Hanson was also successful in litigating the salvage sales and roadside hazard trees projects.

Another lesser known fact about the QLG is that Feinstein actually disowned it in the late 90’s, then flip-flopped, as she is often known to do, and slapped her name back on it. Herger knows the Forest Service issues all too well, but plays politics when it comes to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. He knows so very well that the Forest Service has lost a lot of expertise, and is unwilling to take steps to keep what is left. These projects require a quality labor force, and the Plumas just didn’t have it. They paid TEAMS over a million bucks to import talent to implement their projects.



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