DIVERSE STAKEHOLDERS PARTICIPATE at POST AUGUST COMPLEX FIRE WORKSHOP
Approximately 45 forest stakeholders attended a virtual workshop to discuss their feelings, experiences, and observations about how they were impacted by the 2020 August Complex Fire that burned almost one million areas of private and public forest and grasslands. Hosted by FireScape Mendocino (FSM), the workshop was held on the mornings of April 28 and 29, 2021.
Dave Ceppos, Director of the California State University Sacramento, Consensus and Collaboration Program, facilitated this event that was FSM’s Workshop #12: Our Future in a Fire-adapted Landscape.
The program started out both days with the FSM core-team lead acknowledging and expressing their appreciation to the Tribes in the project area for their participation in the forest health collaborative. A special note of thanks was given to the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians for assigning one of their representatives to be part of the original FSM core-team and the Round Valley Tribe for participating in numerous workshops and field trips over the years and for inviting FireScape to participate in their annual Salmon Awareness Festival.
On day one, Ann Carlson, the Forest Supervisor, gave an overview of how the recent wildfires have impacted the Forest, agency staff, and surrounding communities. Forest Service fuels specialist, Hinda Darner, shared her observations on burn severity and the efficacy of various fuel reduction projects.
Local property owners, recreationists, ranchers, and foresters spoke from the heart how the recent wildfires have affected their personal lives, families, traditions, or outdoor activities. Chris Baldo, a forester and inholder, talked about how the August Complex Fire affected his ranch and timberlands that are surrounded by the Mendocino National Forest.
Pete Bauer, a cattle rancher, explained how the August Complex Fire impacted their cattle operation but offered hope that some of the rangeland and meadows many benefit from the event. Ryan Henson, a long-time recreationist on the Forest, shared how the fire has impacted him personally and that post-fire recovery of trail and other recreation opportunities is important to the outdoor community.
Ann Bradley and Zander Evans, specialists from the Burned Area Learning Network, led the group through several interactive web-based “Way of Life” surveys to gauge the level of post-fire shock or stress experienced by many in or near the fire’s burn footprint. Other important feelings and emotions were also captured during the online exercises.
While many negative feelings were expressed, there was also a willingness by most to look for new opportunities and renewal in our post-fire reality.
Day two was focused on presentations by scientists and agency specialists that covered post-fire impacts to wildlife, natural/cultural resources, and surrounding communities. FSM core-team members, Jon Barrett, Tehama Resource Conservation District and Mike Marvier, Crane Mills Timber Company, talked about the fire impacts to private timberlands and highlighted current and future fuel management projects that are funding through California’s Climate Change Initiative grant program.
Don Hankins from Chico Stat gave a highly informative presentation on the impacts of fire on wildlife including deer and their habitat. Jonathan Long, fire specialist from the Forest Service, gave an overview of how the August Complex Fire affected natural resources and potential strategies to address those impacts.
Gabe Shultz, CALFIRE Staff Chief and Regional Resource Manager, gave a presentation on California’s 2021 Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan that proposes to make a $1 billion dollar investment in a strategy to increase the pace and scale of forest and wildland management to meet the state’s target of completing projects on 500,000 acres annually by 2025 and expanding the use of prescribed fire, particularly on state-owned lands. The plan calls for achieving these goals largely through regional strategies tailored to the environmental conditions, risks and priorities in each area.
Hilda Kwan, District Hydrologist, gave an overview of a 4,500 acre post-fire recovery project to remove fire-killed and fire-injured trees. The project would improve employee and public safety, capture remaining economic value of dead trees, and reduce post-fire fuels to prevent the future buildup of excessive fuel loads.
Gary Urdahl, District Forester, shared a number of pre and post fire slides that illustrated areas of high burn severity vs. forested units that survived due to pre-fire fuel reduction projects or other mitigating factors.
Some key takeaways for me include presentations that illustrated both the negative and positive effects of recent wildfires. Concerns were expressed about how the drought, increased bark beetle infestations, reburns killing tree roots and seedlings, and lack of biomass capacity will impact our post-fire reality.
FSM believes this virtual workshop setting allowed for more people to participate and provide insight into next steps for a fire-adapted landscape. This setting also allowed for post-fire support from fellow FLN partners that have survived similar events. Also, public feedback will be used to help FSM plan for future workshops and field trips.
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FireScape Mendocino is a voluntary, inclusive and collaborative effort to shape the future of our fire-prone landscape in and near the Mendocino National Forest. Working together, we emphasize shared learning, problem solving and action on the ground.