Thursday, August 27, 2015

Congressional Briefing at Sagehen on the #SagehenForestProject

Scott Conway presents on the Sagehen Forest Project
on Aug. 25, 2015.
As a follow-up to a recent visit to Washington DC, Sagehen Creek Field Station and the UC Berkeley Office of Government Affairs hosted a "Sagehen Forest Project" Congressional briefing at the station on August 25, 2015. The guests were California and Nevada staffers from the offices of Senators Feinstein, Boxer, Reid and Heller, Representatives McClintock, Amodei and LaMalfa, and Assemblyman Dahle.

A broad spectrum of Sagehen Forest Project partners and others attended, including local and regional Forest Service representatives from both the management and the research sides, Sierra Forest Legacy, Sierra Pacific Industries, National Forest Foundation, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Truckee River Watershed Council, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, Lake Tahoe Conservancy, California Forestry Association, Nevada County Board of Supervisors, Washoe County Air Quality Management Division, Center for Art + Environment - Nevada Museum of Art, US Geological Survey, Harrison Studio, the Washoe tribe, CalFire, California Rural Counties, and many others.

The forests of the Sierra Nevada (and the wider American west) are in trouble. Comstock-era clear-cutting, 100 years of fire-suppression in the regrowth, and a drying and warming climate has led to a tenuous situation in which our forests are overstocked and stressed, weakening their resistance to drought, disease, bark-beetle infestation, and wildfire. Before European intervention, regular low intensity fire cycled nutrients, introduced heterogeneity of species and structure, created small openings for wildlife, and cleaned out the duff layer and understory. Now, there is so much fuel built up that when fire does come in it often destroys the entire forest and sterilizes the seed bank. Forests experiencing this kind of fire will often not come back and look like they once did.

We need to remove that built-up fuel, so that low-intensity natural fire can reenter the system. But forest management practices of the past focused heavily on timber yields and fuel reduction, without sufficient attention to restoring ecological functions like wildlife habitat and water supply. This destroyed trust. The result is gridlock, where proposed forestry projects often end up in court.

From environmentalists to loggers, absolutely everyone is concerned about intense and destructive wildfire in our overgrown forests. Over a period of 18-months beginning in 2010, the Sagehen Forest Project partners came together to figure out a way to address everyone's concerns about forest health and management policy.

And we succeeded, creating new prescriptions and tools that are applicable (and being used) on much larger scales than just the Sagehen basin. See Scott Conway's presentation from the meeting to learn more:

Ironically, getting to agreement turned out to be the easy part. Now, with everyone in our community finally agreeing on how we should start managing our forests, there is not enough new biomass processing facility, small material technology, nor mill capacity left in California to provide a destination for the significant amounts of sawlogs and chip that need to come out in order to return to resiliency and ecological balance.

Hopefully, with the help of our State and Congressional representatives, our Federal and State agencies, local NGO's, private interests and citizen partners we can figure out how to move forward with the great forest plan we developed together.

We'll post more info on the project blog as it becomes available, and you can follow and contribute to the conversation on social media under the hashtag: #SagehenForestProject

Event photos from Sherri Eng.
Download PowerPoint presentations from the meeting:

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