Dear Friends of the Yuba Watershed Institute (YWI),
We hope that this message finds you and your families well and looking to the future with optimism. The turning of the year did not resolve the challenges of the last, but the past five months have demonstrated our community’s resilience in the face of unprecedented hardships. While we’re helping each other up from the hardships and losses of the pandemic, we’re also coming together to prepare for another fierce fire season. The YWI is pleased to share with you how we have increased the resilience of our local forests and created safer evacuation routes throughout Nevada County’s San Jan Ridge through our recent work on the ‘Inimim Forest Restoration Project.
For Phase 1 of the project (funded by CAL FIRE and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy), the YWI hired GTS Forestry, Inc. (GTS) to reduce understory fuels on BLM lands between 100 to 200 feet from the road edge along Jackass Flats, Sages, Salmon Mine, Tyler Foote Crossing, and Old Mill Roads, as well as from 0 to 200 feet on Lake City Road. First, hand crews cut vegetation according to CAL FIRE’s shaded fuel break prescription. This prescription is intended to use the shade of closed tree canopy to suppress the regrowth of shrubs and small trees in strategic, high risk areas, like roadways. GTS either piled the material into burn piles or chipped it. In total, GTS completed 13.6 acres of hand thinning and piling, 40.7 acres of hand thinning and tracked chipping, and 11.1 acres of hand thinning and hauling. Hauled chips were taken to project neighbors and Ananda Village.
To put the finishing touches on the shaded fuel break, Sierra Nevada Forestry Service (SNFS) and the Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps were hired to pull highly flammable and invasive Scotch broom. During the week of April 12th, SNFS pulled young broom plants from the first 100 feet along roadways on the Sages, Salmon Mine, Badger Diggins, and Grizzly Hill parcels. The plants were young because this was the second treatment of these areas, as broom removal is an ongoing process. In the second week of May, the Conservation Corps tackled some “old-growth Scotch broom” as the first treatment of the second 100 feet of the fuel break at the Sages parcel. Some of the individual plants were about 12 feet tall!
In addition to creating safer evacuation routes, the YWI has also been working to restore the larger ‘Inimim Forest landscape to a more fire-safe state. At the start of the new year, Red Mtn Resource LLC (RMR) masticated 30.8 acres of a mostly manzanita understory at the Bear Tree parcel of the ‘Inimim Forest. This Phase 1 work supported the YWI’s objective to protect the larger pines and diverse forest at the center of the Bear Tree parcel from risks of drought and fire. Around this time, local contractor John Jaynes also masticated 1.9 acres of burn piles within a 150-foot buffer alongside Lake City Road at the Shields Camp parcel. This treatment ensured that burn piles created in 2018 alongside Lake City Road would be eliminated prior to the 2021 fire season.
During a brief window this spring, when the weather was suitable, the BLM was able to burn about 1.1 acres of piles south of Lake City Road at the Shields Camp parcel. The BLM is extremely limited in burn boss staffing at this time, and consequently we at the YWI are doing what we can to prevent creating more burn piles.
Phase 2 of the ‘Inimim Forest Restoration Project (funded by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy) consists of 314 acres of understory fuels reduction treatments in more remote, forested tributaries of the South Yuba River. The YWI implemented 155 acres of Phase 2 on the Big Parcel of the ‘Inimim Forest this past winter/spring. RMR was also hired for this project due to their creative proposal and their goal to create as few burn piles on the landscape as possible. Only 16.6 acres were hand thinned and piled, out of the initially-proposed 61.5 acres. Rather than solely piling, RMR hauled materials to skid trails and roads to be chipped. Ultimately, RMR hand thinned and chipped 62.6 acres. Another 8.3 acres were hand thinned, but will be chipped next season because of active bird nests found in the area. The YWI originally identified 82 acres as “operator’s choice” to allow for the contractors to use either tracked chipping or mastication as necessary, since mastication is difficult in highly dense stands of trees. Of these 82 acres, 55.4 were masticated. Because we are required to set aside a 1/4-acre of no treatment for every 10 acres of treatment, 8 acres of desirable wildlife habitat identified by the YWI and 4 acres of buffers around active bird nests were left untreated. This portion of Phase 2 work was completed on April 21st of this year.
As we head into the summer months, the YWI will begin planning efforts for the Little Deer Creek and Round Mountain Landscape Resilience Projects (also funded by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy). Later this summer, project layout of the remaining 159 acres in Phase 2 of the ‘Inimim Forest project will begin. Depending on social distancing regulations and smoke conditions, the YWI will also resume holding volunteer days and educational events this summer.
Thank you for your continued support of and interest in the work of the Yuba Watershed Institute. Stay well and safe this summer. And don’t forget to get out and enjoy your public lands!
The Inimim Forest Restoration Project is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.