MARIPOSA — More than a hundred people crowded into the Chambers of the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors on Saturday, Feb. 27, for the multi-agency Tree Mortality Funding Fair, sponsored by the Mariposa County Office of Emergency Services.
Federal, state and local organizations participating in the Fair included Cal Fire, the Mariposa County Fire Safe Council, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, The Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the US Forest Service.
This event connected land/home owners with vital resources to assist in the possible mitigation of dead or dying trees on private lands.
As you might imagine, woodland improvement and hazard reduction programs from the various agencies had a wide range of requirements, purposes and funding.
Cal Fire had information on their California Forest Improvement Program (CFIP). CFIP is in it’s second year of funding with nearly 3 million dollars available in fiscal year 2015/2016. Eligibility for the state-wide cost sharing program includes woodlands between 20 and 5,000 acres zoned for forest management, but does not include property within the 100 foot defensible space around homes and structures.
One hurdle in the process is that a registered professional forester needs to assess the forested land as part of the application process; and since there are not many of these professionals around, they’re very, very busy. Go to CAL FIRE for more information.
The focus of the Mariposa County Fire Safe Council (MCFSC), as you might think, is in fire prevention and safety. The local Council had a wealth of informative pamphlets, brochures and handouts regarding defensible space, fuel reduction, fire safe planning, and much, much more. MCFSC also supports a free wood chipping service for Mariposa County residents as long as the brush, limbs and woody debris piles follow some simple guidelines.
Thanks to a grant from PG&E, MCFSC also will remove dead downed trees on private properties throughout Mariposa County. The trees shall be within 150 feet of a permanent structure or within 100 feet of a clear route of ingress/egress. The Fire Safe Council will limb, chip, buck, transport and split the wood.
Perhaps the most wide ranging program for land owners needing assistance with tree removals, tree pruning, and/or fuel reduction is the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) for Forest Tree Mortality. This Federal program is active in several central California counties on non-industrial private forestlands. The program’s focus is on the management of dead and dying conifer trees include fire hazards resulting from dead tree debris fuel loads; pest control to reduce spread of insect mortality; and degraded, understocked forest conditions resulting from the insect damage and loss of forest trees.
Somewhat similar to the CFIP, the EQIP excludes the defensible space zone of 200 feet around inhabited buildings and structures. This is a competitive program, so if neighbors and/or communities can apply together, these bundled applications have a better chance of acceptance than individual applications with relatively small acreage. Contact the Mariposa Local Partnership Office at (209) 966-3431, or online.
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) is a state agency who’s mission is to initiate, encourage, and support efforts that improve the environmental, economic and social well-being of the Sierra Nevada Region, its communities and the citizens of California. Using funding from Proposition 84, passed by popular vote in 2006, the SNC has awarded over $51 million in grants for projects that that directly improve watershed and forest health, water quality, community health and fire safety. They also act as a clearing house for communicating grant opportunities from other agencies. Contact the Mariposa office at (209) 742-0480, or online.
As you might expect from a well-funded public utility, representatives from PG&E had a wide variety of literature related to proper landscaping and maintenance practices under and around utility poles and power lines. PG&E is required to create firebreaks at the base of utility poles and structures, and any dead, diseased or dying tree limbs and foliage within 10 feet of the pole underneath the power lines need removal. You may wish to enter into a Vegetation Maintenance Agreement with PG&E where the land owner agrees to keep the vegetation around the pole in a condition that is fire safe. If you have questions about trees that may need pruning around power poles, call (800) 743-5000 to schedule an assessment appointment with a utility arborist.
SNO has reported earlier about the US Forest Service’s efforts to migitate dead pine trees in the Bass Lake area along Road 274. The Forest Service is providing cost-free permits to gather up to 2 cords per permit of that downed pine wood. They have issued about 60 permits so far, so the easily reachable wood has already been removed. If you’re considering collecting any of the pine that’s left, please be aware that you may be transporting beetles, termites or other non-desirable pests to your home.
The regular woodcutting season runs between Apr. 1 and Nov. 30 when the woodcutting permit is $20 for the minimum amount of two cords that can include downed oak hardwoods as well as softwoods like pine and cedar. For permit information in the Sierra National Forest, call the Bass Lake Ranger District at (559) 877-2218.
Dave Briley is a Landscape Architect specializing in sustainable design