Nevada County Supervisors approve forest plan changes | SierraSun.com

Nevada County Supervisors approve forest plan changes

Scott Hess

When originally approved in 2001 the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment drew more than 200 appeals. The draft supplemental environmental impact report, heard by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday, did not even draw public comment.

The appeal period is still open and the public can comment up to Sept. 12, but if the meeting was any indication, there will be no appeal. The board passed the plan unanimously with few changes.

The SNFPA, according to U.S. Forest Service Forest Supervisor Steve Eubanks, every national forest has a forest plan. The Sierra Nevada plan covers 11 different national forests – including Tahoe, Modoc, Lassen, Plumas, El Dorado, Stanislaus, Sequoia, Sierra, Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe forests and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit – and needs an update.

Eubanks said the forest service, in response to the appeals, had a yearlong review of the framework of the plan amendment. The review found the forest service had difficulty meeting the framework goals, including fuel removal, conflicting guidelines and inadequate funding – which meant higher costs to taxpayers.

What was proposed

What the draft SEIS proposes is to get the plan amendment back on track. “It’s an adjustment of some of the framework. We’re retaining the basic framing of the plan,” Eubanks said. “We’re looking at how we can more effectively meet the goals of the plan framework.”

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The SEIS will preserve the original framework goals for resource protection, fuels strategy and science, but proposes to change allowable tree size, Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act implementation and fire restoration options.

One of the biggest problems, Eubanks said is funding. “We have nowhere near the amount of money in our budget to treat the number of forests in the framework,” he said.

One way the SEIS proposed to get more funding is better fuel removal, and allowing for the removal of larger trees. Eubanks said the USFS should be allowed to cut trees up to 30 inches and said, “We believe 30-inch trees are truly medium trees.” Thirty-inch ponderosa pines can be sold for nearly $600 and 30-inch douglas firs can be sold for approximately $450.

According to the USFS, a 38-inch ponderosa pine could bring in nearly $1,500 and a douglas fir could be sold for approximately $1,000.

Another way the SEIS proposed to save money is fuel removal techniques. Hand thinning can cost up to nearly $600 per acre, whereas using machines and a “prescribed burn” in an open stand would cost under $200 per acre.

Framework of the plan

The focus of the Sierra Nevada plan is on management of forest fuels, which means removing trees and brush to reduce the risk of fires. Also, the plan aims to protect wildlife and communities within the forests.

With the draft SEIS will now approved, and Eubanks said the forest service hopes to get the plan back on track to keep the forests healthy.

For more information on the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/snfpa/. Comments on the draft SEIS can be sent by mail to Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment DSIES, PO Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT, 84122-1090, by fax to (801) 517-1014 or by email to snfpa@fs.fed.us.