Building consensus on forest projects: ACCG refines areas of agreement, identifies areas of potential conflict

fuelbreak-stansforest

Courtesy photo: Fuel break in Stanislaus National Forest

As noted in our other Spring 2020 article on the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group, the ACCG is an informal, community-based group of diverse stakeholders that works to create fire-safe communities, healthy forests and watersheds, and sustainable local economies. Foothill Conservancy has been an active member since the group formed in December 2008. Group members include state, local, and federal agencies; nonprofit organizations; elected officials; job-training organizations; businesses; and individuals.

The collaborative, consensus-based ACCG has always taken a “triple-bottom line” approach to its work. It encourages and supports projects in our forested watersheds east of Highway 49 that will benefit the environment, local people, and the local economy. Defining what that looks like on the ground has been an ongoing process.

Back in 2010, the group approved a set of principles and policies that began that attempt to define the members’ common ground. But in later years, ACCG members sometimes found themselves disagreeing over specific actions proposed in projects brought to the group for review or support. Examples of areas of controversy included long-term use of herbicides, reforestation at densities that some considered unsupportable due to climate change, and how and when to use prescribed fire as an element in forest fuel reduction, restoration, and replanting projects.

In 2019, the collaborative’s Planning Workgroup began to refine the ACCG’s process for reviewing proposals brought to it for support. Part of that effort has been further defining the environmental aspects of projects the group broadly supports, and which require more discussion to secure full group consensus.

Securing ACCG support for a forest project can help proponents secure grant funding and is required for U.S. Forest Service projects in the Eldorado and Stanislaus National Forests that will use funds the ACCG and Forest Service secured under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act. With the adoption of a new Proposed Forest Treatment Guidance Tool in February, project proponents will now have a clearer understanding of which proposals are likely to quickly secure ACCG support and which will take more-detailed, lengthier discussion.

The next step in developing the ACCG’s project review process will be to further refine the social and economic benefits the group would like to see local projects incorporate.

For more information, See the ACCG website, or contact Foothill Conservancy Watershed Conservation Advocate Shane Dante at 209-223-3508 or by e-mail.

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