Forest collaborative developing tools to guide restoration planning and projects

Mapping and prioritizing tool

Over the last year, Foothill Conservancy’s Watershed Conservation Advocate Shane Dante has continued to participate in the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group Strategic Landscape Assessment Working Group. The ACCG has partnered with the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority to launch development of a digital, GIS-based tool to map and prioritize watershed restoration projects, with a focus on fuel reduction. The Authority received funding from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to hire consultant Meghan Layhee to work with the collaborative to develop the tool.

Read more about the Forest collaborative to develop new mapping tool to plan and prioritize projects

The tool will map and describe on-the-ground forest “treatments” (fuel reduction, thinning, fuel break construction, prescribed fire, etc) that have been completed, treatments planned, historic fires, key wildlife habitat, communities, infrastructure, and other watershed resources to help agencies and the ACCG determine where projects should be focused in the future. The mapping portion of the project is largely complete, and the working group has progressed to the next step: prioritizing resources on the landscape that could be harmed by or benefit from fire. The team is borrowing an analysis technique developed by the Forest Service known as Highly Valued Resources and Asset (HVRA) characterization. The process characterizes different resources, such as California Spotted Owl nesting habitat, and the positive or negative response likely to result from a fire.

When complete, the tool will help land managers define the most strategic location to do fuel reduction work that will protect communities and habitat and promote resilient forests. The final product is expected to be complete by the end of this year.

Project review process

We are also involved in another ACCG project to refine the group’s project review process. When project proponents with to gain ACCG support for a project, they must fill out specific forms for review by the collaborative’s members.

This year, the ACCG reached consensus on a revised project support evaluation tool that includes forest management activities likely to receive wide support, moderate support or to need group significant discussion. For example, a prescribed fire with an approved burn plan is likely to receive wide support, but a project involving large amounts of herbicide is likely to need more discussion to resolve member concerns. Defining areas of agreement is important to getting more work done on the ground since it provides a guide for project proponents who wish to gain ACCG support.

We’re glad to have the forest treatment guidance document included as part of the project submission form. However, we are also involved in an ad hoc group to help project proponents think about and incorporate local social and economic benefits into their projects. Examples include hiring local contractors and employees, providing a living wage and training opportunities, incorporating community education, and creating recreational opportunities.

The socio-economic ad hoc group has not yet gained consensus for this component of the project review form.

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Leslie Smith, Sutter Creek, CA: Raised in Washington State, Leslie is a happy California transplant having moved to Sunny Sutter Creek full time in 2020. As a nascent fly fisher and lifelong skier, she is committed to the natural environment and brings extensive organizational and finance experience to the board from a nearly 40 year career in banking.