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January 23, 2007
Forest treatment signup underway
SUSANVILLE, California (STPNS) -- The Lassen County Fire Safe Council is poised to take a major bite out of fire danger in the Susanville area with two landscape-scale projects, one in the Gold Run area, southwest of the city and the other in the Archery/Childrens area, in the populated district at the foot of Diamond Mountain.
This is the next step major step toward making the Susanville area more fire safe. With a war chest of $750,000 in grant money for treatment of forested private property over the next two years, managing director Tom Esgate is up to the task.
?It?s not easy,? he said. ?We aren?t dealing with just a few landowners. We?re dealing with hundreds. Each one has a different idea and different priorities. Our mission is to strike a balance that will result in a treatment prescription that is sustainable and also meets the goals and dreams of the people who live in the community.?
Planning for these projects began late last summer, and with the new funding commitments, a landowner sign-up is now underway, according to Esgate.
Through ?persistent efforts,? the LFSC has garnered support from some impressive agencies and groups. The Lassen County Resource Advisory Committee was the first to step forward with commitments for these projects, and now the council also has commitments from the California Fire Safe Council, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, as well as CDF in cooperation with the Western States Fire Managers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
?I am really excited about the Childrens/Archery and the Gold Run projects because they will give the local residents the chance to not only improve the safety of their property from wildfire but also work on creating a healthier forest,? said the council?s new education coordinator and long-time local forester, David Trussell, who will assist Esgate in the campaign to sign up landholders in the two areas.
Esgate emphasized the unique nature of these projects, saying that they require landscape-scale treatment. ?It?s not a landscaping project, nor is it a traditional fuel break,? said Esgate. ?It?s really a forest health and a fire safety project. Good forest health translates into good fire safety.?
While helping landowners meet the state mandated 100-foot clearance requirements, Esgate and Trussell will also be encouraging them to treat the entire landscape in an effort to establish fire survivability.
?The goal is to bring the forest into balance with what the environment will support, to put the forest in a healthy condition,? Esgate said, explaining further. ?The result is that fire no longer becomes a threat. Fire, when it comes, will lay on the ground. And after it?s suppressed we?ll still have our homes and the forest.?
?During my career as a wildland fire fighter, I had the opportunity on two different fires to see the effect it had when an out of control crown fire ran into a fuels reduction site,? said Trussell, explaining how well treatment protects the forest from devastating wildfire. ?Not only did the fires go from a destructive crown fire to a manageable ground fire, but it also gave the fire crews the chance to construct a direct attack line to stop both fires.?
Esgate offered a photo he had taken of a home in the midst of and incinerated landscape, noting that someone?s hopes went up in smoke because they failed to take protective measures.
?When I see a photo like that, I think of the dreams those folks had of living in a beautiful forest when they built or bought in that area. After this catastrophic event, they no longer have that dream. They are going to live in a moonscape for some period of time to come.?
Emphasizing the council?s complete cooperation with the individual landowners to make these forest treatment prescriptions possible, Esgate stressed that there will be no arm-twisting or pressure applied.
?They have the final say, even to the point that they may not want to participate. We?d be very disappointed in that,? he said, ?but that?s how our process works.?
?It would be a shame if some landholders chose not to participate,? said Esgate, noting that there are occasional holdouts. ?That would put not only their property at greater risk, that their neighbor?s property as well.?
Trussell, too, hopes to persuade all the landholders in the two areas to cooperate.
?With the fires that we have had in the Susanville area in the last few years, I hope that local residents will see the urgent need to protect their property from the threat of wildfires. It is no longer a matter of if we will have a fire, but when it will happen.?
?We will make multiple attempts with people, trying to give them more information to come up with a prescription that works for everyone,? Esgate said, explaining the landowner signup process for project participation. ?Obviously, we have to do substantial treatments because we have a fiduciary responsibility to the funding organizations. They give us the money because they want results.?
Esgate hopes to make the area properties ?fire survivable, healthy and pleasing to the eye.? Noting that with a little care, planning and effort, one can have one?s cake and eat it, too, where forested property is concerned, he said, ?When the fire comes through, they still have the forest. They aren?t left with a huge conversion to brush land.?
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