As fire and forestry officials and others work to meet the terms of a $498,000 carbon-sequestration grant already awarded to improve the health of the North Coast’s 3,200-acre Monterey pine forest, they continue to seek other funding opportunities that look promising.
To sequester carbon in this case, actions taken would have to reduce the amount of dead wood that’s left on site after a tree falls and find uses for that wood that reduce the carbon footprint, such as turning it into charcoal, milling it for lumber or burning it to generate electricity that would otherwise be provided by a carbon-rich process.
Dan Turner, business manager for the county’s Fire Safe Council, wrote in a Jan. 26 report to the Cambria Fire Safe Focus Group that environmental review and operational planning for the grant project is underway by registered professional foresters on the forestry faculty at Cal Poly.
He said the grant requires merging of existing forest management plans into a single comprehensive action plan that respects individual property-owner management goals. Such entities as the Cambria Forest Committee, Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve/Cambria Community Services District and Greenspace — The Cambria Land Trust are among the groups with such management plans.
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Meanwhile, surveys of specified field plots are continuing to measure the current health of individual sites.
Turner said the Fire Safe Council has secured a site for a potential portable sawmill operation on Covell’s California Clydesdale Ranch, but many more steps remain before that plan becomes reality. For instance, the council is working with a mill operator to check the usability of downed logs as trees fall or crews remove individual high-hazard trees in the forest.
The council also has found a firm with an experimental portable wood biomass electrical generator and is in discussions about the viability of a pilot program in Cambria for that equipment.
Turner also said some grant funds could be used to pay for street-side free chipping programs in Cambria this spring and summer, programs usually funded by another grant that didn’t come through in this two-year cycle.
Improving the health of the Cambria forest is also highly ranked for a $260,000 Western Forestry Leadership Coalition Wildland Urban Interface grant, Turner said. Council representatives are awaiting the official notification to find out for sure that Cambria’s forest made the cut and how much money was awarded. Funds come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
$260,000 Amount of Western Forestry Leadership Urban Interface grant, which the county Fire Safe Council hopes to obtain for Cambria’s Monterey Pine Forest; it’s highly ranked on a list of potential recipients.
The news wasn’t as good about a $1.3 million grant for which the council had applied, but softening the blow was the news that no grants were awarded in that greenhouse gas grant/hazardous fuel reduction category.
Turner and others also are applying for or submitting “notice of interest” documents about other possible grants.
Beyond the grants, Cal Fire crews have been clearing dead/downed trees and invasive plants (such as broom and pampas grass) along the Caltrans Highway 1 right of way between Burton Drive and Santa Rosa Creek.
During fire season, that area is considered high risk because of dense overgrowth and the proximity of the highway.
Cambria’s Focus Group was launched in May to provide consensus-building and cooperative opportunities for agencies that were gearing up to fight wildland, forest and other fires, especially with the heightened threat from the four-year drought.
Since then, the Focus Group has expanded its mission to encompass all emergencies, including those that could be caused by El Niño.
The countywide Fire Safe Council, the parent organization of the Focus Group, recently honored Shirley Bianchi, the smaller organization’s chairwoman, with an “excellent achievement” plaque.
“Keep up the good work,” Turner said in an email announcing the award. “You are making a difference.”
At the Focus Group’s Jan. 27 meeting, Bianchi told attendees that she had accepted the award in honor of the work done by the entire group.
“What they’ve done has been really extraordinary,” she said, from making residents and statewide representatives more aware of the benefits and fire potential in the forest to informing people and agencies about steps they should take to be prepared.
Fire Safe Focus Group meeting
The Cambria Fire Safe Focus Group’s next meeting starts at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, at the Cambria Fire Station, 2850 Burton Drive. For now, participants meet monthly on the second Tuesday of the month. When fire season begins, they’ll go back to meeting twice a month.