Free wildfire publication makes it easier to understand fuel reduction permits on private land

As Californians brace for another year of drought and an expected intense fire season, landowners and organizations across California are working to reduce forest fuels – flammable woody materials – that can endanger their properties and their communities.

For many of them, however, their urgent efforts have hit a daunting hurdle: a huge rule book that outlines, amid a slew of other information, the permits required before people can trade or remove fuels – along with a litany of requirements, restrictions and stipulations.

“The California Forest Practice Rules are 410 pages, font size 6,” said Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension Forestry Advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties and Registered Professional Forester. “Trying to figure out which permit vehicles make sense in the regulations is not easy, even for the experienced professional forester.”

To help private landowners and community groups decipher the rules and determine their most cost-effective options, Valachovic has taken the initiative to write a new guide, “Planning and Authorizing Forest Fuel Reduction Projects on Private Land in California”, available free of charge. resource in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Catalog.

“We tried to create a system where all the permits are laid out side by side and put into a decision tree framework to make things easier,” Valachovic said, pointing to charts in the post that break down goals and objectives. project settings. the permit applicant should bear this in mind when weighing his choices.

Considerations include whether the project is before or after a wildfire, the location and sizes of trees targeted for removal, site conditions before and after the project, potential timelines, business options, and most importantly, budget constraints – given that the permitting process could represent up to a third of the total project costs.

An introduction to planning and preparation

Chris Curtis, CAL FIRE’s Humboldt-Del Norte unit forester, said he and his colleagues are grateful for the new tool and plan to use it as an “over the counter” document for community members. . He added that tables summarizing timber harvesting regulations and possible funding sources are particularly helpful.

“These give the landowner a starting point to sort through the many commercial timber harvesting documents and fuel modification project funding source options available,” Curtis said. “A landowner is self-guided to a few options that they feel are most appropriate, which will allow a resource professional to help that person select the most appropriate permit.”

Publishing helps prepare the landowner or community entity (such as resource conservation districts, fire safety boards, or other affected groups) for the types of questions that might arise during preliminary planning conversations with a forester. registered professional or an RPF.

Just as a property owner would speak with a contractor before tackling a construction project, property owners and community groups should consult with an FPR, Valachovic said. RPFs have the specialist knowledge of forest practice rules and regulations related to the protection of water, air quality and endangered species, and the license to file permit documents.

“That’s what I do in my job: landowners come to me and we start talking about goals and objectives,” she said. “We are starting to think about potential timelines – which goals are short-term, which are long-term – and how we can develop an operational plan to help these landowners achieve their goals.”

Long-term projects, short-term actions

Of the many practical tips outlined in this guide, Valachovic highlighted one in particular: For landowners embarking on fuel reduction for the first time, make sure the project is “simple and realistic.”

And while even smaller projects could be more expensive this year due to higher gas, equipment and supply costs, she said it’s still “a great time to plan,” as projects Fuel reduction programs can take months to develop and execute.

In the short term, however, Valachovic pointed out that extremely dry conditions across the state are forcing Californians to harden their homes, manage combustibles (i.e. landscape plants, stockpiled wood, tall grass , etc.) immediately adjacent to their homes, and design and review family emergency plans; see the UC ANR Wildfire Preparation page for detailed information and resources.

“There are lots of immediate actions people can take this year to help mitigate their wildfire risk and prepare for the unexpected,” she said.

In addition to Valachovic, the co-authors of “Planning and Permitting Forest Fuel-Reduction Projects on Private Lands in California” are Jared Gerstein of BBW Associates and Brita Goldstein, Research Associate of UCCE Staff in Humboldt Counties and Del Norte; both are registered professional foresters.

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Jacob L. Thornton