As summer eases into its prime, the smoke from surrounding fires reminds us that Plumas County is susceptible to fire as much as any other forested area in the Sierra. So far this season, we have had dedicated people working to keep wildfires at bay and we have been fortunate. Our local conditions have been well assessed by a variety of agencies over time; and as we understand the need for forest restoration, we still struggle with inventing ways to achieve our goal of returning our mountain ecosystems to a more resilient and balanced state. The formation of a collaborative group has been a key answer to help guide this struggle and already the potential of this group is being proven. The Feather River Stewardship Coalition, formerly the Plumas Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Group, has only been forming since January of this year. But already, a small and dedicated group has been convening monthly to cultivate this idea of a group approach to forest management.
The timing of this assemblage couldn’t be more appropriate, nor the need more of a priority. With the Resilient Federal Forests Act working its way through congress and requiring collaboration on decisions for public land is just one very important reason on a national level. Locally, the Plumas National Forest will soon begin revision of the Forest Plan, the overarching planning document that defines the vision, goals, and protocol for the Plumas National Forest. Formation of this plan will be most successful with collaborative input, and the document produced will guide all future projects on the Plumas NF for years to come. If that isn’t enough need for a collaborative group, The Plumas NF is also applying for Categorical Exemptions to the NEPA process on select projects, allowing treatment to areas under 3,000 acres that meet forest health criteria, an exemption that can only be used when projects are developed with a collaborative group or with the help of the Plumas County RAC, which has yet to be reassembled.
Anticipation of these recent developments has inspired the Plumas County Fire Safe Council, UC Cooperative Extension, and the Plumas National Forest to convene with concerned citizens, industry professionals, community representatives and County Officials to form the Coalition. The FRSC has developed considerably since this spring, with a vision “To restore and maintain forest ecosystems, landscape processes, and community vitality in the upper Feather River watershed.”
Currently, the FRSC is working to develop a charter to further define the roles and participation of the group. More exciting is the decision to apply for grant funding this summer to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to treat public lands in Plumas County that may otherwise not be funded for treatment. The Coalition is pushing forward with this call for action, spurred by the obvious need for land management, and the recent developments in legislation and local planning. The FRSC urges other groups to join our collaborative to build a stronger, more unified presence in public land management here in Plumas County and the Feather River Watershed. Our current group is a knowledgeable and dedicated collective of individuals but we could have a louder voice in management decisions if we had input from other organizations and groups, bringing all land management efforts from different perspectives together to work towards a common goal. Plumas County needs an effort that unifies the work of these separate groups, creating a more effective and holistic solution to our land management issues. If each local organization with environmental concerns looked beyond their niche, we would all see that our efforts are overlapping in goals and spatial context.