May 2022 Minutes

CAMBRIA FOREST COMMITTEE

TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE THE NATIVE FOREST OF CAMBRIA

May 2022

May 13, 2022, 10:00 AM

Zoom.com Video Teleconference

Crosby Swartz called the meeting to order at 10:05 am. A Quorum was established by attendance of Crosby and Laura Swartz, Bob Fountain of Greenspace, Harry Farmer, Cambria CSD liaison and director, and Christine Heinrichs. Neil Havlik of California Native Plant Society and Keith Seydel, Kenneth S. Norris Rancho Marino Reserve Director also attended.

Public and Director Comments:

Crosby presented information about PG&E’s Covered Wire program, replacing high voltage lines with insulated wire. This could reduce fire danger from overhead wires by 90 percent. He will research the subject and report at the June meeting. This could be a subject for a future speaker. Funding is available for fire prevention projects. CFC could reach out to Fire Safe Council for collaboration on encouraging PG&E to replace uninsulated wire with Covered Wire.

The Minutes of the April Meeting were unanimously approved as amended.

Treasurer’s Report:  Laura Swartz reported the bank balance of $366.15, and petty cash of $40. She expects the bill for tax form preparation. CFC does not owe any taxes, but has to file.

Sub-Committee Reports

          Education/Planting/Mitigation/Operations

                Earth Day Event at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

CFC joined FFRP and Greenspace for collegial conversation and offered promotional materials at the south end of Fiscalini Ranch’s Bluff Trail. In informal discussion, Greenspace directors reported that the owner of a large lot in Fern Canyon is interested in donating the property. Crosby and Laura described it as a forested lot in the middle of the canyon with year-round water frequented by wildlife and high conservation value. Bob Fountain will follow up with the Greenspace board. If Greenspace is not interested in accepting the lot, CFC can approach The SLO Land Conservancy about it.

Forest Management

Covell Ranch Project Update: Work has stopped on this project. Pile burning has been suspended. CNPS has not received a response to the organization’s request for a site visit. A site visit is important to gauge amount of vegetation regrowth through chips. A site visit can document the amount and species re-growing, at this time, five months after tree and understory removal. Based on result, the 10-year project can be revised now to encourage diversity and native plants. Neil and Melissa Mooney will follow up.

Results need to be documented and communicated to the Coastal Commission, which has jurisdiction over Cal VTP projects. The commission needs to be informed of the results of projects that they are approving.

The CSD’s Ad Hoc Committee on Forest Management submitted its report to the District Board. It is on page 63 of the March 10 meeting agenda, https://www.cambriacsd.org/files/1912d8d48/2022+03+10+Amended+Final+Regular+Meeting+Agenda.pdf.

No Fire Safe Focus Group meeting this month, after the Wildfire Preparedness Day May 7.

New Business

Website Redesign: The website needs better organization and easier navigation for visitors. It should be able to accept donations. Christine invites directors to visit the website and make suggestions. She will pursue getting an estimate for professional redesign.

Unfinished Business

Discussion of CCSD Fire Hazard Fuel Reduction Program:

Crosby and Laura have marked the list of lots to indicate which lots are under conservation easement or adjacent to conservation easements. Those lots should be treated differently from other vacant lots. Special guidelines should apply to 87 parcels in Fern Canyon, many of which comprise multiple lots. Fire Chief Hollingsworth is retiring in June. His successor has not yet been named.

Discussion of USLT Resource Conservation District Role as Forest Manager: Keith reported that Ascent Environmental, https://www.ascentenvironmental.com/,  did a biological survey for Rancho Marino and adjacent California Fish & Wildlife property. He is working on a grant application with Upper Salinas Las Tablas Resource Conservation District for the work. The proposed work will be subject to public comment before work begins. Keith lives on the land.

Public and Director Comments:

Harry Farmer reported that Andrew Johnson, who had been acting as forest manager for USLTRCD, has left the organization. Spencer Gordon, formerly with State Parks, has taken the position. Harry will reach out to meet him.

The CSD suggestion that an evacuation road could be constructed through Rancho Marino and other properties south of Cambria would be a multi-million-dollar project. It would cross 13 arroyos and protected coastal prairie, making Coastal Commission approval unlikely. Keith would agree to safety measures, but this project is not likely to be achieved. Allowing evacuees to park on the ranch is possible, but the area is uneven. It could accommodate a couple hundred cars but not the 9,600 posited in the most recent evacuation documents.

Laura said that the Water Wait List applicants include about 500 more residences on Lodge Hill that would be attempting to evacuate in an emergency.

Bob Fountain reported that water samples had been collected on the first Saturday in May for Marine Sanctuary Snapshot Day. The water quality monitoring project collects samples from San Mateo County to SLO County, on the coast and from inland sites. Samples are tested for livestock bacterial and fertilizer chemical contamination Crosby suggested asking whether SODBlitz could be included, as Sudden Oak Death pathogens travel by water. See https://montereybay.noaa.gov/getinvolved/volunteer/snapshotday.html

for more details and reports.

Directors noted that the Coastal Commission has unanimously denied Poseidon Water’s Huntington Beach Desalination Project permit. That milestone will probably not be the end of that project.

Cambria CSD received a Notice of Violation from the Coastal Commission April 19, 2022. The NOV opens a discussion of Cambria’s water use issues. Cambria’s water extractions have been documented as damaging the creeks and riparian habitat for some years. The district has not reduced extractions and maintains that the district has adequate water to accommodate buildout of the Water Wait List. The process engages expensive legal conflicts that divert district finances away from critical infrastructure.

Future Agenda Items and Speakers

Covered wire

Michigan State Forest Carbon and Climate Program https://www.canr.msu.edu/fccp/

Society of American Foresters Videos https://learn.eforester.org

The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 am
Next Meeting June 10, 2022

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March 2022 Minutes

CAMBRIA FOREST COMMITTEE

TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE THE NATIVE FOREST OF CAMBRIA

March 2022.docx

March 9, 2022, 5:30 PM

Zoom.com Video Teleconference

The meeting was Called to Order at 5:45 and a Quorum established by attendance of Crosby and Laura Swartz, Bob Fountain, Julie Jorgenson, and Christine Heinrichs. Harry Farmer, Cambria Community Services District Board liaison, and Jim Townsend also attended.

Public and Director Comments:

Directors expressed concern about the vegetation pile burned by Cal Fire on Cambria Pines Road, March 7. The firefighters left the fire as extinguished, but it rekindled and burst into flame around 11 pm. A neighbor called the fire department and posted video on Nextdoor.

Harry said that a Cal Fire representative reported at the Fire Safe Focus Group meeting that it had burned only an area 25’ x 40’, although the video clearly shows a larger area, around ¾ acre. Cambria Fire Department stayed on site about 4 hours to put the fire out.

Laura said that around 500 piles, with around 350 remaining still to be burned. Burning piles can also singe nearby Monterey Pine trees that will later die. She reported that Fire Safe Council business manager Dan Turner claims that sending crews of convicts over from Atascadero to cut the broom when it’s too hot to work there is an economic way to control the broom.  Crosby said that the need to burn the vegetation to kill the broom seeds would be eliminated if the broom were cut before it produces viable seeds.

Jim Townsend said that leaving piles of brush on the ground can create wildlife habitat that then can’t be removed.

All agreed other methods of disposing of cleared vegetation are preferable to burning, especially under this year’s exceptionally dry conditions. Cambria has not had rain since December.

Approve Minutes of January and February Meetings:

Christine will provide Minutes of the February meeting, at which Bryant Baker spoke. No business meeting was conducted.

January Minutes were approved unanimously.

Treasurer’s Report: Laura reported that all the grant money was spent. She and Crosby donated some amount to cover all costs. After paying the Post Office box rental of $182, the remaining balance is $366.15.

Sub-Committee Reports

          Education/Planting/Mitigation/Operations

                Report from Online Forest Carbon and Climate Course:  Crosby and Laura took the course and enjoyed it. Crosby shared the informational handouts with other directors. They are posted on the website.

Forest Management

Covell Ranch Project Updates: Crosby reported that Dan Turner has not responded to Neil Havlik’s request on behalf of CNPS for a follow-up site visit.

Old Growth Forest Network: Fiscalini Ranch Preserve was inducted into the Old Growth Forest Network.  The group is seeking to identify a forest in every county in the country.

Report from Fire Safe Focus Group:

Rancho Marino will be the next area treated by Cal Fire crews. The USLTRCD is recruiting property owners with five or more acres of forest.

Wildfire Preparedness Day will be held May 7, both in person and on YouTube. FSFG is implementing a new alert system. Evacuation studies remain unfinished.

New Business

  Discussion of USLT Resource Conservation District Role as Forest Manager  

USLTRCD generally follows Cal Fire’s recommendations on forest management. Cal Fire relies on the state Vegetation Treatment Program. Projects in the Coastal Zone need review, hearing and approval from the Coastal Commission. Crosby will determine who Coastal Commission sent to inspect the work. The Forest Committee will discuss requesting another inspection before the Covell Ranch project is done and ask for special consideration for the Monterey Pine forest.

Unfinished Business

          Update Camp Ocean Pines Tree Planting Project  

All tree seedlings from Greenspace and equipment were delivered as promised. Camp Ocean Pines first class of campers have gone through the tree planting program, supervised by Outdoor Education Director Channing Kaiser. Photos have been sent to Cambria Community Council, which provided funding, and posted to the Forest Committee website. Bob Fountain will suggest that the camp coordinate with Greenspace’s middle school education program.

Bob reported that Greenspace has provided 1,000 Monterey Pine seedlings to State Parks in the past two years, some of which are 3 ½ feet tall. They are planted in the Parks area north of Washburn State Campground. State Parks has requested another 1,000 seedlings.

Public and Director Comments

Crosby suggested considering another meeting time, as CNPS meets at the same time, to allow members to attend both meetings. Friday morning is a possible alternative meeting time.

Future Agenda Items and Speakers

 Michigan State Forest Carbon and Climate Program

Society of American Foresters Videos

The Mother Tree Project,  inspired by the book, Finding the Mother Tree by Susanne Simard.

Meeting Adjourned at 6:45 pm
Next Meeting April 15, 2022

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February 2022 Minutes

CAMBRIA FOREST COMMITTEE

TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE THE NATIVE FOREST OF CAMBRIA

February 2022.docx

February 9, 2022, 5:30 PM

Zoom.com Video Teleconference

Crosby Swartz called the meeting to order at 5:30 pm. A Quorum was established by attendance of CDC directors Crosby and Laura Swartz, Julie Jorgenson and Christine Heinrichs. Harry Farmer, Cambria CSD liaison attended. Community members attending included Valerie Eastman, Mary Webb, Elizabeth Bettenhausen, Sheri Kosh, former Cal Fire forester Alan Peters from his current home in West Virginia, Neil Havlik and Melissa Mooney of California Native Plant Society, Cal Fire Forestry Assistant Jon Gee, Robert and Ann Cichowski, Holy Sletteland, Ted Key, and Rancho Marino Reserve Director Keith Seydel, for a total of 19 attendees.

Los Padres ForestWatch Conservation Director Bryant Baker gave a PowerPoint presentation, followed by Q&A and Discussion. Video of the presentation is posted on the Forest Committee’s website, here, Passcode: #z&5pvJA.

Bryant holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Environmental, Soil and Water Science.  At LPFW, he analyzes ways to improve the effectiveness of forest health and fire prevention projects, and reduce potential adverse effects, based on the latest science.

Los Padres Forest Watch is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting wildlife, wilderness, water, and sustainable access throughout the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.  For more information about LPFW, check their website.

Forests perform an important role by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and reducing global warming.  The widespread fire agency practice of cutting trees down to reduce fire danger can have the unwanted effect of producing hotter, dryer, and windier conditions that create more dangerous wildfire conditions.  For example, the Cambria Forest Committee is concerned about the long-term effects of the ongoing Covell Ranch Fuel Reduction Project.

The regular business portion of the meeting was deferred to the regular March meeting to allow time for Mr. Baker to respond to many questions from the attendees.

Next Meeting March 9, 2022

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Bryant Baker speaks at CFC meeting

Bryant Baker, Conservation Director for Los Padres ForestWatch, will speak at the February 9 meeting of the Cambria Forest Committee, 5:30 pm on Zoom. The public is invited, free. All CFC meetings, monthly on the second Wednesday, are open to the public. Please request the Zoom link for the meeting by email to forest@cambriaforestcommittee.org.

Video of his talk is posted at https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/83o4r_f_zbJvWO6daFbeJMoz-jggOxnNLjjJcak_ncDQa3JWk1FiNVz5soq53j-n.1BeTrZ6pclXs9J2n?startTime=1644457131000 (Passcode: #z&5pvJA)

Significant subjects he addressed are at the following points in the video:

00:00:00  Introduction
00:06:30  Begin Presentation
00:18:00  Community Wildfire Protection Plan
00:25:30  Forest Thinning
00:44:50  Structure Ignition Protection
01:06:44  Regrowth After Fire
01:10:15  Question and Answer – Discussion
02:28:22  End

Bryant Baker_72_Jun 2020

As Conservation Director, Mr. Baker analyzes technical documents, writes comments on projects undergoing environmental review, pens articles in local news publications, monitors the latest scientific literature on ecology and land management, develops and coordinates volunteer field projects, and gives community presentations on topics such as wildfire mitigation.

He will talk about what methods keep forests healthy and how to reduce the danger of wildfire to homes and communities in and near the forest. Projects that remove trees and understory as “fuel reduction” may actually result in forests that are more subject to fire and burn hotter and faster than forests that have their understory habitat left intact.

Cal Fire, the County Fire Safe Council, the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District and Auten Resource Consulting are currently removing large numbers of trees and understory from 665 acres of Covell Ranch as a 10-year Fuel Reduction Project in Cambria. See the project as described in slides from Auten Consulting at http://cambriaforestcommittee.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Covell-Ranch-Auten-PowerPoint-slides.pdf.

The Cambria Forest Committee has concerns about the long-term effects of the ongoing Covell Ranch Fuel Reduction Project.  The fire agency approach to fuel reduction for forest management ignores the fact that forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, playing an important role in mitigating the climate crisis. Cutting trees down to reduce fire danger can produce hotter, dryer, and windier conditions, increasing wildfire danger.

Mr. Baker studied Oregon’s 2021 Bootleg Fire and found that “thinning, fuel breaks, and other forest management failed to stop or slow the fire’s rapid spread.

“Contrary to fuel reduction claims, the Bootleg Fire has raced through much of the landscape that has been logged in one way or another since the 1970s, including over the last few years,” he said.

Terms such as “forest health,” ‘resilience,” and “fuel reduction” sound good but in practice mean suppressing natural processes and removal of understory and biodiversity habitat.

Mr. Baker observes that fire breaks and mastication may be counterproductive to reducing fire danger to communities.

Mr. Bryant will respond to questions from the public after his presentation. See him in an interview with Dr. Chad Hanson, forest and fire ecologist with the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute and author of the new book, Smokescreen: Debunking Wildfire Myths to Save Our Forests and Our Climate, at https://lpfw.org/smokescreen-with-dr-chad-hanson-webinar-recording/

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Minutes December 2021

CAMBRIA FOREST COMMITTEE

TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE THE NATIVE FOREST OF CAMBRIA

Minutes December 2021

December 8, 2021, 5:30 PM

Zoom.com Video Teleconference

Crosby Swartz called the meeting to order at 5:30 pm. A Quorum was established by attendance of Crosby and Laura Swartz, Christine Heinrichs, John Seed, Greenspace board president acting for Greenspace, and Harry Farmer, Liaison for the Cambria CSD. Neil Havlik representing California Native Plant Society, Andrew Boyd-Goodrich, executive director of Camp Ocean Pines, and Cambria resident Elizabeth Bettenhausen also attended.

Public and Director Comments:

The EV charging station was installed in the parking space previously designated for handicapped use at the Vet Hall. American Legion members have complained to the board. The charging station was installed after a matching funds grant was identified to pay half for it. Whether it will generate enough income to cover the district’s costs remains to be seen.

The Minutes of the November Meeting were approved as amended.

Treasurer’s Report:

Laura Swartz reports the account balance at $1,168.50, including $350 in donations from directors. Cambria Community Council awarded the Forest Committee a grant of $650 for Monterey Pine restoration at Camp Ocean Pines. She will keep those funds separate in accounting.

The CCC grant of $650 provides $250 for seedlings, $150 for protective fencing and screening, $150 for holding and growing, cones, racks, and $100 for a steel planting stick. COP’s goals are educational and experiential. Ten trees a month will be planted for five months. The new Outdoor Education Director will arrive to take over her duties in January.

Sub-Committee Reports

          Education/Planting/Mitigation/Operations

                 CCSD Finance Committee Recommendation to Divest Forest Parcels was included in its report to the CCSD board. TDCs and the Buildout Reduction Plan could provide legal defense against recent lawsuit claims that the district has taken property value.

From the BRP Report, page 5: “In addition, by providing an opportunity for property owners to sell undeveloped parcels the BRP and TDC substantially reduce the risk of litigation by such property owners related to the issue of water connections and building permits in the future.”

Crosby and other directors will bring that point up at the board’s Strategic Plan workshop in January.

A map of the conserved parcels is posted in the Vacant Parcel Assessment report on web site http://cambriaforestcommittee.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Cambria-Vacant-Parcel-Assessment.pdf

Report from Fire Safe Focus Group

Dan Turner, business manager for county Fire Safe Council, gave a report on the Covell Ranch Fuel Reduction Project, which was begun on October 20. He invited Neil Havlik to inspect two test parcels that have been set up, one to remove all trees at 4 inches or less DBA, the other all trees at 8 inches or less DBA. Mr. Havlik was satisfied by the results. In the 8-inch plot, healthy smaller trees were left standing. Tree spacing of 15 to 20 feet is also being used as a criterion. The requirement for buffers around wood rat nests protected substantial sections.

“In my professional judgment, wildlife habitat value was not seriously compromised,” Mr. Havlik said.

Forestry monitors will observe the project and CNPS observers will continue to evaluate the project.

Harry Farmer expressed concern that too many trees and understory are being removed. He and Neil will arrange a time to walk the area, take pictures and confer. They will report at the January meeting.

New fire prevention grants are available, applications due Feb 9. Grants are available for updating forest management plans.

New Business

       Approve expenditures for Camp Ocean Pines Tree Planting Project:

The directors approved a motion to allow Laura to spend the $650 grant money as needed on supplies. She will confer with Andrew Boyd-Goodrich and the Outdoor Education director.

Unfinished Business

          Report – CCSD Forest Management Ad Hoc Committee

Harry reported that advisors from Cal Fire and other traditional forestry sources have been heard. He will invite Bryant Baker, conservation director of Los Padres Forest Watch to add his perspective in January. Mr. Baker advocates for supporting forest ecological systems to avoid clearing which results in hotter, drier forests that are more vulnerable to fire after fuel reduction.

Public and Director Comments:

Laura Thanked Mr. Boyd-Goodrich for attending the meeting. He will encourage the Outdoor Education director to attend in future.

Future Agenda Items and Speakers

Los Padres Forest Watch Webinar: Crosby and Christine will work on getting the webinar for a future public presentation.

Adjourned at 7:20 pm.

Next Meeting January 12, 2022, 5:30 pm

 

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Minutes November 2021

CAMBRIA FOREST COMMITTEE

TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE THE NATIVE FOREST OF CAMBRIA

Meeting Minutes

November 10, 202, 5:30 PM

Zoom.com Video Teleconference

Crosby Swartz called the meeting to order. A Quorum was established by attendance of Crosby and Laura Swartz, Bob Fountain, Christine Heinrichs and Harry Farmer, Cambria CSD liaison, acting as a director. Neil Havlik of California Native Plant Society also attended.

Public and Director Comments 

Christine cited a 1999 petition to State Fish and Game Commission to list Monterey Pine as a Threatened Species under the California Endangered Species Act. The petition was withdrawn to address the large volume of comments, but was never resubmitted. Neil said he will ask CNPS members whether they remember this petition. Christine will research through State F&G Commission. In light of research over the years, this might be worth revising and re-submitting.

Cambria received just under half an inch of rain in the recent storm. Rocky Butte got an inch, the most in the county.

Minutes of October Meeting were approved unanimously.

Treasurer’s Report: Laura reported that the account balance is $168.50. She will add directors’ donations to cover the insurance on her return to Cambria.

Sub-Committee Reports

       Education/Planting/Mitigation/Operations

              CCSD Finance Committee Recommendation to Divest Forest Parcels 

The CSD Board referred the Finance Committee report back to the Finance Committee, which did not approve the report before Committee Chair Tom Gray presented it to the board. Forest Committee directors concurred in hope that the passage on divesting of forest lots will be removed or revised in committee.

Report from Fire Safe Focus Group

The Wildfire Preparedness Day video is posted at https://cal-span.org/unipage/?site=slo-span&video=https%3A%2F%2Fslo-span.org%2Fmedia%2Fvideo_files%2FSPEVENT%2FSPEVENT_21-10-09%2FSPEVENT_21-10-09_Cambria-Wildfire-Preparedness.mp4&fbclid=IwAR0TqTAt0lyPyfyViIwWBf3h-tPd16TDlQG7FCHKNGPibJjN9iPuE5txFpU  It includes a Sim(ulation) Table that models fire progression under variable geographic, environmental and weather conditions.

New Business

       Grant Application for Camp Ocean Pines Tree Planting Project   

Harry met with Camp Ocean Pines Executive Direct Andre Boyd-Goodrich and arborist Blair McCormick to discuss the project. The camp needs about 50 trees, and would also like cones and seeds for understory plants to raise their own. Greenspace will sell COP 50 trees for half price, about $250. Laura will write a grant application and present it to the Cambria Community Council November 16.

Unfinished Business

       Discussion – Covell Ranch Fuel Reduction Project & Test Plots

Neil reported that SLO County Fire Safe Council Business Manager Dan Turner invited Neil, Dave Krause and Melissa Mooney to meet on Friday November 15 to review the two test plots they have arranged. Trees smaller than 8 inches DBH will be removed on one and trees smaller than 4 inches DBH on the other. They will explore how the masticator and brushmowers, which remove all vegetation, will be used to discriminate between sizes of trees and understory vegetation. Others may be allowed to see the test plots after work is done.

       Report – CCSD Forest Management Ad Hoc Committee  

Harry reported that the committee is focusing on two goals: Developing an update to the Forest Management Plan and obtaining grant funding to hire a forest manager. Devin Best of Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District recommended his assistant Andrew Johnson. Directors expressed concern over the influence Cal Fire, Fire Safe Council and their contractor Steve Auten may have over a future forest manager. Directors prefer a forest ecologist who will focus on a healthy forest. Crosby referred to ideas expressed by Charles Darwin 150 years ago, as recounted in a recent scientific publication,

https://theconversation.com/a-150-year-old-note-from-charles-darwin-is-inspiring-a-change-in-the-way-forests-are-planted-170909

Public and Director Comments

The Forest Committee will hold a regular meeting December 8, 5:30 pm on Zoom. Greenspace Board President John Seed will represent in Bob Fountain’s absence.

Future Agenda Items and Speakers

Los Padres Forest Watch: Christine continues to contact Bryant Baker and Chad Hanson regarding holding a public meeting featuring his webinar. They have expressed support in past emails, so the webinar could be scheduled with an announcement to them.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:20 pm.

Next Meeting December 8, 2021

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Minutes October 2021

CAMBRIA FOREST COMMITTEE

TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE THE NATIVE FOREST OF CAMBRIA

Minutes October 2021

October 13, 2021, 6:30 PM

Zoom.com Video Teleconference

The meeting was Called to Order and a Quorum established by attendance of Crosby and Laura Swartz, Julie Jorgenson, John Seed, president of the Greenspace Board as substitute for Bob Fountain, and Christine Heinrichs. Harry Farmer, Cambria CSD liaison, and Cambrian Elizabeth Bettenhausen also attended.

The Minutes of the September meeting were approved unanimously as written.

Treasurer’s Report: Laura Swartz reported that the bank balance is $168.60, after paying the Directors Insurance of $541. Directors are encouraged to make appropriate donations to defray those costs. The Forest Committee may consider future fund raisers to support its activities.

Sub-Committee Reports

          Education/Planting/Mitigation/Operations

CCSD Finance Committee Recommendation to Divest Forest Parcels: Crosby and Laura submitted comments on behalf of the Forest Committee to the CSD Finance Committee, relevant to the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Unfunded/Underfunded/Understaffed as follows. He referred to the TDC Document Summary on the Forest Committee web site, http://cambriaforestcommittee.org/buildout-reduction-committee/tdc-document-summary/

We have reviewed the agenda package report on Under-Funded Activities and we have the following comment for your consideration.

The paragraph titled “Vacant Lots owned by the CCSD states ‘Attempt to divest as many of these lots as possible’ and ‘No additional real estate should be accepted by CCSD without guaranteed funding for its maintenance.’

Many of the lots owned by CCSD have Conservation Easements on them. Divesting these lots will require approval by The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo, the California Coastal Conservancy and the County.

The CCSD has committed to acquiring and retiring from development vacant lots in accordance with the Buildout Reduction program and the Transfer Development Credits (TDC) Program. Implementation of these programs will be a condition of approval for water supply related Coastal Development Permits for projects such as the Water Reclamation Facility.

In addition, by providing an opportunity for property owners to sell undeveloped parcels, the BRP and TDC substantially reduce the risk of litigation by such property owners related to the issue of water connections and building permits in the future (from BRP Report, page 4).

The attached TDC Document Summary [http://cambriaforestcommittee.org/buildout-reduction-committee/tdc-document-summary/] lists several documents related to the Conservation Easement/TDC lots. These documents as well as the Memorandum of Understanding between CCSD and LCSLO are available on the Forest Committee website, cambriaforestcommittee.org.

The report from the Finance Committee, written by chair CSD Director Tom Gray is posted at https://www.cambriacsd.org/files/a2d9d35a4/2021+09+28+Final+Finance+Committee+Meeting+Agenda.pdf, pages 5-8. Mr. Gray’s report ignores a statement from the Ad Hoc Committee on Unfunded/Underfunded/Understaffed projects and activities, “As the group began its analysis of the issue, it became apparent that there is insufficient revenue for the District to continue to provide the same services and at the same level as it has been attempting to do or to expand services to meet the additional requests.”

Forest Committee discussion advised against proceeding with efforts for Cambria to divest itself of the vacant lots.

Forest Management

Proposed Tree Planting at Camp Ocean Pines. Laura hasn’t had response from Andrew Boyd-Goodrich, executive director of Cam p Ocean Pines. Harry will reach out to him. They need to walk the property to determine how many trees will be needed.

Report from Fire Safe Focus Group: Dave Pierson sent a summary, which Christine will send to directors.

Coastal Commission Hearing on Covell Ranch Fuel Reduction Project, October 15. The Cambria Forest Committee and Greenspace sent comments.

Coastal Commission Hearing on Covell Ranch Fuel Reduction Project: The Cambria Forest Committee and Greenspace sent comments.

California Coastal Commission (via email)                                           October 6, 2021

Central Coast District Office

725 Front Street, Suite 300

Santa Cruz, CA  95060

Subject:  PWP-3-SLO-21-0004-1, October 15, 2021 Agenda Item 21

Dear Commissioners and Staff,

Thank you for the opportunity to review and comment on the proposed Covell Ranch Forest Health Fuels Reduction Project in Cambria, CA.

We have reviewed the draft CalVTP Project Specific Analysis, the Coastal Vegetation Treatment Standards in Exhibit A and the Public Works Plan.  We support the project goals of improving the health of the Monterey Pine and Coast Live Oak forest on the Covell Ranch, and we have the following suggestions to improve the long-term results of the project.

The proposed removal of 70 to 80 percent of Monterey Pines and Coast Live Oaks less than 8 inches diameter is excessive.  The PSA states that tree density will be reduced from 500 trees per acre to 200 trees per acre.  Over the 665 acre project, removal of this many trees will have an immediate adverse impact on the health of the forest.

The pine forest on the Covell Ranch is under stress from prolonged drought.  It is unlikely that the projected vigorous regeneration of the forest will occur under current conditions.  Healthy trees of all sizes should be retained to become the large trees of the future and to maximize absorption of CO2.  Only dead and diseased trees should be removed.  Arbitrary goals of trees per acre, minimum trunk diameters and ratios of oaks to pines do not account for local growing conditions and do not advance the goal of a healthy and safe forest.  We recommend that the Commission include a condition of approval to ensure that healthy trees are not removed.

The fire prevention goals of this project are well served by the shaded fuel break and defensible space zones specified in the PSA.  We support the proposed treatments in these areas, and we oppose expansion of defensible space treatments to the remaining areas of the forest.  The goal of this project should not be to create a visually pleasing “park-like” setting, but should be to retain a mosaic of old and young growth with diverse habitat structure to maintain wildlife cover and forage, and prevent soil erosion.

The proposed use of mechanized mastication on an estimated 634 acres of Monterey Pine and Coast Live Oak forest understory is not acceptable.  The resulting extensive disturbance of existing native vegetation and animal habitat will create hotter and dryer conditions in the understory by reducing shaded areas, and will stimulate growth of flammable invasive vegetation such as French Broom, Pampas Grass and dry annual grass varieties.  We recommend that the Commission include a condition of approval to use hand crews to cut and scatter dead branches wherever possible to minimize the collateral damage caused by mechanical mastication.  Use of hand crews to cut up dead branches can be very cost-effective if they are not attempting to duplicate the results of mechanical mastication by cutting down all understory vegetation.

We recommend adding a requirement to create at least two test plots of one acre each prior to beginning full project operations.  These test plots will be used demonstrate the different outcomes of larger versus smaller diameter tree removal criteria, larger versus smaller numbers of retained trees per acre, and the different results of mechanical mastication versus hand crew cutting and scattering dead branches.  Representatives of interested agencies and local organizations should be offered field tours of the test plots, and their observations and recommendations should be used as input to adaptive management of the project operations.

After work is completed on Project Units 1A and 1B, representatives of interested agencies and organizations should be offered field tours of each completed area, as described above.  Similar tours could be offered after work is completed on each Project Unit.  We suggest that interested organizations such as The California Native Plant Society, the Cambria Forest Committee and Greenspace the Cambria Land Trust be included on the field tours.

We suggest that the draft PSA and Attachment F Coastal Vegetation Treatment Standards be modified as necessary to better achieve the project’s long term forest health and fire safety goals, while minimizing unnecessary short and long term adverse impacts to this sensitive habitat area.  As an alternative, the Commission could impose conditions of approval as outlined above.

Yours truly,

Crosby Swartz, President

Cambria Forest Committee

forest@cambriaforestcommittee.org

John Seed, President

Greenspace, The Cambria Land Trust

johnseed@gmail.com

Commission staff responded, https://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2021/10/F21a/F21a-10-2021-addendum-1.pdf, but dismissed the concerns expressed. [On October 15, the Coastal Commission approved the plan as submitted.]

New Business

          Strawberry Canyon: A concerned resident asked John Seed about maintenance at Strawberry Canyon. He is working with Rick Hawley to develop a plan. Harry will invite Mike Rice and Blair McCormick to walk through, advise and provide an estimate. Grant funding for maintenance is possible.

Unfinished Business

          Report and Discussion, CCSD Forest Management Ad Hoc Committee.  CSD Directors Tom Gray and Harry Farmer have arranged a meeting with Devin Best, executive director of the US-LT RCD. Crosby will attend. Mr. Best has suggested hiring a forest manager for the region, who would consult on forest issues.

Future Agenda Items and Speakers

                    Los Padres Forest Watch – Baker and Hanson. Christine will contact them again and ask whether the Forest Committee could show the webinar for the public.

Meeting location: Mechanics Bank is unwilling to allow the Forest Committee to use its community room in future. Directors will ask around about other meeting spaces.

Change in meeting time: Those attending concurred that the Forest Committee should change its meeting time to 5:30 pm.

The meeting was Adjourned at 8:15 pm.

Next Meeting November10, 2021

 

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Minutes September 2021

CAMBRIA FOREST COMMITTEE

TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE THE NATIVE FOREST OF CAMBRIA

Minutes September 2021

September 10, 2021, 10:00 AM

Zoom.com Video Teleconference

The meeting was Called to Order and a Quorum established by attendance of Crosby and Laura Swartz, Bob Fountain, Harry Farmer and Christine Heinrichs. Neil Havlik and David Krause of California Native Plant Society, John Seed, president of the board of Greenspace – The Cambria Land Trust, Mary Webb, former Greenspace board president, Richard Hawley, founder of Greenspace, Kitty Connolly, executive director of Friends of Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and Thomas Loganbill, board president of FFRP, Dan Turner, business manager of the SLO County Fire Safe Council, Hayley Barnes, USLT RCD, Andrew Johnson, USLT RCD, Riley McFarland, assistant forester at Auten Resource consulting, Brandon Sanderson of Cal Fire, Steve Auten, of Auten Resource Consulting, contractor for the Covell Ranch Plan, and Cambrian Elizabeth Bettenhausen.

Presentation on Covell Ranch Project by Steve Auten. He provided an overview of the project. Assistant forester Riley McFarland was the main author, working with Dan Turner of SLO County Fire Safe Council, which hired his firm as the consultant. View video of the meeting here, https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/ImxXBLUXKD593mhR4qN8QuUgDue9kXbghUx4HwkyOk0KYeQrbtI8ChSG0oJxVCfP.Y3Bsf_tzEQr_wgST

His slide presentation is posted on the Home page of the CFC website. The plan will cover the next ten years of management.

He reviewed the history of Cambria’s forest, from 1937, via aerial photos. The forest has been changed by development and affected by the climate crisis. He said the plan seeks to find a balance point for biological resources, treating for a level of heterogeneity. The project develops a set of bounds, with regard to pathogens such as dwarf mistletoe, and available water, archaeological, and biological resources.

Mr. Auten engaged in discussion of various aspects of the plan with Crosby Swartz, Dr. Bettenhausen, Mr. Hawley, Mr. Havlik

Points raised included the plan’s standard of removing Monterey Pine 8 inches in diameter, criteria for removing trees, maintaining forest and understory diversity, and follow-up to monitor regeneration. What criteria will be used to select healthy trees for removal to achieve the Monterey Pine to Coastal Live Oaks ratio, how much understory will be removed, and whether the machinery used will set up the area for mud and debris flow during winter rains were discussed.

Mr. Auten said he was writing down questions to be answered in the future. No meeting date was discussed.

CNPS representatives will be invited to view the work as it proceeds. Mr. Turner said thar the Nature Conservancy, which holds the Agricultural Conservation Easement on the Covell Ranch property, which is privately owned and not open to the public, has been actively involved in the development of the PSA. He said that a Licensed Professional Forester will be on site during all operations.

Mr. Turner said that test plots of at least one acre will be treated, although that condition was not stated in the PSA.

The presentation part of the meeting was concluded at11 am. After a break, a short business meeting resumed.

The Minutes of the August Meeting were approved with Crosby’s changes.

Treasurer’s Report: Laura Swartz reported that the balance remains at $389.20, with $20 in petty cash.

She submitted information for the Director & Officer Insurance policy renewal but hasn’t had a response. She anticipates that costs will be about the same as 2020. The policy expires October 17.

Laura and Crosby are still trying to clear up the information in the IRS master file. While the incorrect entry is not currently an issue, it could affect grant applications.

Sub-Committee Reports:

Tree planting at Camp Ocean Pines. This project could be eligible for Cambria Community Council grant funding. Laura is working with CCOP executive director Andrew Boyd Goodrich to proceed. Seedlings would come from Greenspace. CNPS is invited to participate.

Forest Management

CCSD contractors have not entered Fern Canyon to cut vegetation on the parcels that were included on the district’s list. Since the deadline for weed abatement has passed, no further action is expected.

Report from Fire Safe Focus Group:

Crosby and Laura attended. CCSD has included updating the Forest management Plan in its Strategic Plan. Discussion continues as to how Cambria Fire Department could be compensated for taking on Cal Fire’s responsibility for inspecting developed properties. Currently, Cal Fire is charged with inspecting developed properties and CFD undeveloped lots. Cal Fire lacks personnel to do these inspections.

The group will hold a Wildfire Preparedness Day in October.

Video of all fire safe meetings is posted at https://www.247ncep.com/

Unfinished Business

Discuss US-LT RCD Hearing for Public Works Plan & Covell PSA   

Forest Committee, Greenspace and CNPS representatives discussed the presentation and the opportunity to comment at the hearing. The Coastal Zone should have an RCD that considers the special interests of the area, especially with regard to development.

This is one of the first projects authorized under the Cal VTP program. Chad Hanson was quoted in a recent LA Times article questioning these premises of forest management, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-08-21/california-burning-is-it-time-to-rethink-forest-management This project could be used as a precedent for future projects, so it should be based on sound science.

The Fire Safe Council and Auten Resource Consulting invited CNPS to meet at the site to discuss concerns, but did not invite Greenspace or the Forest Committee.

Oral agreement to conduct test plots lacking written confirmation in the PSA is a concern. Who will comprise the working crews and who will supervise them have not been announced, but could make a difference in how the work is carried out.

Future Agenda Items and Speakers

Los Padres Forest Watch – Executive Director Bryant Baker and scientist Chad Hanson have accepted the Forest Committee’s invitation to speak at a future meeting, but the date has not been set.

The meeting was Adjourned at 11:55.

 

Next Meeting October 13, 2021 (Check for Update)

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Minutes August 2021

CAMBRIA FOREST COMMITTEE

TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE THE NATIVE FOREST OF CAMBRIA

Meeting Minutes August 2021.docx

August 11, 2021, 6:30 PM

Zoom.com Video Teleconference

The meeting was called to order and a Quorum established by attendance of Crosby and Laura Swartz, Bob Fountain, Harry Farmer and Christine Heinrichs. Neil Havlik of the local chapter of the California native Plant Society also attended.

Public and Director Comments  

Harry Farmer said that the State Water Project has cut water allocations to Central Valley farmers. Neil Havlik clarified that the order applies to those who pump directly from rivers and streams, riparian rights. The Public Trust Doctrine requires that sufficient flow be left to support fish and aquatic life.

Harry said well levels are also dropping. North County vineyards pump water from the water table for irrigation.

The Minutes of the July Meeting were approved as amended.

Laura Swartz gave the Treasurer’s Report. The bank balance is $389.60, plus $20 petty cash.

The IRS Business Master File is not yet corrected. Laura will contact the IRS agent she worked with to get that file updated.

Director & Officer Insurance Renewal: Laura will collect information about the renewal and inform directors of the cost. The premium is due in mid-October.

Sub-Committee Reports

          5.1 Education/Planting/Mitigation/Operations

Los Padres ForestWatch Analysis of Bootleg Fire: Crosby sent this document to all directors. The rapid progress of this fire raises questions as to the effectiveness of fuel reduction projects. Ember proofing and defensible space may be more effective in reducing fire spread. Christine will post to the web site.

Swanton Pacific Ranch CZU Fire Analysis: Steve Auten, who is now consulting on Cambria’s Monterey pine forest for the Fire Safe Council, managed the forest at Swanton Ranch. Swanton Ranch was burned down in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in 2020. The Forest Committee will seek independent sources that can analyze what forest management was done in that area, what effect it had on the fire, and how this might affect management of Cambria’s forest. Mr. Auten has offered to attend the Forest Committee’s September meeting.

Forest Management       

Fern Canyon Parcels on CCSD Weed Abatement Contract List:

Crosby and Laura are in contact with Cambria Fire Department Chief William Hollingsworth regarding forested lots that are on the Weed Abatement List. He has removed the lots from the list in the past but they are on the list again. Nothing is being accomplished by having the contractor clear vegetation in the middle of the forest.

New Business

       Discuss US-LT RCD Draft Public Works Plan for Covell & Other Projects:

Neil Havlik sent a comment letter on behalf of the CNPS, see attached. The letter raised questions about the proposed use of shaded fuel break treatments throughout the forest, removal of healthy trees 8” DBH or smaller and the use of mechanical masticator equipment to remove vegetation.  The letter also recommended doing test plots prior to project implementation to demonstrate the effects of proposed treatment methods.

Crosby said that projects fall into two categories: Fire Prevention and Forest Health. Fire Prevention applies only to defensible space, within 100 feet of structures. Forest Health projects apply to the rest of the forest. Fire Prevention standards should not be generally applied to Forest Health projects.

Fire Safe Council representatives and Mr. Auten invited representatives of the Nature Conservancy, USLTRCD, and CNPS for a tour of the Covell Ranch and agreed to set up some test plots before doing the work. The project will go to a public hearing September 16 followed by a hearing before the Coastal Commission before work can begin.

Public money pays for these projects although the Covell Ranch is private property. Recent research questions whether these fuel reduction projects actually improve fire safety.

The Fiscalini Ranch fuel reduction project cut away more understory than was authorized in its permit. The extensive disturbance of native vegetation, after promises of selective removal, leave forest advocates wary of Fire Safe council project management practices.

CNPS has a working group that meets weekly. They will continue to monitor individual projects.

Crosby will draft a letter for the September 16 USLTRCD hearing and circulate it to directors for approval.

Discuss Alternate Date for September Meeting:

Because of Labor Day weekend, the Forest Committee’s September meeting will be on Friday, September 10 instead of Wednesday, September 8, subject to directors, Mr. Auten, and Greenspace availability. The meeting will be publicized to the general public.

Unfinished Business

          Report and Discussion, CCSD Forest Management Ad Hoc Committee:

Crosby attended the meeting of Tom Gray, Harry Farmer and Devin Best, USLTRCD executive director. The CSD and the RCD might be able to share a forester, making it possible to get a grant to support the position. Cal Poly professor Chris Dicus and retired forestry professor Doug Piirto may have individuals to recommend. Harry found the meeting encouraging.

Public and Director Comments

Harry asked attendees to attend the following day’s CSD meeting and offer comments on Item 7D, evaluating the way the CSD is handling Public Comments.

Future Agenda Items and Speakers

Auten Resource Consulting – Crosby will follow up

Chad Hanson webinar – Christine will follow up

The meeting was Adjourned at 8:03 pm.
Next Meeting 10 am September 10, 2021

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Minutes June 2021

CAMBRIA FOREST COMMITTEE

TO CONSERVE AND MANAGE THE NATIVE FOREST OF CAMBRIA

Minutes June 2021

June 9, 2021, 6:30 PM

Zoom.com Video Teleconference

The meeting was Called to Order and a Quorum established by the attendance of Crosby and Laura Swartz, Julie Jorgenson, Bob Fountain and Christine Heinrichs. Harry Farmer, Cambria Community Services District liaison, Neil Havlik and Melissa Mooney of California Native Plant Society and John Seed of Greenspace also attended.

Minutes of May Meeting were approved as amended.

Treasurer’s Report: Laura Swatz reported that the bank balance is $389.60, with $10 in petty cash. She paid CPA Lynn Singer’s bill for preparing the tax return. Crosby continues to check the IRS Business Master File for the correction to the CFC’s status, which had not yet been made.

Sub-Committee Reports

Smokescreen, Debunking Wildfire Myths to Save Our Forests and Climate webinar is posted here. The link is also posted to the CFC web site.

Screenshare PBS DVD on Zoom: Crosby is working on setting up the technology to show this video.

 Website Domain Name Administrator: Crosby will make this transfer from Paul Nugent to himself.

Forest Management      

       Upper Salinas Las Tablas Resource Conservation District Public Works Plan:

The plan establishes Best Practices for working in the Coastal Zone. It will be presented at the June 15 NCAC meeting.

Report from Fire Safe Focus Group:

Comments on the Steve Auten report are due by July 1.

The Fire Safe council is seeking approval from Cal Trans to use herbicide on the broom that is growing along Highway 1.

Phos-Chek Wildfire Home Defense is a consumer product that can reduce flammability of vegetation around homes.

New Business

       Draft Comment Letter on Covell Ranch Fuel Reduction Project:

This report, now posted on the CFC web site, raised many questions. Comments are due by July 1. The Coastal Commission may hold a public hearing on this plan. The Nature Conservancy holds the conservation easement on the Covell Ranch. Enforcing it involves this fuel reduction plan. CNPS wrote and submitted comments, led by Neil and Melissa. Crosby will send draft of comments to directors for advice. Julie will take pictures to illustrate the unintended effects of previous fuel reduction projects

This is the environmental document that Cal Fire and others will rely on for this and future projects. It’s important to get it right. Several attendees questioned the assumptions underlying its recommendations of removing 70-80 percent of the trees, mainly those eight inches or less in diameter, reducing tree density to 200 trees per acre.

The forest is not the same and a fuel break and different standards and treatments should apply.

Removing all young trees reduces diversity of tree ages. Younger trees may be better adapted to changing conditions. Removing the young trees opens the older trees to wind damage.

Use of a masticator is destructive to understory and is rarely justified for use in the forest. Projects should rely on handwork, using masticators and bulldozers only as needed.

Removal of native understory plants in the cause of fuel reduction results in loss of habitat for native wildlife. Replacement vegetation is grass, which is more flammable than native plants. Loss of understory vegetation can create open space that makes it easier for burning embers to blow through during a fire.

Thinning and removal of young trees to open up the canopy and allow sunlight in allows the soil to overheat, dry out and encourages weed growth..

Treating Cambria’s Monterey Pine forest the same as Sierra forests is misleading. The Monterey Pine forest requires different management.

Fire prevention should also focus on home hardening as well as forest fuel reduction.

Unfinished Business

Report and Discussion, CCSD Forest Management Ad Hoc Committee: The Ad Hoc committee of Tom Gray and Harry Farmer met with Dan Turner, Steve Auten and Keith Seydel of Rancho Marino. They discussed updating the Cambria Forest Management Plan of 2001. Harry will invite Devin Best, executive director of the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District to a future meeting.

Public and Director Comments:

Julie said PG&E telephoned to say that they will be marking trees for removal. Davey Tree will tag the trees but other contractors may do the work. Monitors are needed to limit destruction and collateral damage, and follow up that the contractors have disposed of cut trees and brush appropriately.

Bob Fountain said that Greenspace has hundreds of Monterey Pine seedlings available. Greenspace will accommodate to place them. He will contact Andrew Boyd-Goodrich, executive director at Camp Ocean Pines, for possible placement there.

Bob also reported that some Cal Poly students have approached Greenspace about the possibility of using drones to survey the forest in Cambria.

Future Agenda Items and Speakers:

Crosby suggested the CFC meeting have informational sessions on specific subjects such as Thinning and Masticators.

Meeting Adjourned at 8:30 pm.

Next Meeting July 14, 2021

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