FORESTRY WORKING GROUP FINAL REPORT TO COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE NATURAL HERITAGE 2020 PROJECT COUNTY OF NEVADA, CA
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FORESTRY WORKING GROUP
FINAL REPORT TO COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE
NATURAL HERITAGE 2020 PROJECT
COUNTY OF NEVADA, CA
Issue: A comprehensive policy regarding priorities for investment in Forest Management is lacking. This policy is needed to assist County staff and our local community about where to best direct potential future funding sources.
Discussion: The intent of the NH2020 Forestry Working Group is to focus on long-range goals that provide present and future opportunities for Timber Resource Management, Mineral Extraction and Public Health and Safety (especially protection from wildland fires) in Nevada County as a means of retaining open space lands, giving due consideration to air quality, water quality, recreation, watershed, wildlife, range and forage, fisheries, regional economic vitality, employment, aesthetic enjoyment and property rights. We have worked to identify, research, analyze and recommend a full range of workable conservation options to achieve these goals.
Conservation of forested lands is important because of the many benefits these areas provide to the community and important for the long-term viability of the timber industry. As shown on the map (developed by Jim Ciaffoni), the most productive soils (CDF Site Index Class 1 & 2 & 3) are located near the urban/wildland interface. It is likely that future development patterns will continue and that forested land will be converted to residential use. Funding for conservation programs is limited; therefore it is important for the County to establish priorities, so that limited funding is invested wisely.
Public investment in the most productive soils (Class 1 & 2 & 3) will yield long-term benefits for future generations. Investments in those forested lands that provide overlapping benefits will maximize benefits in the short-term.
Recommendation: The County Board of Supervisors adopt a policy which states “Forested lands in Nevada County provide a variety of benefits to local residents including water quality, recreation, watershed, wildlife, air quality, range and forage, fisheries, regional economic vitality, employment and aesthetic enjoyment. The conservation and maintenance of forested lands is an important priority both for the benefits listed above and for the provision of opportunities for timber harvesting and resource management. Local residents place a high social value on timber harvesting and resource management as rural land uses.
The conservation of forested lands with a California Department of Forestry Site Index Classes 1, 2, and 3 soils is a high priority. Those forested lands that provide overlapping benefits (listed above) are also a high conservation priority. The County will develop funding sources and programs to implement this policy. These programs should also respect legal property rights.”
FIRE SUB-COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
F2.1 Fire Safe Council(S):
Issue: County/Board of Supervisors (BOS) support and funding for the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County (FSCNC).
Discussion: Currently the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County (FSCNC) is the only Fire Safe Council in the County. The eastside of the county (Truckee) is interested in forming a council and are considering whether or not to be a part of FSCNC or form their own council independent of FSCNC.
The FSCNC has been operating for several years and is set up as a non-profit entity. The FSCNC has been successful in obtaining several grants that have financed various fire safe projects such as chipping and shredding material generated from defensible space projects by individual landowners and are embarking on a project to assist senior citizens that can not physically accomplish defensible space clearing physically and do not have the financial resources to hire someone to do it. FSCNC is actively submitting proposals for additional grant funding for fire safe projects. FSCNC has also brought together numerous people in the community to work on specific projects and organize neighborhood groups concerning fire safety.
The FSCNC currently has an Executive Coordinator (paid staff) and disseminates public information regarding fire safe requirements and suggestions. FSCNC is currently financed by California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) funds, but funding will run out in July 2002. At that time, they will need another funding source. They may be able to get an additional grant, but eventually it is likely that grants will become less available and grant money used to finance the FSCNC takes money from projects.
The BOS, at a Special Meeting on 9/4/2001, made a commitment to earmark as much as $60,000/year from the Forest Reserve Funds (previously the 25% Timber Fund) for operation of the FSCNC in a future fiscal year. The Forestry Working Group and Fire Subcommittee believes that the FSCNC and future Fire Safe Councils in the county are an asset.
Recommendation: The County (BOS) continue to support and finance, as necessary, the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County (FSCNC) (and an Eastside FSC if organized).
F2.2 Countywide Fire Safe Plan:
Issue: Need for a Countywide Fire Safe Plan.
Discussion: Although the FSCNC, CDF, BLM, California State Parks, local fire districts, and the Resource Conservation District have all implemented fire safe projects in western Nevada County there is not a comprehensive plan to identify areas needed by priority or that identifies specific projects. This can and does result in non-contiguous efforts that may be of value to an individual property, but may not respond to community needs. Projects tend to be located in scattered individual parcels, and not all property owners participate in fuel break projects.
A Countywide Fire Safe Plan could build on the current CDF’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer (NYP) Fire Management Plan 2000 which is an excellent start, but tends to be rather a broad approach. The plan should identify such things as public information programs, fire safe inspections, priority areas in need of treatment, safety zones, evacuation routes, evaluating where Nevada County Ordinances 1566/1734/1933, PRC 4290, and the Uniform Fire Code need implementation, recognizing and supporting community/neighborhood efforts, coordination between all agencies (local, county, state, and federal), etc. Plan emphasis would be on the wildland/urban interface.
The FSCNC could be the entity charged to make this plan a reality in that it includes members of the public as well as all levels of governmental agencies with responsibilities for fire protection. The FSCNC could decide on what the plan should contain and how to get it done. It is strongly recommended that the plan be developed with the assistance of a qualified fire safe planner.
Recommendation: Nevada County should have a County-wide Fire Safe Plan. The County (BOS) should charge the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County (FSCNC) or other organization to present a proposal for a Countywide Fire Safe Plan for the BOS’s review. The FSCNC or other organization would then pursue a grant to fund the plan development. If funds were not available, it is recommended that the County considered funding this project.
F2.3 Fire Safe Plans For Proposed Development:
Issue: Potential value of a fire safe plan submission being required for any discretionary projects.
Discussion: Currently the Nevada County Fire Planner (a staff employee that is 1/2 supported by CDF and 1/2 by the county), with assistance from the local fire district personnel works with developers of any discretionary projects (subdivisions and lot splits) to ensure the applicable County Ordinances and Codes, PRC 4290 and 4291, and Uniform Fire Code sections regarding fire safe requirements are addressed and included.
This is a time consuming process and requires multiple visits to the project site visits by the County Fire Planner during both the planning and implementation phases. Another possible approach that would reduce the workload and may result in additional input on specifics as vegetation management, safety zones, etc. would be to require that the developer/permit applicant submit a fire safe plan that meets requirements of the various fire ordinances, laws, and codes which would be checked and approved by the County Fire Planner and appropriate local fire agency representative.
This process is in effect in El Dorado County and the contract fire safe planners, who know the regulations, work with approving officials on a regular basis and submit acceptable plans. Where mitigating circumstances may justify a modification/off-set the fire safe planner works with the approving officials. This process is currently required for grading and other activities associated with discretionary development. The Forestry Working Group believes this proposal has merit for exploration.
Recommendation: The County (BOS) assign the appropriate County Planning personnel, including the County Fire Planner, to explore the practicality and desirability of requiring the developer/permit applicant of a discretionary project to submit a fire safe plan for the project.
F2.4 State Conservation Camps:
Issue: County (BOS) support for siting and development of State Conservation Camps in Nevada County.
Discussion: The California Department of Corrections (CDC) and Youth Authority (CYA) with the CDF operates a number of inmate work camps (Conservation Camps) throughout the State. CYA has such a camp in Nevada County under a U.S. Forest Service Special Use Permit at Washington Ridge east of Nevada City, just off of State Highway 20. In the 1960’s the CDF and CDC also operated seasonal camps on the Tahoe NF at Hobart Mills in Nevada County and Greek Store (above Foresthill) in Placer County.
The crews at these camps do a variety of jobs in their area of influence, including construction of fuel breaks. They are also highly trained as fire crews and are used extensively in the area and throughout the state. The demand for the services of the local CYA crews greatly exceed the time available.
These agencies periodically seek new camp locations. The cost of maintaining inmates in work camps is significantly less than in maximum security prisons and the work accomplished is a benefit to all Californians. In the recent (and not so recent) past there have been several proposals to locate additional camps in Nevada County. For whatever reason (maybe the NIMBY syndrome or finances) the efforts have not resulted in any new camps in the county. At one time there was a proposal for two camps – one on the Eastside and one on the West. The Forestry Working Group believes that properly located camps could be an asset to the county and the state. They would add to fire crews available, provide needed work, save the state taxpayers money, and provide local employment.
Recommendation: The County (BOS) work with the CDF and local citizens to site at least one and possibly two CDC/CYA camps in Nevada County. If two, the preference would be one in western Nevada County and one on the Eastside.
F2.5 Air Quality Exemptions For Prescribed Fire
Issue: County (BOS) support for Air Quality exemptions for prescribed fire.
Discussion: Air quality is certainly compromised by prescribed fire. However, it is recognized that the very worst air quality, in terms of amount of particulate matter, the affected spatial area and duration of unhealthy air, is created during a wild fire. The trade off for the smaller area affected and the short term of reduced air quality generated from prescribed fire in return for reducing the risk of degraded air quality from wild fires is desirable.
The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) understands this issue, but pressure from a poorly informed public has reduced the acreage of prescribed burns instead of increasing them. Lobbying by the BOS would assist to both educate the public and help the NSAQMD in its mission. Also, California and especially the Sierra Nevada, has a fire adapted ecosystem. The flora and to some extent, the fauna have developed strategies to exist with frequent, low intensity wild fires. Shrubs regenerate quickly and seeds germinate in their new sunny location. Some species require fire to reproduce. Frequent fires reduce the fuel loading and reduce possibility of catastrophic wild fire. It is essential that fire be re-introduced into the ecosystem in order to maintain a healthy functioning biotic systems.
Recommendation: The BOS, on their own or, with the Regional Council of Rural Counties (RCRC), lobby the NSAQMD and other relevant agencies or boards for air quality exemptions for prescribed burns which are fuel reducing in nature.
F2.6 Reduce Air Pollution Intrusion
Issue: Influx of air pollution from the Sacramento Valley.
Discussion: Prevailing winds from the west and pollution from the Sacramento Valley can degrade Nevada County air quality to sub-standard levels without any input from local sources.
Reduced valley pollution would provide a healthier environment for Nevada County residents and allow more effective use of prescribed burning locally. An article in the Sacramento Bee rated Nevada County the worst in the state for air pollution. This does not mean that the County should not be dealing with the air pollution from local emission sources.
Recommendation: The BOS (on their own or with the RCRC) enter into discussions with valley counties to reduce air pollution that degrades our county health standards. A possible outcome could be payment from valley counties to Nevada County for local pollution reduction programs and/or the development of a valley financed regional public transportation system.
F2.7 Wildland Fire Safety For New Non-Discretionary Construction
Issue: Homeowners are often unaware of fire danger on their land when building a new home.
Discussion: New homes do not require review by the County Fire Planner and/or fire district to ensure compliance with fire safe requirements as are required for discretionary projects (see issue #3).
However, policies and objectives in Chapter 10: Safety of the Nevada County General Plan include:
Policy 10.1: Encourage the development of one uniform county-wide fire protection ordinance that maintains high fire protection standards for all public and private development, including adequate access and water flow standards. Also encourage local districts to adopt/accept said uniform ordinance with minimal adjustments to reflect local circumstances.
Objective 10.4: Provide for adequate evacuation routes in areas of high fire hazard, high potential dam failure, earthquake seiches, avalanche, flooding, or other natural disaster.
Policy 10.11: The following shall be included in Comprehensive Site Development Standards to be adopted by the County as the basis for site plan review.
b. Standards to ensure adequate site and building access for fire and emergency medical access.
Policy 10.5: The following shall be included in Comprehensive Site Development Standards to be adopted by the County as the basis for site plan review:
a. Standards for roads and private driveways which will enhance the ability of emergency service providers to respond to structural and wildland fires, and calls for medical and law enforcement emergency assistance. The standards shall provide for secondary road access to new projects where necessary for fire safety and emergency access.
b. Water supply standards, which will provide necessary on-site water supply for fire protection.
c. Sign and address standards, which will provide for easy identification of roads, streets, driveways, and buildings by emergency service providers.
d. Standards to reduce hazards associated with the structural and wildland intermix including:
1. Fuel modification and vegetation management procedures adjacent to structures;
2. Vegetation management adjacent to roads and driveways to provide safe travel of residents and fire fighting personnel; and
3. Building setbacks.
Recommendation: The Board of Supervisors require the County Fire Planner and/or request the local fire departments and CDF to offer onsite consulting to those obtaining non-discretionary building permits (residential new homes) on how to prepare their site to make the parcel fire safe.
F2.8 Lack Of Funding To Conduct PRC 4291 Inspections.
Issue: Insufficient funds exist to complete home safe inspections in a timely manner.
Discussion: Proposition 172 provided a mechanism to pass a 1/4% sales tax to support home fire safe activities. The funds can be split among various efforts. The BOS has set aside funds from this tax to provide for two employees four months each year to perform home safe fire inspections. The employees are given one week of training on performing inspections CDF provides uniforms and a vehicle, and the County pays for gas. If the Prop 172 funds were supplemented by adding two additional staff, it could mean all homes could be inspected in 4 years or 25% per year.
Volunteers from neighborhood associations could be trained to perform these inspections. Staff is still needed to ensure a minimum number of inspections are done in case volunteers are not available. CDF would be asked to train these additional volunteers.
The inspections usually are done from May 1 through September 1. This results in 2500 inspections each year, which means every home in western Nevada County can be covered in 10 years. High fire hazard areas are granted priority and may be inspected more than once within the 10-year period. 50-75% are given a Notice of Violation in the first inspection. After two weeks, the properties are re-inspected and only 10% do not pass this inspection. About 4-5 a year are passed on to Battalion Chiefs for actual law enforcement.
Document LE-38 is used to guide the inspection. For PRC 4291, thirty feet around the house on small lots are required to be fire safe, while up to 100 feet may be required for extra hazardous conditions.
PRC 4291, which requires fire safe clearance, is a state law. The County adopted Ordinance 1734 which took the State standards and made changes for the County. To specify further enforcement provisions, Ordinance 1734 needs to be modified.
Nevada County General Plan, Chapter 10: Safety, Policy 10.3:
Cooperate with the CDF, USFS, and local fire districts in fire prevention programs.
Recommendation: That the County (BOS):
a) Encourage the CDF and local fire districts to more consistently enforce PRC 4291 (defensible space) and tie it to monetary penalties and the Fire Safe Council outreach program.
b) Continue to fund home safe inspections and their enforcement,
c) Support the Fire Safe Council, CDF, USFS, and local fire districts in recruiting additional volunteers from neighborhood groups, and
d) Obtain grants where possible to fund these additional positions.
F2.9 Funding To Assist Landowners Reduce Fuel Loading.
Issue: Many homeowners need assistance in removing materials generated from defensible space clearing.
Discussion: Slash, brush, and non-merchantable trees create surface and ladder fuels, which contribute greatly to catastrophic wildfires. The cost to remove these materials is high, providing a major obstacle to a landowner. If markets could be created for these materials, it would offset the cost of removing them, which would make fuel reduction projects more feasible.
A county-wide composting program, that included curbside pickup of yard waste (similar to that of Sonoma County), could pay for itself by creating and selling mulch and compost products. Such a program would make fuel removal in more urban neighborhoods much more practical.
Additional benefits of removing these materials from the landscape include:
1) Reduced fire suppression costs, injuries, loss of life and loss of personal property due to reduction in severity and frequency of wildfires;
2) Improved air quality by reducing the number of prescribed burns and the severity of wildfires;
3) Improved forest health and wildlife habitat;
4) Reduced dumping at the landfill; and
5) Additional revenue and control provided by generating electric power locally using biomass-fed co-generation.
Recommendation: The BOS investigate development of “local” markets (e.g., biomass, compost, mulch and biomass-fed co-generation) that would utilize slash, brush and non-merchantable trees removed from private lands. They should also support and assist organizations pursuing this cause, such as the Sierra Economic Development District and the FSCNC. In addition, the Board should investigate the feasibility of establishing a countywide composting program that includes curbside pickup of yard waste.
F2.10 Need For Consistent Funding of Fire Safe Programs.
Issue: Programs that facilitate reduction of fuel loads on lands within Nevada County need an ongoing source of funds.
Discussion: FEMA has provided seed money ($1,148,000) for a pilot chipping and shaded fuel break program begun in January, 1999 and to be completed by December, 2002. Project areas include Cascade Shores, 49er fire district and Montezuma Ridge. This program has now received a 3-year extension. Next August, there will be an application for another extension of the existing FEMA grant, but there is no guarantee of these funds.
The long-term goal would be for the state to take over and expand this program. This program would result from a successful FEMA pilot project. The funds should come from the general fund of the state. This would make it an ongoing obligation of the State supporting its Public Resources Code and possibly giving the State an incentive to enforce compliance.
Each CDF Unit can apply for a grant for authorized funds. Nevada County is a part of the Nevada-Yuba-Placer (NYP) Unit which is includes Nevada, Placer, Yuba, and Sierra counties. The NYP Unit can apply for one grant in each county of the Unit.
Other county fuel reduction programs:
a) Prop 204 funds of $144,000 are currently available for use by homeowners on both sides of the South Yuba canyon (Round Mountain and North San Juan) for clearing and chipping internal areas of their land to keep fire contained in the South Yuba canyon. These are one-time funds and must be spent before December 2002.
b) Currently the Fire Safe Council is receiving $50,000 per year available for chipping under Public Safety Issues, $25,000 from Department of Transportation and $25,000 from Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District. The area covered is outside the 49er area covered by FEMA.
c) The Fire Safe Council has also received a grant from the U.S. Forest Service under the National Fire Plan of $135,000 to provide a county-wide Defensible Space Chipping/Shredding Program.
Recommendation: The County work with local Fire officials and contact appropriate California officials to support a permanent state program which would provide funds for services to landowners for reducing fuel loads, and establish modified shaded fuel breaks along county roads.
The County’s interest in public lands stems from its citizen’s concerns for quality of life, and the economic benefits from tourism and natural resource management. Problems existing for these lands include:
The checkerboard ownership pattern in the Tahoe National Forest creates special fragmentation issues, including: reduced wildlife corridors, management and recreation access, and coordinated fire prevention.
Each of the public landowners within the County has different management policies and constraints.
These federal, state, and local land management agencies are often under funding constraints.
The following are recommendations for county involvement in public lands:
F3.1 U.S. Forest Service Lands and BLM Lands
Issue: Currently, various agencies and groups are involved in watershed planning with little county involvement.
Discussion: The County provide these groups with its NH2020 Biotic Inventory results including priorities for conservation easements, land acquisitions, and exchanges. This would facilitate open space and wild land planning to identify, locate, promote, and preserve sensitive plant and animal habitat and wildlife corridors that cross jurisdictional boundaries in order to create larger more cohesive open spaces.
Recommendation: That the County be actively involved in planning groups (such as Coordinated Resource Management Planning – CRMP’s and Councils) that are working on watershed planning with public involvement.
F3.2 U.S. Forest Service Lands and BLM Lands
Issue: Checkerboard ownership in the County inhibits protection of sensitive lands and corridors.
Discussion: The County could apply for state grants and work with non-profits to obtain funds for land and conservation easement purchase. Funds could also be made available that have been obtained under Title III of the County Payments Bill (Uses include easement purchases).
Recommendation: That the County, State, and Federal public land managers work together towards common objectives of protecting sensitive lands and prioritize the acquisition of private lands and/or conservation easements.
F3.3 BLM surplus lands – A
Issue: From time to time, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offers lands for sale that do not meet their management objectives. Neighborhood groups may have interest in these lands.
Discussion: Neighborhood groups willing to help manage BLM lands have goals that include promoting habitat restoration, fire hazard reduction, and sustainable forest practices. The County can coordinate its own planning in the area including road maintenance, defensible space, etc. with these groups.
Recommendation: That the County notify affected neighborhood associations of sale of surplus lands for their review in a timely manner. The County facilitate formation of local planning groups to help BLM manage these lands if retained by BLM as open space. County also will work with and encourage coordination with groups that are interested in cooperative forest management agreements on BLM lands.
F3.4 BLM surplus lands – B
Issue: From time to time, BLM offers BLM lands for sale that do not meet their management objectives. The County may have interest in these lands.
Discussion: The County would review these lands in relation to its Parks and Recreation programs and its Open Space objectives.
Recommendation: The County become involved when BLM notifies the County that surplus lands are available. The County could apply for state grants and work with non-profits to obtain funds for purchasing qualifying BLM lands. Criteria for decisions should include: relationship to other sensitive or priority lands (corridors, trails, biota), community interest for public use, difficulty of management (limited size, accessibility, not an optimal configuration, road interference), encumbrances such as mining claims and trespasses, cost, and funding.
F3.5 California Department of Fish and Game lands
Issue: Spenceville Wildlife and Recreation Refuge has an old mine that creates toxic runoff into Little Dry creek and Dry creek. Old military ordinance is also possibly present on lands located within the County.
Discussion: An old copper mine is being rehabilitated to prevent toxic runoff into Dry Creek. The Army Corp of Engineers has initiated a process to determine ordinance risk in the area. More research by the Army Corps of Engineers is needed.
Recommendation: That the County support California Department of Fish and Game management of Spenceville Wildlife and Recreation Refuge (partially in Nevada County) including mine cleanup and ordinance disposal.
F3.6 County lands
Issue: The County owns some lands that currently do not have a management plan protecting public resources on these lands.
Discussion: Plans should include stewardship for habitat restoration, fire hazard reduction, and sustainable forest practices.
Recommendation: That the County develop management plans for public review of currently owned County lands and future county open space.
F3.7 PG & E lands
Issue: P G & E owns lands in the County that are important to water quality and may offer these lands for sale.
Discussion: The County has an interest in providing protection for these lands if these lands are disposed of by P G & E.
Recommendation: The County work toward obtaining conservation easements on P G & E lands near reservoirs to ensure water quality. Also, that the County work with non-profit foundations to apply for grants to provide funds for obtaining these lands to meet its open space objectives.
F3.8 Nevada Irrigation District lands
Issue: NID owns lands in the County that are important to water quality. They may offer these lands for sale at some time in the future.
Discussion: The County has an interest in providing protection for these lands if these lands are disposed of by NID.
Recommendation: That the County work toward obtaining conservation easements on NID lands near reservoirs to ensure water quality. Also, that the County work with non-profit foundations to apply for grants to fund obtaining these lands to meet its open space objectives.
F3.9 Land trusts
Issue: Policy 6.10 states “The County shall support the activities of the Nevada County Land Trust and Truckee-Donner Land trust to acquire and manage open space lands”. There is no implementation for this policy.
Discussion: Grants may be available to implement this policy.
Recommendation: That the County work with non-profits to apply for grants to implement policy 6.10 of the General Plan to assist land trusts in obtaining open space.
Mining and Resource Extraction Subcommittee Recommendations
Forestry Working Group
November 12, 2001
Committee members Orson Hanson, Betty Simpson, and Bruce Boyd met on Tuesday, August 28, 2001 to discuss the impacts, opportunities, and connections between mining lands and open space within the County. Betty Simpson and Bruce Boyd met once more on Tuesday October 30, 2001 to refine and reformat subcommittee recommendations. The following issues, discussion and recommendations are presented:
F4.1 Implement existing policies
Issue: Nevada County needs to rigorously implement existing General Plan Policies and Zoning ordinance regulations with regard to ongoing and future mineral extraction projects.
Discussion: Planning department funds are insufficient to review and monitor mining reclamation plans filed with the county, monitor mitigation measures and enforce provisions of permits. Monitoring and enforcement should not be based solely on surrounding property owners complaints. It is not appropriate to rely on operators written reports, on site review is essential.
Recommendation: Allocate necessary funds toward mine planning, review, and supervision.
F4.2 Map ME zoned parcels
Issue: The county and citizens have no convenient way of knowing whether mining has occurred, is occurring, or is planned in their neighborhoods.
Discussion: A common problem for new property owners moving to the County is to discover after purchase that a nearby parcel is zoned for highly industrial use as a mine. In addition much of our densely populated areas are on top of historic hard rock mines.
Recommendation: Map ME (Mineral Extraction) zoned parcels, historic mine sites, placer deposits and underground mine shafts and drifts. These maps should be combined with parcel zoning maps. Maps should be updated regularly and made available to public.
Issue: Mining operations can take place in most zoning classifications, regardless of surrounding uses.
Discussion: Mining represents a noisy and dusty industrial use of land. Most regulation is done on the State level. Counties have power to control adjoining uses to protect the public from potential conflicts between uses.
Recommendations: A. Provide ME (Mineral Extraction) buffering between surrounding uses by requiring project proponents to purchase adjoining lands for use as open space buffer zones. B. Provide financial incentives (similar to TPZ) for mining operations to acquire additional land for buffer zones.
F4.4 Land Use conflicts
Issue: Land Use conflicts surrounding mining projects.
Discussion: Mining is an essential activity but it can only be successful if controversy is kept to a minimum. Significant mineral areas should be protected from encroachment of development until the resource extraction is completed. The county must recognise that if development occurs first, mineral extraction maybe sacrificed.
Recommendation: County should discourage further parcelization and lot splits near existing and potential mines.
F4.5 Future uses
Issue: Reclamation Plans for closed mines do not deal with the problem of future uses for the reclaimed land.
Discussion: Other jurisdictions have successfully accomplished this. Tax incentives could be used to encourage operators to provide public open uses (parks, recreation areas, lakes etc.)
Recommendation: Where appropriate, encourage mine and quarry reclamation plans that will lead to permanent open space uses after reclamation is complete. Co-ordinate with other County open space goals.
F4.6 Educational and research areas
Issue: Historic diggings and mines represent a little recognised resource.
Discussion: Historic diggings, mines, and placer deposits are an important part of the Counties history. While the Gold rush is romanticised for tourist consumption, the abandoned mines and diggings are also living examples of natural recovery from human caused destruction.
Recommendation: Maintain historic diggings as educational and research areas.
Issue: There have been serious water use conflicts related to surface and subsurface mining.
Discussion: Current policy allows subsurface mining in all areas without consideration of surface uses. It is not enough protection to require financial security. The potential destructive effects on surface water and water wells is immeasurable. Loss of property values (loss of well water) caused by subsurface uses should not be borne by surface owners. There must be recognition that subsurface rights are not superior to surface rights. In addition changes in surface water drainage, lakes and waterways can have catastrophic consequences including increased erosion, decreased recharge, dry lakes. This can have profound effects on wildlife habitat.
Recommendation: Subsurface mining [mining or exploration] should not be permitted where public water is not readily available. The county GIS Database should be used to analyze the effects of proposed projects on erosion, discharge, recharge, and habitat.
PRIVATE FORESTLANDS RECOMMENDATIONS
F5.1 GIS Database for Forestry
Issue: The Planning Department does not have a concise method of quickly determining whether a given site has sufficient timberland productivity potential to play a role in consideration of discretionary actions, such as re-zoning requests and applications where the possibility of clustered development exists.
Discussion: Existing objective 15.1 in Forestry chapter states “Identify and protect significant timber lands from conversion to unrelated residential and other non-timber-related uses.” Presently, the Planning Department must refer to Soil Surveys by the Soil Conservation Service or USFS, which show the site potential by region (not parcel specific) using their own classification systems which are not easily reconciled, either with each other or with the more commonly accepted California Forest Practice Rules Site Classification System, which is contemplated by the Forest Practice Act and the Forest Tax Reform Act of 1976 (TPZ). With guidance by a person knowledgeable in these systems and forestry, the County GIS consultant could define regions of common Site Classification, which would then automatically assign an initial, reasonably accurate value of timber productivity potential to each parcel.
Recommendation: Add a new policy 15.4 to the General Plan that states “Create new, or improve existing data bases and GIS layers as necessary to accurately reflect the timber producing potential of all areas in accordance with the California Forest Practice Rules Timber Site Classification system.”
F5.2 Encourage TPZ and Discourage General Plan Amendments
Issue: Over 75% of the existing, non-urban parcels in an area constituting well over 50% of the productivity potential of private lands on the west slope of Nevada County are less than 10 acres, which is the minimum parcel size allowed to be aggregated with other such parcels to create a 40 acre minimum “TPZ District” in the current Zoning Ordinance. There are very few TPZ parcels or districts in this area, partly because of this large minimum parcel size requirement. In other words, the owners of the majority of the prime timberland in the western county are not receiving ample incentives in the form of lowered taxation as encouragement and partial compensation to manage their land for reduced fire danger and periodic timber harvest. Also, parcels smaller than 10 acres become progressively more difficult to manage and harvest for timber due to the high fixed cost of a Timber Harvest Plan.
Discussion: The original intent of the Forest Tax Reform Act of 1976 was to identify all parcels of reasonable timber productivity, regardless of size, and put these lands into TPZ unless the owner could show that it was in the public’s best interest to reserve the land for some higher use. It is possible but difficult under the current Zoning Ordinance to designate a parcel of 10 acres or more as TPZ. Practically speaking, the present minimum is 40 acres.
Recommendation 1: Consider allowing rural parcels of at least 5 acres, and in CDF Site Class 1,2, or 3, to aggregate with other similar size parcels to create a 20 acre minimum “TPZ District”, to be administered by the remaining provisions in the Zoning Ordinance related to TPZ’s as modified by other recommendations provided by this Forestry Working Group.
Recommendation 2: Discourage General Plan amendments or zoning changes that increase density, and discourage conversion to non-timber production uses in areas valued as CDF Site Class 1 through 3 without consideration of the separate and cumulative impacts on the County’s timber productivity potential which will occur as a result of either conversion of use, or the uneconomic burden imposed by the high cost of a Timber Harvest Plan on small parcels.
F5.3 . Improve Definition of Important Timber Resources
Issue: The present definition of Important Timber Resources in the Zoning Ordinance includes only about 50% of the true timber productivity potential of private timberlands in western Nevada County.
Discussion: Timberland productivity potential is currently not considered in rezoning requests for reduced parcel sizes unless it involves Important Timber Resources, which the Zoning Ordinance defines as “parcels that are 40 acres or larger, and mapped within the Forest designation, that have ideal soil characteristics for timber production, identified as those soils having a high site class or index by the Soil Surveys of Nevada County, prepared by the Soil Conservation Service and the Tahoe National Forest.”
This definition poses two problems: First, the General Plan recognizes that land use designations other than Forest and Open Space may contain areas of high forest products potential, yet this wording in the Zoning Ordinance does not. Over 50% of the CDF Site Class 1 areas within the forestry urban-wildland interface area of about 75,000 acres are in parcels of less than 40 acres, with a median parcel size of just over three acres; a much smaller proportion of the total timberland potential within this area is represented by Forest districts than suggested by this wording. Also, it needs recognition that this interface area mentioned constitutes about 75% of the Site Class 1 areas on the entire western slope of the County. Third, the criteria for determining whether or not the site is “important” is unclear and easily subjected to challenge because neither of the Soil Surveys mentioned gives the reader a site index or CDF site class. SCS provides a “Woodland Suitability Group” of 1 through 7. Tahoe National Forest provides a USFS Forest Survey Site Class of 1 through 7. The only apparent commonality between these two systems are numbers 1 through 7; for example, there is no indication that, SCS Group 3 equals a USFS Class 3. Both systems can be reconciled back to the common denominator of site index, which then can be brought into the CDF Site Class system of 1 through 5, which is the basis of reference to the Forest Practice Act and the Forest Tax Reform Act (TPZ).
Recommendation: Re-define “Important Timber Resources” in the Zoning Ordinance to “parcels that are 5 acres or greater, and mapped within the Residential Agricultural (RA), Exclusive Agricultural (AE), General Agricultural (AG), Forest (FR), Timber Protection Zone (TPZ), Planned Development (PD), or Open Space (OS) districts, that have suitable soil characteristics for potential timber production, identified as those areas of California Forest Practice Rules Timber Site Classes 1, 2, or 3.”
Staff Note: Recommendation 5.3 was intended by the Forestry Working Group to recognize the value of timber producing soil. This may allow property owners with valuable timber producing soil the opportunity to receive potential funding benefits that may result from conservation programs, such as NH 2020, regardless of their zoning designation. Staff is indicating that the Working Group intended to remain consistent with Section L-II 4.3.14 of the Zoning Ordinance by continuing existing requirements for preparation of a Management Plan for those project proposed on parcels 40 acres in size within the Forest designation. Staff believes that the Working Group did not intend to expand requirements for Management Plans to smaller sized parcels or to other zoning designations. Staff asks that the CAC to help clarify this intent.
F5.4 Waive TPZ fee
Issue: The County currently charges a fee for lands applying to go into TPZ, which serves as a disincentive for owners of small parcels, many of which have very high timber production potential.
Recommendation: The County waive the TPZ application fee.
F5.5 Reduce Cost of THP
Issue: Cost of Timber Harvest Plan (THP) preparation represent a large percentage of timber harvesting costs for a small landowner. There should be a method to reduce these costs while complying with Forest Practice Rules, and still protecting county resources.
Discussion: There is a belief that a need exists for a mid-level THP, but it is too complex an issue to be resolved by this committee. The CDF is discussing this problem, and if a solution is proposed, the Board may evaluate whether it meets the need of the County.
Recommendation: That a solution be supported by the Board of Supervisors to reduce costs of THP preparation for smaller landowners, if so proposed by the Board of Forestry and if it meets the goals of the County General Plan.
F5.6 Processing and Marketing
Issue: Currently, processing of forest products is only allowed on parcels with the Forest zoning designation, even though, as pointed out in Recommendation #F5.3, important timber lands includes many areas with Residential Agricultural (RA), Exclusive Agricultural (AE), General Agricultural (AG), Forest (FR), Timber Protection Zone (TPZ), Planned Development (PD), and Open Space (OS) zoning designations.
Recommendation: Consider allowing processing and/or marketing of forest products, with a Conditional User Permit, on parcels with Residential Agricultural (RA), Exclusive Agricultural (AE), General Agricultural (AG), Forest (FR), Timber protection Zone (TPZ), Planned Development (PD), and Open Space (OS) zoning designations, in addition to the existing allowance for parcels zoned Forest (FR).
Issue: Many new residents of the forestry urban-wildlands interface area oppose timber harvesting in their neighborhood, even when the harvest plan is permitted and conducted in accordance with applicable regulations. This misconception of “rights” can result in a financial hardship to a land owner or logging contractor involved in a legitimate land use.
Discussion: Speakers to our group spoke of the feasibility of treating parcels down to 5 acres in size as wood lots, but pointed out that conflicting land use issues, complaints about noise, dust, and traffic from neighbors, along with the high fixed cost associated with a THP act together to establish lower limits to the minimum feasible parcel size.
The Forestry Working Group was unable to provide a solution to the THP cost for small parcels, but we recommend reinforcing the legitimacy of harvest operations by including a policy in the General Plan that refers to the current Agricultural Right to Farm Ordinance.
Recommendation: The Board of Supervisors create a new General Plan policy 15.6 that states “Normal forestry practices shall be supported by maintaining the Right to Farm Ordinance to provide for notice to buyers and landowners of land in, and adjacent to, RA, AG, AE, PD and FR zoning districts, describing normal agricultural practices including timber harvesting, which may occur in such districts and informing them of the right to continue such practices in conformance with the applicable district regulations.”
F5.8 Specialty Markets
Issue: The market for timber products in this area is essentially limited to buyers of logs for rough lumber. Since the product of the buyer is not an end-use product, the potential revenue available to local harvesters of timber is limited, which makes it difficult to operate unless the harvester is dealing with large volumes.
Recommendation: Encourage, solicit and develop local end-use industries and specialty markets for locally harvested timber products.
F5.9 Debris and slash
Issue: Many timber harvesting operations near traveled ways and inhabited areas do not meet the intent of the Forest Practice Act in terms of aesthetics, namely, the leaving of unreasonable amounts of slash and high stumps, which create visual impacts and fire hazard.
Discussion: The FPA mentions hand piling or mechanical bunching of such slash as acceptable means of dealing with this situation. Mechanical bunching may involve significant damage to soil and remaining vegetation close to traveled ways and residences. These two treatments differ in terms of possible aesthetic impact, and in terms of residual fire hazard.
Slash and debris resulting from logging operations should be chipped, or hand piled and covered for later disposal or burning, within a minimum of 100 ft. of any traveled way or residence. Chipping or hand piling should be concurrent with logging operations or within one month thereafter. Burning should occur within a reasonable time period, and not more than 9 months.
Recommendation: The County representative on the THP review team shall monitor the proper disposal of debris and slash resulting from Timber Harvest Plans and Fuel Management Plans. The CDF forester shall be notified of violations of Forest Practice Rules regarding debris and slash removal.
F5.10 Forestry Advisor
Issue: The County recognizes the importance of forestlands to the welfare of the county, but has not been able to provide full protection of these forestlands, either through monitoring of forest-related activities, or through education of landowners and other concerning the importance of these lands.
Discussion: Funding of this recommendation could come from general county funds, as benefits are for the general public, and not related to specific timber plans or activities. The County Timber Yield tax revenues could be used for this purpose. The position is not analogous to the Agricultural Commissioner, which is based on a long-existing state law to carry out specific state functions, including pest control and licensing. The state pays $6,600 to the Ag Commissioners office, in-place state programs and unclaimed gasoline taxes help fund staff, and the rest (about $108,000) comes from the County general fund.
(a): The County representative (Forestry Advisor) would be in a position to be familiar with General Plan requirements and its inventory of sensitive lands. Alternative suggestions could be made for the THP while preserving landowner goals.
(b): The County is in a better position than CDF to ensure that conversion to other uses conforms to county zoning and regulations. AB671 appears to provide adequate penalties for non-conforming activities.
(c): A Forestry Advisor could cooperate with watershed councils, land trusts and other groups to provide educational efforts to increase public awareness of programs and tools that improve management of their lands. The County could cooperate with such entities to obtain grants for education efforts.
(d): Programs and related efforts could include federal/state/county programs (California Forest Stewardship program, etc), conservation easements, estate planning, grant applications, transfer development rights, and tax benefits. Presenters to the Working Group felt that there is a need to understand the importance of preserving forestlands for public benefits.
(e): County Planning staff are not always available to respond to questions and complaints concerning timber operations or alternatives available on land management. A Forestry Advisor could be a focal point for questions and complaints. He/she could maintain current with programs and grants, and maintain information on public programs.
Recommendation: The County provide funds for the position of Forestry Advisor, who shall be a registered professional forester in the State of California. These funds would come from the general fund. The duties would include:
a) County representative on the CDF Timber Harvest Plan (THP) Review team. As representative, he/she would review THP’s, participate on pre-harvest THP inspections on selected important forestlands or when requested by concerned citizens, and post comments/responses on a county web page.
b) County representative to CDF to approve 3-acre conversion notices per section 1104.1 of the California Forest Practice Rules. The representative will review such notices and assure that the conversion is in conformance with all county regulatory requirements, including county notice requirements. Upon completion of the conversion (within two years of notice acceptance), the applicant will inform the County representative who will visit the site to determine that the use specified in the notice (#1104.1.a.1.E) was implemented. The County representative will notify CDF if the use specified was not implemented or was not completed within two years.
c) Participant on the Forestry Advisory Committee. As a resource to the Committee, the Forestry Advisor would assist the committee on issues, work with entities involved with forestry issues including public land managers, and assist in arranging educational forums and workshops on forestry issues.
d) Maintain a link to the county web page containing information on programs and tools available to forest landowners for preserving and improving management of forest lands.
e) Liaison to the public on forestry issues, by providing advice concerning on forestry issues, such as TPZ lands, THP plans, programs and tools.
F5.11 Forestry Advisory Committee
Issue: The County has to make decisions involving forestlands and/or forestry practices in the county. Local forestry expertise is currently not utilized to advise in making these decisions.
Discussion: The community needs a forum where contentious or technical issues may be discussed in an open and public process. A Forestry Advisory Committee could utilize community expertise to gather facts, be science-based, and publicize information so that citizens and public officials may arrive at informed decisions. The Committee could, with input from the Forestry Advisor, advise on BLM surplus lands.
Recommendation: The County encourage the formation of a Forestry Advisory Committee, made up of volunteers from within the county possessing expertise on forestry and related issues. The Committee would provide a public forum for discussion of forestry issues brought to them by Committee members, citizens, forestland owners, and the Board of Supervisors. A liaison between the Agricultural Advisory Commission and the Forestry Advisory Committee could be appointed.
F5.12 Fuel Loads
Issue: CDF rates many parts of Nevada County as having a high fire danger. Landowners desiring to reduce fuel loads on their lands, currently must file a Timber Harvest Plan to reduce these loads. Current THP costs and restrictions encourage parcel owners to take more trees than they prefer to fund the fuel reduction. Slash is also left because of cost considerations.
Discussion: Parcel owners should be encouraged to make their parcels fire safe for their own benefit and the benefit of their neighbors. Giving more responsibility to the County enforces General Plan policies to encourage a fire safe county.
This exemption would apply to private parcels within the urban-wildlands interface. CDF would need to work with the county and public land managers to determine the boundaries of the urban-wildland interface.
Landowners would pay no plan fee to any agencies or government organizations. Logging costs could be offset by the commercial sale of timber. However, the harvesting of merchantable timber is not the goal of this exemption.
A Forestry Advisory Committee could review processes and guidelines and recommend agreed upon ideas to be included in the proposal to CDF.
Recommendation: The County propose to the Board of Forestry to add an additional exemption to the requirement for the preparation of Timber Harvest Plans for certain forest management activities. It would allow the reducing of fuel loads by the owner of a private parcel upon receiving approval of a fuel management plan by the County and CDF. A County could request other conditions for this proposed exemption from the Board of Forestry based upon local conditions.
F6.1 Minority Report # 1
by Don Jacobson, Don Rivenes, and Nancy Moss of the NH2020 Forestry Working Group
November 15, 2001
Issue: The Requirement for the Nevada County Forestry Advisor to be a Registered Professional Forester (RPF).
Discussion by Don Jacobson: The discussion of the requirements for the NC Forestry Advisor position at our November 13, 2001 meeting was new to the issue. I did not object at that time, thinking that a good working knowledge of the Forest Protection Act, forest management and forest ecology is essential. Upon reflection, I would not like to disqualify anyone who is not an RPF but does have the above qualifications.
Discussion by Don Rivenes and Nancy Moss: RPF Minority Report discussion:
We have no objection to an RPF as Forestry Advisor. However, we believe there may be qualified individuals that meet the requirements set forth in our Forestry Advisor task description that have either a degree in forestry or have worked extensively in the forest without having taken the test to become a licensed RPF. These might include public forest employees, educators, hydrologists, environmental planners with a forestry education, CDF employees, etc. Usually job descriptions describe the tasks and ask for certain educational backgrounds, skills or equivalent experience. The important thing is to find someone with communication skills with sufficient background in forestry to be able to understand the requirements of the Forest Practice Act, and understand the county planning requirements. Other counties use planners to review THP’s who are not RPF’s. The important point is that the Forestry Advisor is to represent the County and its citizens in the role as we have specified. We should give the Board of Supervisors and the person responsible for hiring, the flexibility needed to find the right person for the job.
Recommendation: The Nevada County Forestry Advisor should have a good working knowledge of the Forest Protection Act, forest management and forest ecology, but does not have to be a Registered Professional Forester.
F6.2 Minority Report # 2
by Don Jacobson, NH2020 Forestry Working Group
November 15, 2001
Revised December 6, 2001
Issue: The creation of a Forestry Advisory Committee/Commission (FAC).
Discussion: The NH2020 Forestry Working Group (FWG) has provided us with insight as to how a Forestry Advisory Committee would fare. My experience has shown me that, if the timber industry doesn’t control the process, they are going to fire insults and brickbats at the committee, as they did with the FWG. I don’t think a volunteer or appointed committee would change the outcome.
Another case in point is the recommendation by the Agricultural Commission to the Board of Supervisors that agriculture be exempted from the grading ordinance. Much to my dismay, the Board agreed to process and consider the recommendation! This was, in my opinion, a significant mistake. If implemented, would lead to a degradation of Nevada County’s treasured environment. I would hate to think of what recommendations could come from a Forestry Advisory Committee that did not reflect the full range of views in our community.
If a FAC were formed, it certainly should be separate from the Agricultural Committee. The bias of agriculture is to look at timber as a crop (short rotation even age management). This view is not appropriate for the Sierra Nevada and has lead to many of the problems that we see with regard to wildlife and water quality.
Recommendation: A Forestry Advisory Committee not be formed.
To download the complete document in Microsoft Word, including Aknowledgements, Introduction and References, click
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