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Fuels reduction plan targeted for Washington area

Concerned about wildfires racing into inhabited areas, the Tahoe National Forest is proposing a five-year, fuel-reduction program on approximately 3,000 acres in the area of the town of Washington.

The Washington Fuels Reduction Project will be the subject of a Tuesday meeting at the Tahoe National Forest Supervisors Office to discuss plans to log, hand-clear, burn and chip excess trees and underbrush in a rough triangle from Washington to Graniteville and North Bloomfield in northern Nevada County.

Downieville/Nevada City Ranger District leader Jeannie Masquelier said the project is in the formative stages and the forest service is actively seeking citizen input. “This is not a done deal,” she said.



The “landscape fire strategy” is designed to create fire-fuel breaks for the three hamlets and create safe zones for firefighters should they ever be called in to battle a major blaze in the South Yuba River watershed, said district fuels expert Melissa Squire.

The project is in lockstep with the recently finalized Sierra Nevada Framework, which calls for thinning the national forests on the mountain range to protect wildlife and clear choked stands of fuels that have fed catastrophic wildfires in recent years.




The proposal calls for burning underbrush on 1,573 acres; chipping about 356 acres of brush, small and dead trees; cutting, piling and burning 559 acres; and logging 620 acres. The treatments would increase space between larger trees by removing those 20 inches in diameter or less, according to the ranger district.

Some trees larger than 20 inches could be removed to create defense zones around the inhabited areas, the ranger district said.

The district hopes to start awarding one of many contracts for the project this fall, said Patrick Farrell, the vegetation management officer. The number of contracts put out in the five years would depend on how much money the forest is given, he said.

“We’re looking to treat surface and ladder fuels,” Masquelier said. “There would be a lot of cut, pile and burn around Washington. We’re looking at areas in the whole of the watershed and where there won’t be a lot of environmental impact.”

Tuesday’s meeting “will be an open house,” said Dennis Stevens, the district’s environmental coordinator. “They can come to view maps and ask questions.”

On hand to answer questions will be experts in wildlife, vegetation, fuels and watersheds, Stevens said.

___

KNOW AND GO

What: Washington Fuels Reduction Project meeting.

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Tahoe National Forest Supervisors Office, 631 Coyote St., Nevada City, off Highway 49.


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