This week I spent several days with representatives from the Maidu community, government agencies, non-profits, and academia in Genesee Valley, Plumas County. We camped in a beautiful stand of trees during the hottest day of the year and got drenched in a thunderstorm and talked and laughed and learned together. It was an honor to be invited to participate in this gathering.
I learned so much that it’s hard to capture in a short article.
Defining healthy forests can be thought of as starting with wildlife refugia - where intact old areas of growth still exist, and then expanding outwards to encourage recovery of forest ecosystems by managing succession of different tree species. But the small plants are also so important! I learned about huckleberries and other edible plants that used to be abundant in this area of the Northern Sierra and consumed by the Maidu.
The divisions and connections between urban and rural are not so simple, and we need to move beyond this kind of dividing line to focus on the role of the mountain watersheds in California’s future and success, regardless of where the water from our region eventually goes.
Managing a forested landscape can combine multiple objectives, like fire resilience, wildlife support, lumber production, or restoration to a different mix of tree species. Bob Beckwith is gradually returning his property in Genesee to an oak-silver pine woodland using a lot of labor to thin out the fast growing pines, carefully choosing weather conditions for prescribed burns, and providing refugia for wildlife by leaving dead standing oak trees in place. He’d like to see the Forest Service use more prescribed burns on the ridge above his property to remove excess biomass.
Communication is enormously important in both planning and monitoring the effects of projects that treat forest areas to make them more fire resilient. Forest collaboration groups do the very hard work of figuring out what works at the ground level, from project to project, with the hope that we can identify broad sources of funding to expand these smaller projects across all of California’s upper watersheds. Furthermore, the language we use to describe ecosystems and watersheds can shape our thinking about these places.
I also got a chance to hear lots of details about the Sierra Institute’s work on developing a pilot scale project using biomass to generate electricity and heat. I have a lot of thoughts about that to share in a future article.
We talked and talked and talked about future projects that balance fire resistance with timber production and ecosystem restoration. These kinds of meetings are critical to California’s future, and we need to talk a lot more about how to best model the way and scale up projects to cover our entire forest landscape.
In California’s District 1, we need a representative in Washington who gives their all for healthy watersheds and forests and for healthy communities that support these watersheds. I am ready to work hard for our watersheds and communities. Thank you for supporting my campaign for Congress.
For more information about Genesee Valley and forest planning, visit these websites: