On September 12, 2011, I went on my first SNAMP field trip visit the Last Chance, which is the northern site in the project, to see how the treatment has been going. I took a lot of pictures of the place, the treatment, as well as the participants who attended the events. Among the participants were UC Science Team, USFS rangers/managers, Sierra Pacific Industries-the logging industry, environmental groups, as well as, elected representative from the public. We started out by gathering at the Foresthill station. Kim and John gave the opening orientation using the handouts that PPT prepared beforehand. After the initial orientation, we drove to the treatment site, which was about one hour away from the USFS station.
At the first stop, I saw what forest mastication looked like, which was like grounding tree. I also learned that the trees that will be cut down were marked by blue marks. Some questions were raised about how the trees were selected. Things got more interesting at the second stop where we saw the fellerbuncher at work on one side of the road. It was an eye-opening experience for me as I watched these powerful machines thinning the forest and logging at the same time. On the other side of the road was a pile of logs that were to be burned up in order to reduce the fuel load in that region. At this stop, people asked what SPLAT was, which I was not sure about prior to this. One of the gentlemen (I believe that he’s with SPI) explained about the economics for using these big machines as well as for using/transporting these fell logs. His analysis on the economics of this operation helps me to understand that it would not be cost-effective to transfer the big pile of refused logs to be burned for energy production. That was why “the best way” (even though it’s still probably a poor way) to handle the fell logs were to burn them, after minimizing the damage to the surrounding and to the soil. I was impressed by how many factors that we need to take into consideration for such an operation.
And then we were taken to close-by site to see the difference between the original forest and the thinned out forest. It was quite a contrast between the before and after treatment. You can see through the woods after the treatment (see picture on the right). At this point, many of the participants asked questions about Lidar. When Maggi and John went over the time table about doing the Lidar by next year, one of the SPI representatives commented that he was able to understand why things had to move so fast. It seemed that SPI probably have never worked on the project where science/research played a factor in their timeline. That is really interesting to me in such a collaborative management project, where multiple processes are happening and different actors who do not necessarily cross path before are interacting with one another. Information flow and dialogue seem to be really important here, and this field trip is clearly fulfill that role.
At the last stop, we were shown a site where underburn would take place. People were able to walk around the area, and many conversations took place in clutters of individuals with the 5 USFS representatives present. And when we gathered back to the trucks that transported us to the site, there were questions about why we should still stick to the 1991 forest management guidelines. One of the older gentlemen questioned who set the guidelines and why we were still following it. The USFS reps explained that they couldn’t do much about it since that was the policy. On the less combative end, one of the elected public representative proclaimed that private homeowners should accept the reality of fire risk in the forest when they first decided to live in the Sierra forest.
Overall, the field trip was very enjoyable and informative. Kudos to the UC Science Team and USFS. There were a lot of open and diverse perspectives and dialogues. The questions and answers seemed to be helpful for everyone who was present.