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Posts Tagged: Blodgett Forest

SAF Announces York as a Recipient of 2016 Presidential Field Forester Award

Rob York
 

Congratulations to ESPM assistant adjunct professor Robert York, who has been awarded the Presidential Field Forester Award by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). York, who serves as the university's research stations manager at the Center for Forestry, works at the intersection of forest science and management. His scientific work explores novel approaches for designing silvicultural treatments in ways that are guided by the natural disturbance regime. As forest manager of a network of research stations in the Sierra Nevada in California, he has the opportunity to apply research to management. His management focus is on applying scientific results and exploring management approaches within an experimental context, striving to apply the principle of active adaptive management to forest management.

Read more about the award and the 2016 recipients on the SAF website. 

Posted on Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 9:08 AM

King fire provides learning opportunities

Reprinted from the UCANR Green Blog 

Rubicon River, El Dorado National Forest

Over a dozen UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) California Naturalists, fire ecology experts, wildlife biologists, resource managers, educators, and artists met at UC Berkeley's Blodgett Forest Research Station and the adjacent El Dorado National Forest April 23 and 24, and not one of them complained about the much-needed deluge of rain and intermittent hail that soaked the group. The weekend's ambitious goal? To dive deeply into a UC California Naturalist Program and California Fire Science Consortium advanced training workshop on the subject of wildfire effects on Sierran mixed conifer forests.

With the 2014 El Dorado National Forest's King Fire as a case study, a mix of lectures, field studies, art, field journaling techniques, and Native American story telling were used to examine land management practices that influence fire behavior and explore how the landscape recovers from fire. UC ANR Cooperative Extension Central Sierra's forestry advisor Susie Kocher and community education specialist Kim Ingram organized and facilitated the workshop. 

King Fire soil burn severity map

Blodgett Forest, situated on the Georgetown Divide in El Dorado County, was donated to the University of California in 1933 to provide a research site and practical demonstrations of forestry for students, forest industry, and the public. The adjacent El Dorado National Forest is home to the notorious September-October 2014 King Fire that burned 97,000 acres of forest, including 63,000 acres of public land. Aided by low relative humidity and wind, the fire spread quickly up the steep Rubicon River and surrounding subwatersheds. According to the incident report, approximately 46 percent of the burn area burned at a high and moderate soil burn severity, consuming all organic duff on the soil surface along with leaves and needles on standing live vegetation.

Workshop participants were treated a lecture and field studies of basic fire ecology concepts by Scott Stephens, professor of fire science at UC Berkeley. Stevens lectured in class, and later demonstrated on a number of wet, lush forested treatment plots in the field, topics ranging from fire policy, fuels management options and objectives, and carbon sequestration to fire suppression consequences, fire behavior and severity, soil stability, and post-fire forest structure.  Stephens is a researcher with the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP), a long-term collaborative research project investigating how forest fuels thinning impacts fire behavior, fire risk, wildlife, forest health, and water. Fire is a vital to maintaining healthy California forests and ecosystems and Stephens's work demonstrates that both prescribed fire and its mechanical thinning replacements can successfully change forest structure and fuel loads, resulting in potential overall improvement of forest health. He finds that treated forest stands are more resistant and resilient to high-intensity wildfire and that these treatments have minor to negligible negative impacts on birds and small mammals, understory plant diversity, exotic plant invasions, and insect attack. Current and future research is in part focused on the impact and feasibility of treatments across the landscape.

Also joining participants was Sheila Whitmore from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Whitmore is the assistant project leader on SNAMP's owl team, which studies how fuel reduction treatments affect California spotted owl survival, forest occupancy, and reproductive success. The California spotted owl is one of three sub-species of spotted owls and the only spotted owl that has not yet been placed on the endangered species list, although its population is widely thought to be declining. Late in the evening, accompanied by Whimore, three nocturnal field technicians, and armed with tools of the trade like bird call whistles and flashlights, participants quietly slogged deep into the forest along the 22-mile system of El Dorado Irrigation District canals, listening for the territorial four-note hoot of the California spotted owl. While the crew eventually found one female owl on the night hike, the owl team has just started surveying breeding territories this spring and are uncertain how and if the owls will be impacted by the King Fire. Modeling efforts and a radio telemetry study seek answers to questions about demography, habitat, individual range size, and foraging preferences, given different levels of severity in burned forests.

Day two of the workshop, under warm sunshine, began with a discussion of Native American fire ecology and traditional stories shared by Kimberly Shiningstar Petree. Petree is a Tumelay Nissenan Miwok, the cultural preservation officer for her tribe, and the founder of the Cosumnes Culture and Waterways, a non-profit dedicated to promoting, preserving, and stewarding Indigenous Culture and waterways of their land. As told by a descendant of the first stewards of the area's forests and a carrier of an ancient oral tradition, the fire stories that Petree shared with the group were both relevant to today's fire management practices, and moving, setting a positive tone for the rest of the day.

Patricia Trimble, El Dorado National Forest's Georgetown district ranger, and Laurie Wigham, illustrator, painter and art teacher, accompanied participants on field activities. Trimble took participants on a road-based tour of the King Fire, demonstrating the effects of low, moderate and severe fire on the landscape. She shared information on consequences of long-term fire suppression, fire impacts, Forest Service strategies for protecting cultural resources, forest replanting and erosion abatement efforts, National Environmental Policy Act regulations, and public perception of fire. More than seven months after the fire, the Forest Service has just opened the burn back up to the public, and the public was out in force mushroom hunting, fishing, and cutting firewood within the high severity areas of the King Fire.

Wigham thoughtfully braided art and field journaling techniques seamlessly into the stops along the way. She shared inexpensive and novel ways to document the landscape in a group or individual setting at difference scales. She offered low-tech tricks to help participants deepen their ability to absorb dense and technical information, observe nature closely and scientifically, and to connect with feelings about a place and time in nature.

Lectures, field study, art, field journaling techniques, knowledge sharing, and Native American story telling: supported by a solid framework of current science topics and research results, they all had their place in this advanced training workshop. Each individual piece of the fire ecology workshop was enriching and informative, and forced participants to move deeper and more thoughtfully into their understanding of the dense topic than they might on their own. The regeneration of the El Dorado National Forest after the King Fire will undoubtedly provide inspiration, research, and education opportunities far into the future.

The UC California Naturalist Program uses a science curriculum, hands-on learning and service to inspire stewardship of the state's natural resources. The public and UC-certified Naturalists alike may sign up for future California Naturalist Advanced Trainings here.

Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 10:25 AM
  • Author: Brook Gamble

UC Berkeley Closes Access to Popular University Falls

Reposted from the Sacramento Bee

For decades, people have flocked to a series of four waterfalls about 12 miles outside Georgetown in El Dorado County to slide down smooth granite rocks, lounge in the crystal-clear, cool water and spend time enjoying the forest.

The nearly 6-mile round-trip hike – some of it through fairly steep terrain – did little to dissuade an estimated 600 people each weekend in summer months from visiting University Falls, as the area is popularly known.

But that all ended on Aug. 14, when the owner of the land, UC Berkeley, shut down access to the site, blocked part of the trail with tree limbs and erected no-trespassing signs along the trail to the area, which is formally named Pilot Creek Falls.

The shutdown was ordered by Rob York, the research stations manager for the university's 4,000-acre Blodgett Forest research project, which studies forest and wildfire issues and includes the falls as part of its property.

“Over time, more and more people were not obeying the rules, and it was clear they were doing that so we really had no other option except to close it down,” York said last week as he walked through the area picking up discarded beer cans, plastic water bottles and a large, smashed bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey. “It's been a cumulative impact. ... Really, in the end, I was spending a third of my budget trying to mitigate the impacts.”

In addition to the trash problems, York said, visitors have ignored rules banning alcohol, dogs and firearms. The influx of visitors also created headaches for nearby residents and travelers dealing with people parking along two-lane Wentworth Springs Road. There were also problems with fire hazards and illegal overnight campers, he said.

The site's popularity also affects the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office, which found itself frequently responding to calls for help from injured citizens or to break up fights.

“It takes officers quite a while to get there. It usually takes an hour,” sheriff's Sgt. Chris Felton said. “You can't get a vehicle all the way down there. It's actually an old Jeep trail.”

The difficulty in accessing the site is obvious walking in. There are at least two abandoned vehicles that have been slowly deteriorating for years on the hillsides below the trail. For sheriff's deputies or the local volunteer fire department, the steep terrain lengthens response time when people need help, Felton said. About six weeks ago a young woman died after hitting her head going over the fourth waterfall, which is extremely steep and dangerous, he said.

“That's the one that kills people,” York said, as he stood above the final waterfall last week.

The decision to close off the falls has been a long time in the making, York said, and came after consultations with UC Berkeley's legal staff and officials at Sierra Pacific Industries, which owns property in the area that includes a portion of the old fire road that leads to the falls.

But the move has not been without controversy. On social media sites like Yelp.com, some users have raised questions about the university's legal right to keep people off the land. Some have openly defied the no-trespassing edict.

“Upon arriving, I noticed the sign saying that the falls were closed,” one Yelp commenter from Lafayette wrote Aug. 17, three days after the falls were closed. “A nasty old man drove by and told us ‘not to risk it' and that people were getting fined $750 for trespassing. ...

“I didn't drive to the middle of nowhere for 2 hours just to turn around. The falls are not private property, however the surrounding land might be.”

In fact, the ownership of the surrounding land complicates the closure somewhat. Accessing the site requires walking around a locked steel gate and onto an unpaved U.S. Forest Service road. After about a mile, the road crosses into private property owned by Sierra Pacific, and eventually the route winds into a steep hiking trail on UC Berkeley land that leads down to the waterfalls.

York said he has contacted sites like Yelp and Alltrails.com to get them to note that the falls are closed, and he has sent messages to people offering reviews of the falls telling them that they no longer can be accessed legally.

York said he also has talked with Sierra Pacific and the forest service about the decision to close off access and to post signs reading “No Entry Ahead” and “Falls Closed.”

Some of the no-trespassing signs are attached high up on pine trees out of reach, but many of his signs have been torn down by people who have chosen to ignore the closure and hike in to the falls.

Felton, the sheriff's sergeant, said the department has issued some warnings to people but has yet to issue any trespassing citations.

York has posted signs at the trail head listing six alternative sites for hikers to visit, complete with driving directions and estimated drive times, in the hope that visitors will decide to go elsewhere. A listing of those sites can be found at www.sacbee.com/links/.

In the long term, York said he is hopeful that a way can be found to reopen the area to the public, but with rules in place that don't harm the university's forest research programs.

“We'd like to be able to open it up in the future for safe and managed recreation, but we don't have the capacity to do that at this point,” he said. “It's UC regents (property) with the primary objective of research, and it has a long history of being used for that.”


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/26/6653839/uc-berkeley-closes-access-to-popular.html#storylink=cpy
Posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 4:09 PM
 
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