The free wildfire publication makes it easy to understand fuel reduction permits on private land – Forest Research and Access

UCCE’s forest consultant helps landowners, community groups determine the best project options

As Californians prepare for another year of drought and an expected high fire season, landowners and organizations across California are working to reduce the amount of forest fuels — flammable woody material — that can threaten their properties and communities.

For most, however, their urgent efforts have been met with a major speed shock: the vast rulebook, in the depths of which are other information, the permits required before people can treat or dispose of the fuels – as well as the many associated requirements, restrictions and regulations.

“The California Forestry Practice Rules are 410 pages, in font size 6,” said Jana Valachovich, UC Cooperative Extension forestry consultant and registered professional forester. “It’s not easy even for an experienced forester to try to figure out what kind of permission vehicles are given in the manual.”

To help private landowners and community groups navigate the rules and determine their most cost-effective options, Valachovich pioneered a new guide, “Planning and Permitting Forest Fuel Mitigation Projects on Private Lands in California,” available for free. Resources in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Catalog.

“We tried to create a system where all the permissions are placed side by side and we put a decision tree framework to help make it easier,” said Valachovic, highlighting the publication’s tables that break down the project’s goals and metrics. A license applicant should consider this when weighing their options.

Considerations include whether the project is pre-fire or post-fire, the location and extent of trees targeted for destruction, site conditions before and after the project, potential timeframes, commercial options and, crucially, budget constraints. The permitting process can account for one-third of total project costs.

A primer on planning and preparation

Chris Curtis, forest ranger for CAL FIRE’s Humboldt-Del Norte Unit, said he and his colleagues are grateful for the new tool and plan to use it as a “countermeasure” for community members. Charts detailing timber harvesting regulations and funding sources are particularly helpful, he added.

“These will provide a starting point for sorting out multiple commercial logging documents and funding options for an oil recovery project,” Curtis said. “A landowner is guided by the few options that seem most appropriate, and this resource professional facilitates that person in choosing the most appropriate permit.”

The publication helps prepare the landowner or community entity (such as conservation districts, fire councils or other relevant groups) for the types of questions that may come up during pre-planning discussions with a registered professional forester or RPF.

Just as a homeowner would consult with a contractor before approving a construction project, landowners and community groups should consult with the RPF, Valcovich said. RPFs have specialized expertise in forest management laws and regulations related to water, air quality and endangered species protection and the issuance of permit documents.

“That’s what I do in my job: landowners come to me and we start talking about goals and objectives,” she said. “We start thinking about possible timelines — which goals are short-term, which are long-term — and how we can put an action plan in place to help those landowners achieve their goals.

Long term projects, short term measures

Among the many practical tips listed in this guide, Valachovich emphasized one in particular: When landowners first dip their toes into fuel mitigation, keep the project “simple and realistic.”

And while even small projects can be expensive this year due to high costs of gas, equipment and supplies, fuel reduction projects can take months to develop and implement, so now is still “a good time to plan.”

In the short term, however, Valachovich urges Californians to fortify their homes, manage the fuel (ie landscape plants, stockpiled wood, tall grass, etc.) right next to them with extremely dry conditions in the state. designing and evaluating home, and family emergency plans; See the UC ANR Wildfire Preparedness page for details and resources.

“There are many quick steps people can take this year to reduce their wildfire risk and prepare for the unexpected,” she said.

In addition to Valachovich, “Planning and Permitting of Forest Fuel Reduction Projects on Private Lands in California,” BBW Associates and Britta Goldstein are co-authors of UCCE staff research in Humboldt and Del Norte counties; Both are registered by professional foresters.


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