Western Klamath Restoration Partnership Hits the Ground Running
Authors: Bill Tripp
From the office to the field
The Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP) in Northern California has been meeting for over a year to develop a common vision for the landscape surrounding our communities. Earlier this month we held a three-day field tour to get a ground-level perspective on our group’s vision for the Somes Bar Integrated Fire Management and Capacity Development Project. The Donahue Flat Neighborhood, one of four focal areas identified for treatment last fall, was the area we toured and discussed. Day one was a half-day trip, which included three stops and discussions focused on the landscape-level perspective and wildlife considerations. We were also able to learn about previous management activities on those sites, which helped the group develop a common understanding of different treatment options. Day two was a full day in the field with eight stops planned. Given the breadth of the discussions on day one, our second day was reduced to five stops to provide an adequate opportunity for honest and open dialogue. Day three was also a product of adaptation. Instead of a day of synthesis indoors, we modified the plan to include another full day in the field. This time we split into small groups for an exercise in designing a prescription for each site that would support the WKRP group’s values:
- Fire adapted communities,
- Restored fire regimes,
- Healthy river systems,
- Resilient bio-diverse forests/plants and animals,
- Sustainable local economies, and
- Cultural and community vitality.
A landscape-level look
In visiting areas previously treated, some interesting discussions emerged from the group. While our current approach is to work on just 5,000 acres to test our process and prescriptions, we will be working to scale-up from this initial phase to treat 50,000 acres—with the intention of positively affecting a much larger area. This approach will allow us to work in a relatively small area first, while still keeping a landscape-scale perspective. Last year our group worked on landscape-level digital mapping. This tended to simplify the dynamics at play to buffering road, ridge, private property, managed stand and other readily identifiable features. At our very first stop, ecosystem dynamics such as slope, aspect, vegetative communities, wildlife habitats, soil types, variable fire return intervals and this idea of managing for ecological processes over stand condition took a significant leap in the group setting.
The dynamics of site specificity
As we moved through our three-day working session, many variables were noted and numerous site-specific needs identified. A few examples framed considerations for wildlife, species, habitats and realities of political influence. What are the key features of these habitats, and how does fire play into species viability through time? What about species not listed or petitioned for listing, and how do we address their needs as well? How do we balance human influence and ecological processes in our restoration and maintenance activities? Where do economic considerations come into balance with the social and ecological factors of our local communities? Clearly, there are many factors at play and that the path that lays before us will be need to be regimented in order to maintain progress in ramping up the pace and scale of treatment now, and for future generations.
Prescription development and “left side” NEPA planning
All in all, this meeting was successful in introducing agency interdisciplinary staff and contracted specialists to our WKRP Zone of Agreement. This ID team will work alongside the WKRP members as we develop the project’s purpose and need, alternatives and the prescriptions/descriptions to be analyzed next year. It was also productive for identifying opportunities to shift landscape characteristics over time. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but our core team is committed, our specialists are ready to collect the data, our staff is ready to support the specialists, and our leadership is prepared to synthesize information and draft the language needed to release a scoping document in fall/winter of 2015.