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July 18, 2000     Lassen County Times
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lee Tu,sd,y. J.00y 16. 2ooo Regional News L,ssen Plumas forest problems blamed on lack of resou By es Managing Editor There are problems on the Plumas National Forest, but most are due to a lack of re- sources. That's the conclusion of a 46-page management review performed at the request of Con- gressman Wally Herger as a re- sult of public outcry. A six-member team, composed of past and present forest ser- vice employees, investigated four areas of concern: *Fire suppression policies and activities. ,The cancellation of four timber sales. Implementation of the Quincy Library Group Project. *Plumas National Forest Range Program. In preparing the review, the team interviewed 62 individu- als, read letters provided by Herger from his constituents, and studied Forest Service records. The final report includes 25 findings (general statements of fact) and 28 recommendations. The report is divided into four sections, each addressing one of the concerns listed above. Fire suppression policies and activities The Plumas National Forest (PNF) was criticized for its han- dling of the. lightning fires last August. Some of the comments suggested that the fire person- nel on the forest were ill trained, while others suggested that the fires were allowed to burn to meet prescribed burn requirements. The review included a de- tailed analysis of how the PNF handled the 250 lightning strikes and 41 fires that result- ed. The review noted that the Plumas fires came when many fires were raging throughout the West, severely taxing all fire fighting capabilities. While initial attacks were successful in extinguishing the first blazes, there were no re- sources immediately available for subsequent ignitions, thus fires grew. In its first finding, the review team determined that the fire management budget is inade- quate, but that is the fault of the federal government, not the local forest officials. Current analysis reveals that the Plumas needs $8.2 million for its fire budget, and that has been requested. However, it has only received $4 million. As a result of reduced fund- ing, the team reached is second finding: a reduction of the Plum fire management orga- nizatio as a result of budgeting levels. For example: engines have been reduced from 22 to nine; dozers have been reduced from one to zero; two helicopter crews have been reduced to one; hand crews have been reduced from six 10-person teams to zero; fire prevention technicians have been reduced from 18 to 8; look- outs went from 15 to six; and ranger districts have been re- duced from six to three. But the team found that this reduction is not unique to the Plumas. Finding 3: "Forest Ser- vice fire suppression capabilities are significantly less than just five to 10 years ago not only on the Plumes, but throughout Re- gion 5 (as well as other Forest Service regions). This, coupled with reductions in other cooper- ating fire agencies, put the wild- lands of California in general, and the national forests in par- ticular, at more risk to wildland lre." One of the concerns expressed about PNF's response to the Au- gust fires was that it was too slow. But the review team found that the PNF responded quickly until resources were depleted. The Plumas was also criti- cized for not utilizing private timber companies to fight fires. In particular, those complaining singled out the Devil's Gap Fire. The review team determined that initially a forest service employee did not utilize avail- able timber resources and that was a mistake. However, the re- sources were later used on that fire and others. It was deter- mined that the Forest Service will help train timber compa- nies in fire fighting skills. The review team also investi- gated a complaint that fire per- sonnel on the Plumas do not have adequate management background and experience. A particularly harsh criticism was: "What was once of the finest fire fighting agencies in the world has declined into money wasters who have to wait for the fall rains to put out the fires." Additionally there were sever- al other comments listed that criticized personnel. The review team agreed that the quantity and quality of fire fighting personnel had dimin- ished, and while the reduced budget is key, the team pointed to a number of other cofltribut- ing factors. The review team blamed the court ordered minority hiring, "especially the accelerated hir- ing of females to meet the 43 percent court ordered 'consent decree." While the review team did not quibble with the need to meet the decree, it questioned how the Forest Service accom- phshed it. It found that "many positions were filled with individuals that did not meet the minimum qual- ifications of the position," but had the ability to do so. Red card (fire) qualifications were eliminated from the selection criteria. And "many highly qual- ified males were passed over to meet the court ordered mandate and many never advanced be- yond the position that they held at the time." The team also found that re- taining qualified people is diffi- cult because the Forest Service pays less than other fire fight- ing organizations. Access to qualified fmefighters was further reduced when the agency went from a 21-day fn'e assignment to a 14-day assign- ment. The team also discovered that the line fire officers had "little fire experience, knowledge, or training; however, they are very supportive of the fire pro- gram..." The report found that prior to 1980, fire experience was a "critical element" in whether or not a person would become a line officer. Now officers are not required to have that experi- ence. While the team found that a high percentage of fire person- nel are qualified, it encouraged all physically able Forest Ser- vice employees to be trained to fight fires when necessary. As for the charge that the Forest Service allowed the fires to burn to meet prescribed burn objectives, the review team as- certained that while such a practice is allowed it did not oc- cur on the Plumas. It found "All versions of the Wildland Fire Situation Analy- .is (WFSA) were based on con- trolling the fires." Cancellation of four timber sales When the Record of Decision was released for the Quincy Li- brary Group plan, it included a mitigation measure to protect spotted owl habitat. The Forest Service had already prepared and planned to advertise four timber sales, but withdrew them when the Record of Deci- sion was released. Forest Super- visor Mark Madrid made the de- cision amidst much controversy. The four canceled sales repre- sented about 45 percent of PNF's timber program for 1999. The team found that a decision, albeit a difficult one, had to be made. The team found: 'qhile the canceled sales were not a part of the EIS, they were canceled in large measure because of the EIS mitigation measures, which precludes timber harvest on suitable owl habitat instead of applying the long-standing CAPO guidelines. The mitigat- ed standard is said to be based on new scientific evidence. The Forest Supervisor determined that he should not offer the sales with the CASPO guide- lines when different guides were be being applied to the Quincy Library Group areas." The team recommended that in the future, the forest supervi- sor consult with other entities-- in this case the Quincy Library Group-before announcing such decisions. tmplementati'oel dr Quim=y Utwuy Group FrojeML The team investigated a charge that there has not been enough "substantive" progress toward implementing the pro- ject. The team found that the term "substantive progr, ess" depends on one's perspective. "If substance is directly relat- ed to active logging or thinning with trucks hauling fiber to a mill, then the perception that implementation has been slow since Aug. 20, 1999 when the EIS ROD was signed, is your re- ality," the team wrote in its re- view. "If you are prone to recog- nize the effort it takes to build some defensible projects, involve the public and comply with NEPA regulations as 'substan- tive' meaningful work then sub- stantial progress has been made since the EIS was published and the ROD was signed," The team encouraged the PNF to continue working on the implementation and to keep the public informed. The team also noted that the relationship between the PNF and the QLG "needs some seri- ous tending." In its investigation, the team found that members of the QLG were more citical of the PNF than the general public. The team rebuked QLG in its review: 'Vhile lobbing grenades over the fence may provide some short-term relief, long-term ero- sion of the relationship is not to anyone's advantage and certain- ly does not produce the desired results in the woods." It also charged members of the QLG with, "when voids in information develop at the Group meetings the vacuum is filled with worst case assump- tions that spawn rumors that take on a life of their own. The Forest is tired of sarcastic re- marks and constant rude behav- ior toward Forest personnel." The team recommended that: The Forest Service get pilot projects implemented this sum- mer. *The Chief and Regional Forester assures 100 percent of the funding needed. *The Forests and Quincy Li- brary Group work on their rela- tionship. The Forest Supervisor or his deputy attend all QLG meet- lags. The Forest endeavor to be the first and best source of informa- tion. Forest Range Program 'rhis is a recipe for failure." Though that comment was di- rected toward the Forest's staffing of its range manage- ment program, it also applies to the team's remarks on all as- pects of the range program. The team took issue with the amount of work accomplished, the funding levels, and its per- sonnel handling. In February Congressman Herger asked the Forest to de- termine if untenable working conditions and mismanagement have been responsible for the loss of at least four rangeland specialists since 1996. And from the team's review, it appears the answer is yes. The team tried to ascertain if the Plumas was meeting its range allotment planning as re- quired by law. The team found that the Plumas had completed only 13 percent of the work, us- ing the time it should have tak- en to complete 33 percent. By the end of 2001, 20 to 24 allotments should be completed according to the timetable es- tablished by Congress. To date, seven have been completed. The team made several rec- ommendations including requir- ing line officers to take a more active role in completing the work. The team also investigated the budget which has changed dramatically over the last decade and is now 70 percent of what it was in forest budget more than seven same time frame. It was also staffing is to accomplish custodia ments." The team with takm a range Reaction Public Affairs Anne Schramel the review had discussed by PNF. "Reports like useful," Schramel 'rhey either already thing you weren't this case we're the review team already thought." While most of positive for the criticisms Schramel Ta since the review Forest has sent tion pertaining "In general we portion of the on incomplete Taylor said. mmm mm n m mmmm UP TO mmmm ON YOUR DEDUCT ! 000000,o00UyALLk.m00C,e00ns We Do ALL The | [00We Bi Your mm00-d,00e warra00 c00qoi(m special; ACT NOW/08br &l.00. WINDOW TINTING YourseW from the Hot Notice of public hearing LASSEN COUNTY PLANINING COMMISSION PUBLIC HEARING The Lassen County Planning Commission solicits the aid of public agencies and the generaJ putic in conation of the fo//owing item: Applicant: Tuscarora Gas Transmission Company File No.: TS #2000-74, General Plan Amendment #760.40 Project: Amendment to the original EIR/EIS and amendment of the Lassen County General Ran to accommodate a 0.9 mile reroute of the Susanville Lateral line, from the main gas pipeline, and a 3.1 mile extension of the Lateral line to serve the High Desert State Prison. Location: Generally between the main gas pipeline and the High Desert State Prison, on the north side of Conservation Center Road. A.P.N.: Various punic and private lands. Staff Contact Richard Simon, Senior Planer The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on this item at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 2, 2000 in the Board Chambers, 707 Nevada Street, SusanviUe, Californ All interested persons and agencies invited to attend e meeting and be e[d, or to submit comments to the Commission prior to the hearing, c/o Department of Community DevetL 707 Nevada Street, Suite 5, Susanv'dte, California 96130. For bhe County of Lassen, Rotert C Soaag, Secretary, Lassen County Planning CommLssk Published LCT J18, 2OOO , AUTO GLASS',00 HOMES, lee Tu,sd,y. J.00y 16. 2ooo Regional News L,ssen Plumas forest problems blamed on lack of resou By es Managing Editor There are problems on the Plumas National Forest, but most are due to a lack of re- sources. That's the conclusion of a 46-page management review performed at the request of Con- gressman Wally Herger as a re- sult of public outcry. A six-member team, composed of past and present forest ser- vice employees, investigated four areas of concern: *Fire suppression policies and activities. ,The cancellation of four timber sales. Implementation of the Quincy Library Group Project. *Plumas National Forest Range Program. In preparing the review, the team interviewed 62 individu- als, read letters provided by Herger from his constituents, and studied Forest Service records. The final report includes 25 findings (general statements of fact) and 28 recommendations. The report is divided into four sections, each addressing one of the concerns listed above. Fire suppression policies and activities The Plumas National Forest (PNF) was criticized for its han- dling of the. lightning fires last August. Some of the comments suggested that the fire person- nel on the forest were ill trained, while others suggested that the fires were allowed to burn to meet prescribed burn requirements. The review included a de- tailed analysis of how the PNF handled the 250 lightning strikes and 41 fires that result- ed. The review noted that the Plumas fires came when many fires were raging throughout the West, severely taxing all fire fighting capabilities. While initial attacks were successful in extinguishing the first blazes, there were no re- sources immediately available for subsequent ignitions, thus fires grew. In its first finding, the review team determined that the fire management budget is inade- quate, but that is the fault of the federal government, not the local forest officials. Current analysis reveals that the Plumas needs $8.2 million for its fire budget, and that has been requested. However, it has only received $4 million. As a result of reduced fund- ing, the team reached is second finding: a reduction of the Plum fire management orga- nizatio as a result of budgeting levels. For example: engines have been reduced from 22 to nine; dozers have been reduced from one to zero; two helicopter crews have been reduced to one; hand crews have been reduced from six 10-person teams to zero; fire prevention technicians have been reduced from 18 to 8; look- outs went from 15 to six; and ranger districts have been re- duced from six to three. But the team found that this reduction is not unique to the Plumas. Finding 3: "Forest Ser- vice fire suppression capabilities are significantly less than just five to 10 years ago not only on the Plumes, but throughout Re- gion 5 (as well as other Forest Service regions). This, coupled with reductions in other cooper- ating fire agencies, put the wild- lands of California in general, and the national forests in par- ticular, at more risk to wildland lre." One of the concerns expressed about PNF's response to the Au- gust fires was that it was too slow. But the review team found that the PNF responded quickly until resources were depleted. The Plumas was also criti- cized for not utilizing private timber companies to fight fires. In particular, those complaining singled out the Devil's Gap Fire. The review team determined that initially a forest service employee did not utilize avail- able timber resources and that was a mistake. However, the re- sources were later used on that fire and others. It was deter- mined that the Forest Service will help train timber compa- nies in fire fighting skills. The review team also investi- gated a complaint that fire per- sonnel on the Plumas do not have adequate management background and experience. A particularly harsh criticism was: "What was once of the finest fire fighting agencies in the world has declined into money wasters who have to wait for the fall rains to put out the fires." Additionally there were sever- al other comments listed that criticized personnel. The review team agreed that the quantity and quality of fire fighting personnel had dimin- ished, and while the reduced budget is key, the team pointed to a number of other cofltribut- ing factors. The review team blamed the court ordered minority hiring, "especially the accelerated hir- ing of females to meet the 43 percent court ordered 'consent decree." While the review team did not quibble with the need to meet the decree, it questioned how the Forest Service accom- phshed it. It found that "many positions were filled with individuals that did not meet the minimum qual- ifications of the position," but had the ability to do so. Red card (fire) qualifications were eliminated from the selection criteria. And "many highly qual- ified males were passed over to meet the court ordered mandate and many never advanced be- yond the position that they held at the time." The team also found that re- taining qualified people is diffi- cult because the Forest Service pays less than other fire fight- ing organizations. Access to qualified fmefighters was further reduced when the agency went from a 21-day fn'e assignment to a 14-day assign- ment. The team also discovered that the line fire officers had "little fire experience, knowledge, or training; however, they are very supportive of the fire pro- gram..." The report found that prior to 1980, fire experience was a "critical element" in whether or not a person would become a line officer. Now officers are not required to have that experi- ence. While the team found that a high percentage of fire person- nel are qualified, it encouraged all physically able Forest Ser- vice employees to be trained to fight fires when necessary. As for the charge that the Forest Service allowed the fires to burn to meet prescribed burn objectives, the review team as- certained that while such a practice is allowed it did not oc- cur on the Plumas. It found "All versions of the Wildland Fire Situation Analy- .is (WFSA) were based on con- trolling the fires." Cancellation of four timber sales When the Record of Decision was released for the Quincy Li- brary Group plan, it included a mitigation measure to protect spotted owl habitat. The Forest Service had already prepared and planned to advertise four timber sales, but withdrew them when the Record of Deci- sion was released. Forest Super- visor Mark Madrid made the de- cision amidst much controversy. The four canceled sales repre- sented about 45 percent of PNF's timber program for 1999. The team found that a decision, albeit a difficult one, had to be made. The team found: 'qhile the canceled sales were not a part of the EIS, they were canceled in large measure because of the EIS mitigation measures, which precludes timber harvest on suitable owl habitat instead of applying the long-standing CAPO guidelines. The mitigat- ed standard is said to be based on new scientific evidence. The Forest Supervisor determined that he should not offer the sales with the CASPO guide- lines when different guides were be being applied to the Quincy Library Group areas." The team recommended that in the future, the forest supervi- sor consult with other entities-- in this case the Quincy Library Group-before announcing such decisions. tmplementati'oel dr Quim=y Utwuy Group FrojeML The team investigated a charge that there has not been enough "substantive" progress toward implementing the pro- ject. The team found that the term "substantive progr, ess" depends on one's perspective. "If substance is directly relat- ed to active logging or thinning with trucks hauling fiber to a mill, then the perception that implementation has been slow since Aug. 20, 1999 when the EIS ROD was signed, is your re- ality," the team wrote in its re- view. "If you are prone to recog- nize the effort it takes to build some defensible projects, involve the public and comply with NEPA regulations as 'substan- tive' meaningful work then sub- stantial progress has been made since the EIS was published and the ROD was signed," The team encouraged the PNF to continue working on the implementation and to keep the public informed. The team also noted that the relationship between the PNF and the QLG "needs some seri- ous tending." In its investigation, the team found that members of the QLG were more citical of the PNF than the general public. The team rebuked QLG in its review: 'Vhile lobbing grenades over the fence may provide some short-term relief, long-term ero- sion of the relationship is not to anyone's advantage and certain- ly does not produce the desired results in the woods." It also charged members of the QLG with, "when voids in information develop at the Group meetings the vacuum is filled with worst case assump- tions that spawn rumors that take on a life of their own. The Forest is tired of sarcastic re- marks and constant rude behav- ior toward Forest personnel." The team recommended that: The Forest Service get pilot projects implemented this sum- mer. *The Chief and Regional Forester assures 100 percent of the funding needed. *The Forests and Quincy Li- brary Group work on their rela- tionship. The Forest Supervisor or his deputy attend all QLG meet- lags. The Forest endeavor to be the first and best source of informa- tion. Forest Range Program 'rhis is a recipe for failure." Though that comment was di- rected toward the Forest's staffing of its range manage- ment program, it also applies to the team's remarks on all as- pects of the range program. The team took issue with the amount of work accomplished, the funding levels, and its per- sonnel handling. In February Congressman Herger asked the Forest to de- termine if untenable working conditions and mismanagement have been responsible for the loss of at least four rangeland specialists since 1996. And from the team's review, it appears the answer is yes. The team tried to ascertain if the Plumas was meeting its range allotment planning as re- quired by law. The team found that the Plumas had completed only 13 percent of the work, us- ing the time it should have tak- en to complete 33 percent. By the end of 2001, 20 to 24 allotments should be completed according to the timetable es- tablished by Congress. To date, seven have been completed. The team made several rec- ommendations including requir- ing line officers to take a more active role in completing the work. The team also investigated the budget which has changed dramatically over the last decade and is now 70 percent of what it was in forest budget more than seven same time frame. It was also staffing is to accomplish custodia ments." The team with takm a range Reaction Public Affairs Anne Schramel the review had discussed by PNF. "Reports like useful," Schramel 'rhey either already thing you weren't this case we're the review team already thought." While most of positive for the criticisms Schramel Ta since the review Forest has sent tion pertaining "In general we portion of the on incomplete Taylor said. mmm mm n m mmmm UP TO mmmm ON YOUR DEDUCT ! 000000,o00UyALLk.m00C,e00ns We Do ALL The | [00We Bi Your mm00-d,00e warra00 c00qoi(m special; ACT NOW/08br &l.00. WINDOW TINTING YourseW from the Hot Notice of public hearing LASSEN COUNTY PLANINING COMMISSION PUBLIC HEARING The Lassen County Planning Commission solicits the aid of public agencies and the generaJ putic in conation of the fo//owing item: Applicant: Tuscarora Gas Transmission Company File No.: TS #2000-74, General Plan Amendment #760.40 Project: Amendment to the original EIR/EIS and amendment of the Lassen County General Ran to accommodate a 0.9 mile reroute of the Susanville Lateral line, from the main gas pipeline, and a 3.1 mile extension of the Lateral line to serve the High Desert State Prison. Location: Generally between the main gas pipeline and the High Desert State Prison, on the north side of Conservation Center Road. A.P.N.: Various punic and private lands. Staff Contact Richard Simon, Senior Planer The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on this item at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 2, 2000 in the Board Chambers, 707 Nevada Street, SusanviUe, Californ All interested persons and agencies invited to attend e meeting and be e[d, or to submit comments to the Commission prior to the hearing, c/o Department of Community DevetL 707 Nevada Street, Suite 5, Susanv'dte, California 96130. For bhe County of Lassen, Rotert C Soaag, Secretary, Lassen County Planning CommLssk Published LCT J18, 2OOO , AUTO GLASS',00 HOMES,