Foothill Conservancy participates in the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group, a diverse collaborative organization dedicated to making our communities safer from wildland fire, our forests more resilient, and our local economy stronger. Members include nonprofit organizations, individuals, consultants, government agencies at all levels, and local government partners.
One of the group’s major projects is the Cornerstone Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project. It involves individual forest restoration projects on the Eldorado National Forest’s Amador Ranger District and Stanislaus National Forest’s Calaveras Ranger District and was selected as one of 10 projects funded nationwide in 2011.
Cornerstone annual report tracks progress
At the end of each federal fiscal year, the ACCG and U.S. Forest Service prepare a report on the project’s progress and results. This year’s report showed that our two national forests spent $630,857 in Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act funds last year, matched by $4,516,866 in other Forest Service funds. In addition, ACCG members added about $3,669,608 in value through in-kind services, restoration projects (especially in the Butte Fire footprint), and capacity building that benefits the Cornerstone’s goals and objectives.
The annual report tracks contributions toward the 10-year project strategy by highlighting efforts completed during the year. Two highlights of the year were the signing of a Master Stewardship Agreement between the U.S. Forest Service, and the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority, which should lead to more local forest restoration projects and jobs, and public workshops on bark-beetle killed trees held in Amador and Calaveras counties.
The Cornerstone annual report identified the following community benefits from project-related work in the last fiscal year:
- Provided jobs for local residents in economically disadvantaged rural communities, which created direct and indirect economic benefits.
- Reduced the risk of uncharacteristic fire that could harm people and property.
- Put local Native Americans to work restoring traditional cultural sites.
- Continued and expanded collaboration and communication among federal, state, and local governments, community groups, nonprofits, and businesses.
- Increased public awareness of restoration efforts in the Cornerstone all-lands planning area.
- Leveraged investment from other federal, state, and private sources.
- Involved diverse community members in project planning, implementation, and monitoring.
- Attracted regional attention as a model for community forest collaboration.
- Promoted open discussion of forest issues related to ACCG goals through on-the-ground projects.
- Provided opportunities for community learning through project field trips.
- Avoided project-stopping conflicts and project objections.
- Strengthened relationships among the members of the ACCG.
Project outcomes and investment
In the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, the project
- Reduced hazardous fuel build-up on 1,265 acres in the wildland-urban interface and on 29 additional acres.
- Completed collaborative prescribed burns to reduce fire hazards on 655 acres.
- Mechanically thinned 57 acres to create fire-adapted ecosystem conditions.
- Thinned and otherwise treated 1,294 acres to restore forests to move them toward a fire-adapted ecosystem condition.
- Maintained 684 acres in a fire-adapted ecosystem condition.
- Created 25 part-time and full-time jobs.
- Provided direct labor income of approximately $883,972 and total labor income of $1,150,119.
Challenges this year and ahead
Project year 2015-16 was a year of change for the ACCG and related national forest staff. Key staff were promoted or transferred, which has made program continuity a challenge. Five years of severe drought, beetle attacks and the aftermath of the Butte Fire have also brought into question whether the Cornerstone’s original, 10-year work program should be modified to reflect the dramatic change in our landscape. Discussions about how to adapt in the face of change and transition are ongoing.
To learn more about the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group or to get involved, visit the group’s website or give our Watershed Conservation Associate Reuben a call at 209-223-3508.