The view from Pike County Lookout East Towards La Porte and Mohawk Area. Photos submitted

First decision signed, PNF bid solicitation open for part of community protection project

This week the first decision for the Community Protection – Central and West Slope Project was signed and published and the Spirit G-Z Integrated Resource Service Contract solicitation for bids started.

The first phase of the project is under an approved emergency authorization for the geographic area of La Porte and the greater Mohawk area.  This includes the communities of La Porte, Graeagle, Blairsden, Cromberg and the area southwest of Portola.  The Spirit G-Z IRSC solicitation is open for 60 days and treats approximately 70,000 acres.

Downtown La Porte.

“The Plumas National Forest and our communities have been impacted by catastrophic wildfires over the past several years,” said Forest Supervisor Chris Carlton.  “There is an urgent need for fuel reduction and forest health restoration to help protect communities in and around the Forest and this first decision is the start for critical treatment for our mountain towns and residents.”

The emergency authorization was approved by the Chief of the Forest Service for the 217,721-acre Central and West Zone Project a few weeks ago.

Plumas National Forest leadership determined that a phased decision approach to the Community Protection – Central and West Slope Project Environmental Assessment was best.

La Porte fuel reduction – machine piling.

“We are grateful for the emergency authority so we can start work to protect communities in the La Porte and greater Mohawk areas while continuing to address public feedback on the remaining 147,796 acres of the project area,” Carlton said.

“I want to acknowledge that use of an emergency authority causes concern among some of our stakeholders,” Carlton said.  “While I strongly believe this emergency action responds to the crisis we face, our team worked hard to incorporate comments and make adjustments to the final decision that recognize those concerns.  I look forward to working with all commenters through the objection process as we move toward a decision for the rest of the landscape in the near future.”

Treatment in the Spirit G-Z IRSC includes more than 54,000 acres of mechanical thinning and nearly 14,000 acres of manual thinning, with prescribed burning as a follow-up treatment in both areas and as the only treatment on approximately 2,000 acres.

Prescribed burning at Little Grass Valley Reservoir near La Porte.

Work is focused in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) as part of community protection efforts.

“Our local area has been extremely fortunate over the past two years to have some relief from wildfire, allowing us to focus on community protection and forest recovery,” Carlton said.  “While recovery is important, protecting our communities is the highest priority and we are happy to be making this step from planning towards implementation and getting meaningful work done on the ground.”

To increase capacity to accomplish landscape scale community protection, the Plumas National Forest is working with partners in the planning and implementation process.

Planning for the Community Protection – Central and West Slope Project is being done in partnership with Great Basin Institute.

“The partnership with Great Basin Institute has been a tremendous help as we work on not only this project, but a similar effort for community protection on the east side of the Forest and the planning effort for post-fire recovery,” Carlton said.  “We truly appreciate their commitment throughout this process and support as we work together on the Environmental Assessment.”

For more information about the Central and West Slope Project, including the first signed decision, visit the project webpage at www.fs.usda.gov/project/plumas/?project=62873.

In January 2022, recognizing the need to address the wildfire crisis immediately threatening communities, the Wildfire Crisis Strategy was launched by the U.S. Forest Service.  Since then, 21 landscapes have been identified nationally for targeted investments.

The Community Protection Project on the Plumas was announced as a WCS Landscape in January 2023.

The project is intended to focus on treatments to protect more than 41 communities in and around the Plumas National Forest from the risk of wildfire through fuel reduction and restoration of fire-adapted forests.

For more information on the Plumas National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/plumas or follow the Forest on Facebook at www.facebook.com/USFSPlumas.