Management Plan Implementation
Constraints and Proposed Alternatives
Alternative 1: No change (no action) in the current scale of management activities.
Alternative 2: Retain the Ranch and institute the scale of management and the practices outlined in this plan.
Alternative 3: Manage the Ranch intensively for maximum income.
Alternative 4: Sell all or portions of the Ranch.
Alternative 1: If the current scale of management activities is continued, forest health and tree growth rates will generally decline due to overcrowding of trees. The potential volume and value of forest products that could be derived from the forest will be less than optimal. This alternative will result in an increase in the fuel hazard in many areas, especially in the DFR4D and MHC3D types, as an increasing number of trees die and fall to the ground. This alternative will not create the future forest and economic conditions desired by the landowners.
Alternative 2: The overall goal of this management plan is to restore, protect and maintain this property as a fire resilient, stable, and productive ranch that also provides a viable model for local forest-dependent communities of socially just, ecologically balanced and economically sound forest restoration and stewardship. Through the use of fuel wood and thinning for multiple value-added products, soil factory, worm castings, agro-forestry (forest gardening), essential oils, lumber, agriculture, many new jobs will be created and the product value will ameliorate the costs of restoring fire resilient, healthy forests.
As this property was only recently purchased and is not yet occupied full time by most of the owners, there is still only minimal use of the land. As the owners establish permanent residence within the next few years, they will begin to create a fire resilient forest by removing ladder fuels and over-stocked trees to re-establish a primary and late successional forest. Agro-forestry practices will be established to produce fruits, nuts, berries, mushrooms, tubers, and herbs for essential oils. The seasonal pond in the wet meadow will be enlarged and deepened in an attempt to create a perennial flow in the seasonal tributary to Buckeye Creek, with the goal of establishing Buckeye Creek as a full time, anadromous watercourse. The sale of carbon sequestration credits will be explored as a means to help off-set restoration/stewardship costs.
Timber harvesting at the scale anticipated in this alternative can best be done under one of the Timber Harvest Plan (THP) exemptions in the California Forest Practice Rules (FPRs). The 2013 edition of the FPRs and an Excel spreadsheet of the available exemptions are included in the CD attached to this plan. Harvesting under one of the exemptions, while limiting options, decreases plan preparation costs.
Alternative 3. More than one-half of the Ranch is underlain by soils that are very productive (Dunning’s site class I-III) for growing trees. There is currently enough Douglas-fir volume in the DFR4D and MHC3D types to support commercially viable harvests. Clearcuts in the DFR4D type would remove most of the larger trees and shelterwood cuts would remove a large portion of them. Fewer trees could be removed from the MHC3D type, generally in a selection cut. These harvests could be done over 10-15 years to space out the income and environmental effects. The following are two possible options for harvesting at this scale:
Option 1 Landowner Prepares THP: California law requires that a THP be prepared by a registered professional forester if forest products are sold. Preparation and operational requirements are contained in the FPRs. This can be a costly and time-consuming process. Estimated preparation costs (up to filing the THP with CAL FIRE) for one 160-acre parcel in Trinity County are:
THP preparation and layout: $10,000-$15,000
Northern Spotted Owl survey: $5,000-$10,000
Botany Survey: $2,000-$3,000
Total cost range: $17,000-$28,000
Option 2 Purchaser Prepares THP: Another option is to make a lump sum stumpage sale to a purchaser, in which a fixed price for all the timber in the designated sale area is set. This type of sale shifts much of the THP preparation and harvesting costs to the buyer, as well as encouraging complete utilization of the offered timber. Trinity River Lumber Company, which has made similar arrangements with other timberland owners, can be contacted at (530) 623-5561.
Other income possibilities are to manage the grasslands intensively for livestock grazing. The landowners could raise their own livestock or could lease out grazing rights to a rancher. The zoning on the Ranch could also be changed to enable development and rental of cabins for seasonal or year-around use.
Alternative 4. The entire Ranch could be either sold “as is”, after a THP is prepared, or following timber harvesting. Alternatively, the TPZ portion of the Ranch could be sold, either as one parcel, following a zoning change to allow subdivision, or following construction of a dwelling(s). The zoning on the APZ parcel could also be changed so the parcel could be divided and sold. To change from the current zoning of either parcel will require filing of a notice of change with the county and a wait of ten years, unless a substantial back tax is paid.
Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) runs were not made to aid in selection of alternatives, as the landowners are committed to Alternative 2. However, FVS outputs for most of the vegetation types found on the Ranch were made and are included on the CD attached to this plan.
A comprehensive business plan is needed to determine the economic viability of the previously listed products that could potentially be produced from resources on the Ranch. This would enable adjustments to the forest management plan to either include the production of such products or to eliminate them from the plan. It is expected that by implementing a continuous restoration-stewardship program, rather than a onetime treatment, economic sustainability will be assured. By labor intensive, value-adding steps for removing fuel wood and thinning, enough value can be produced to pay for the restoration and to pay under-employed, forest dependent communities (healthy forests = healthy communities).
Ownership of the Skunk Ranch is set up in the form of a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), which pays an annual tax of $800 to the State of California.
Property taxes payable to Trinity County were $1060 for the 2012-2013 tax year. Property taxes will likely increase in the future depending on the scale and type of development of the property and on which parcel it occurs. Increases in property taxes will be limited on the one-half (160 acres) of the property zoned Timberland Production Zone (TPZ) since property valuation is primarily based on timber site quality. Development of a dwelling(s) on this parcel may cause an increase related to that development. Tax increases on the property zoned Agricultural Preserve Zone is probably largely linked to how many of the existing cabins are improved for occupancy by temporary laborers.
Taxes are currently paid from the landowners’ personal financial resources, but as the Ranch begins to produce timber and agricultural products, it is expected that taxes will be paid from income from those sources.
Conservation easements have been used by some landowners to limit development during their lifetime(s) and following their death(s). These easements are generally used for properties much larger than the Skunk Ranch. Conservation easements place permanent legal restrictions on development, which are then enforced by the organization that holds the easement, such as the Northcoast Regional Land Trust. Typically there is an initial fee for preparing the easement followed by an annual fee to monitor it. However, the current zoning of the land as APZ and TPZ (see Appendix 2) adequately limits future development, provided the landowners continue to comply with the required restrictions.
Soil is the basic foundation upon which any vegetative ecosystem rests. It is of prime importance and protecting it from loss or damage needs to be a major objective in any resource management program.
The most obvious cause of soil degradation and consequent loss of productivity is from soil erosion. Soil erosion is a constantly occurring natural event that can be greatly aggravated by human disturbance. In mountainous areas, roads and exposure of bare soil following vegetation removal are the main causes of accelerated erosion. Whenever soil is exposed to rainfall impact and/or water is concentrated on bare soil, erosion will increase.
A common cause of erosion in Trinity County occurs during summer thunderstorms when large quantities of rainfall can cause woody debris to move down stream channels, plugging culvert inlets and causing water to run over and down roads. Rainfall records in the vicinity of the Ranch go back more than 100 years. As of 1961, the 5-year average, 30-minute rainfall was 0.55”, the 1-hour rainfall was 0.6”, and the 24-hour rainfall was 5” (Hershfield, David M., “Rainfall Frequency Atlas of the United States”, Tech Paper #40, May, 1961, U.S. Dept. of Commerce). Although these amounts had declined steadily from the 100-year average of 1”, 1.2”, and 8” respectively, they indicate that a substantial amount of rain can fall in a short period of time. These amounts are not seasonally adjusted and individual storms do exceed these amounts.
The only significant erosion found on the Ranch is related to USFS Road 4N09 and the road to Bear Creek Studio, to a couple of Class II and III watercourses in the APZ parcel, and to slides in the northwest corner of that parcel. There is a shotgun culvert under USFS Road at the most western watercourse crossing where there is substantial erosion in the draw both above and below the road. Another shotgun culvert, on the access road to Bear Creek Studio just south of the power line right-of-way, is eroding the slope below it. Both of these culverts are contributing sediment to the creeks below them, and eventually to the South Fork of the Trinity River.
Active and severe erosion is occurring along sections of two tributaries (Class II and III) to Buckeye Creek in the west-central portion of the APZ parcel north of USFS Road. This erosion is contributing sediment to Buckeye Creek and eventually to the South Fork of the Trinity River.
North of the View Cabin and below the road to the north the topography steepens toward Buckeye Creek and there are some large slides that have partially re-vegetated. Due to the steepness of the slope, it appears that the surface of these slides is still actively eroding.
Minor erosion is occurring on the surface of the access road to the View Cabin and at a couple of draws that cross that road.
To minimize erosion it is best to maintain a continuous vegetative cover, or at least minimize disturbance to the ground cover (leaf and twig cover). Outsloping roads and constructing rolling dips or water bars at sufficient intervals will prevent water from concentrating on road surfaces. Roads should be located so as to minimize cut and fill slopes and these slopes should be stabilized with willow wattles or other vegetation. Culverts in draws and creek crossings should be sized adequately to carry maximum storm flows and should be kept clear of debris. Berms should be constructed on roads directly down slope from culverts and fill slopes adjacent to culverts should be armored with rock to prevent erosion in the event culverts plug. Rocked crossings and low water crossings of watercourses will eliminate road failures due to culverts being plugged by debris. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Trinity County Resource Conservation District (TCRCD) can all assist with road design.
Another common cause of soil degradation is compaction by equipment operating when soils are wet, especially on soils with a high component of clay, such as the Dunsmuir family of soils found on the APZ parcel. These soils have a high potential for roadbed damage when wet. Compaction of these soils can last for many decades and will lower water infiltration and percolation rates, water holding capacity, root growth ability of plants, establishment of plants, and in-soil movement of soil organisms. It is critical to only operate equipment on these soils when they are dry.
As most of the organic nutrients in the soil are found in the surface leaf litter and in the top few inches of soil, disturbance to this zone should be kept to a minimum to protect the soil food web and insure continued productivity of the soil. It is important to provide for replenishment of the nutrients in this zone, especially following removal of vegetation. This can be done by retaining a mixture of conifers and hardwoods in the forest, as this enhances leaf litter decomposition, and by leaving the foliage and limbs of trees and shrubs that are cut to rot into the ground, as these portions of the plants contain the majority of their nutrients.
Nitrogen is one of the nutrients critical to plant growth that tends to be low in soils in the West. Some genera of plants, such as Ceanothus and Alnus, are known to fix atmospheric nitrogen into forms that are available for uptake by the roots of plants. Plants such as deerbrush and buckbrush should not be eliminated from the forest as a management practice as they help replenish nitrogen as well as provide forage for deer.
It has been recently discovered that cyanobacteria in mosses, often found in abundance on the branches of older (500+ years) conifers in coastal temperate rainforests, fix atmospheric nitrogen at much higher rates than those in mosses on the ground. These mosses only begin to accumulate on trees that are 100+ years of age. It is advisable to retain all the older conifers and hardwoods on the property to enhance the growth and spread of mosses. The main objective of the landowners to restore late successional and primary forest ecological balances will enhance the growth of forest canopy mosses.
Fungal decomposition of leaf and limb litter and logs is known to produce nitrogen in a form (ammonium) that is readily absorbed by perennials, such as trees and shrubs. Bacterial decomposition of grasses and forbs, on the other hand, produces nitrogen in a form (nitrates) that is readily absorbed by annuals. To enhance soil nitrogen in the forest, soil conditions favorable for fungal decomposition should be maintained or enhanced. At present the duff and litter layers, which favor fungal activity, are minimal on much of the forest floor. This should be taken into consideration where prescribed burning to reduce fuels is contemplated.
Logs and stumps are an important component of soil health. As they decompose they provide an important food source for a variety of organisms, as well as enhancing soil structure, water holding capacity, and nutrient balance. Medium to large conifer (mostly Douglas-fir) and hardwood logs and stumps that are scattered throughout the DFR4D, MHC3D, and MHW4D forests should be retained.
Desired Forest Condition (Reforestation and Afforestation)
Most of the commercial conifers were harvested from the MHW3D type under THP 2-01-212-TRI(4), leaving a stand dominated by canyon live oaks. Although this area was ostensibly planted with ponderosa pines following logging (after 2002), few seedlings were observed. It is underlain by the same soil type (Deadwood Neuns family of soils, 40-60% slopes) found in the non-commercial (NC) type along Buckhorn Creek. Artificial regeneration of this type is not recommended, due to the low site quality of the soil, the difficulty of getting adequate seedling survival on harsh west and south aspects with existing canyon live oak competition, and the cost relative to expected future return. Some natural regeneration of Douglas-fir is occurring and is expected to continue.
Most of the commercial conifers were also harvested from the WO4P type under THP 2-01-212-TRI(4), leaving a stand dominated by large Oregon white oaks and some California black oaks and Pacific madrones. Although this area was also planted with ponderosa pines following logging, seedlings were only observed in portions of the area.
This type is underlain by the same soil type (Dunsmuir family of soils, 15-40% slopes) found on most of the APZ parcel. Artificial regeneration of this type is feasible, due to the high site quality of the soil, the likelihood of getting adequate seedling survival, and the relative low cost in relation to expected future return and natural regeneration of primarily Douglas-fir is occurring and is expected to continue.
The landowners’ want to regenerate openings in the WO4P type with nut trees (such as pecans), native hardwoods, and incense cedar, and Port Orford cedar in draws and near the wet meadow. They would also like to plant some areas with berries, especially gooseberries.
If conifers are planted in the WO4P type, seedlings should be from seed zones 312 or 303, elevation zone 2,500-3,500 feet, although stock from seed zones 302, 311, 332, or 340, in that order, may be substituted. It is recommended that species native to the area be planted, although Port Orford cedar can be successfully planted in wetter areas. Two year old bare root seedlings in vigorous condition are cheapest and best, although one year old container stock is easier to store and handle. It is recommended to plant trees on a 12’ x 12’ spacing, which will require about 300 trees per acre. Planting spots should be scalped to mineral soil in a two-foot diameter circle to remove competing vegetation from the root zone of the seedlings. In subsequent years a five-foot radius circle may need to be scalped where shrubs are competing for moisture. Seedlings will likely need to be protected from deer browsing until they are well established. Plastic seedling protectors held in place with bamboo stakes are suitable for this purpose.
Forest Stand Improvement
There are opportunities to do a pre-commercial/commercial thinning in the DFR4D, MHC3D, and MHW4D forest types. Thinning will generally increase the growth rates of selected trees and shorten the time for them to attain merchantable size. It will also shorten the time required for them to grow to a size where they will be more resistant to damage by wildfires. Removing understory ladder fuels will reduce the chance of surface fires travelling into the forest canopy and causing a crown fire. By reducing mortality from suppression and by increasing the health and vigor of the remaining trees, thinning will capture more of the growing site’s productivity in desirable trees. Vigorous, healthy trees tend to produce more abundant seed crops, which increases wildlife forage and natural regeneration.
As wildfire is the most immediate risk to the forest and the landowners’ lives and personal property, the highest priority areas for thinning are those surrounding or adjacent to inhabited structures, equipment and tool storage structures, and water intake and storage facilities, and those areas along main access roads. These areas are primarily in the DFR4D, MHC3D, and MHW4D forest types (see “Project Areas” map).
The next highest priority areas for thinning are overly dense stands in the DFR4D type, where the highest volume and value of commercial conifers (primarily Douglas-fir) is found. The next highest priority is in MHC3D stands, starting with the stand to the west of and adjacent to the wet meadow. The lowest priority is accessible stands in the MHW4D type. In most cases those stands that are most accessible by equipment should be thinned first (see “Project Areas” map).
Ideally, thinning should open the crown canopy enough to allow crowns to expand unhampered for 10-15 years, but not so much as to encourage the retention of lower limbs in conifers or cause forking in hardwoods. It is better to maintain a higher stem density at a younger age to encourage rapid height growth and straight, limb-free boles. When hardwoods have attained whatever height is desired to be free from forks (consider what product is desired) thinning should open the canopy for longer periods of time. For conifers, this is generally when the limbs have died on the first eighteen feet of the trunk. Closer spacing in conifers favors natural pruning and reduced taper, desirable in pole production. Poles are the most valuable commercial product from conifers with 10-20 inch DBHs. Wider spacing maximizes diameter growth for sawlog production.
When selecting conifer trees to retain, those that are straight, free from defect and disease, have small limbs and full, well-balanced crowns on at least 40% of their bole, and are in a dominant or codominant position should be favored. Conversely, weak, poorly-formed, diseased, and defective trees from any crown class should be removed from the stand, unless they have attributes desirable for wildlife habitat or production of mosses that harbor cyanobacteria.
Hardwood crop trees should be selected using the same criteria as for conifers, but in order to prevent forking or sweep in the bole they should be in a dominant position. Crop trees should be kept in this position throughout their lifetimes to produce the highest quality wood. Surrounding trees may be used to train them in this position.
As thinning generates a lot of slash and can be costly, the landowner intends to investigate markets in order to utilize as much of the thinned products as possible. Possible marketable products are posts, rails, poles, fuel wood, chips, and Christmas trees.
With regard to slash treatment, the best time for thinning is in late spring or early summer when slash may be lopped and scattered to dry before wood borers and bark beetles can infest it. Slash from fall or winter operations should be piled and burned when weather conditions permit.
For sawlog production it is sometimes desirable to prune the limbs from the lower eighteen feet of the bole, but always leaving at least one third of the bole with a live, healthy crown. This ensures knot-free butt logs, where the greatest commercial volume and value is. However, this is only of importance if local mills pay a premium for such logs.
Pruning also interrupts fuel ladders to tree crowns, which reduces the chance of surface fires travelling into the forest canopy and creating crown fires, which are very difficult to control. Pruning slash should be treated as thinning slash.
If funds from one of the NRCS or CAL FIRE cost-share programs are applied for (EQIP or CFIP), minimum spacing specifications between tree trunks and/or crowns must be complied with. NRCS thinning practices are only for pre-commercial thinning, which will generally be trees 8” DBH and smaller for Douglas-fir and 10” DBH and smaller for pines. Thinning must be completed within a relatively short time period, so there is no opportunity to do a two-stage thinning. Before applying for cost-share funding, thinning specifications should to be reviewed for both programs to insure they will further landowner management objectives.
The two “shotgun” culverts noted on the Vegetation Types map, one on USFS Road at a Class III watercourse crossing and one under the power line at the outfall of a ditch relief culvert on the road to Bear Creek Studio, need to be modified to reduce erosion in the outfall zone. There are a couple of ways to do this. The preferred way is to shorten the outfall end of the culvert and attach an elbow and section of pipe that ends at the grade of the draw below the road. Rock of adequate size should then be placed below the outfall to dissipate the energy of the water. The other way is to place rock below the outfall of the existing culvert to dissipate the energy of the falling water.
A few of the dirt-surfaced internal roads are seasonal because of excessive erosion (rutting) when wet. If all-year use of the cabins in the western portion of the Ranch is anticipated, some sections of the access roads will require gravelling.
Where the road to the “View Cabin” enters the WO3P type from the east, there is an inside ditch that channels water from a draw in a manner that is causing erosion. This problem can be fixed by installation of a culvert and/or addition of rock armoring to the ditch.
Further down the road in the WO3P type a Class III watercourse crosses the road. To head off any potential erosion damage, the road fill at this point should be rocked.
The forest manager uses a backhoe to maintain road surfaces and ditches to control erosion and ensure drivability. Since a few of the dirt-surfaced internal roads are seasonal due to excessive erosion (rutting) when wet, they should not be driven on for maintenance purposes when wet. One of the best times for identifying and correcting road-related erosion problems is during storms. Walking roads with a shovel during storms can enable quick fixes of small problems that could otherwise accelerate rapidly, causing major erosional damage.
A common cause of road related erosion is a culvert inlet plugging with debris during storms, especially summer thunderstorms, causing water to flow down the road, creating a gully in the road surface and fill. There are several measures that can be taken to minimize this hazard. The most effective is to remove culverts at seasonal watercourses and replace them with dips rocked above, below, and across the road. This will allow traffic to cross even when water is flowing, without causing erosion to the channel or road.
Another way to minimize the erosion hazard is to create a dip and berm on the road down slope from the culvert and rock the dip and its outfall over the road fill and the culvert inlet and outlet. If the culvert fails, water will flow over and off the road through the rocked dip.
Other measures that may be needed in some situations are installation of culvert risers on the inlet end where excessive sediment transport might plug inlets and installation of debris gates to trap woody debris that might block inlets. And, as stated above, checking culvert inlets and other watercourse crossing structures during storms can be highly beneficial.
There is minor mortality of Douglas-firs by bark beetles (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae). Minor mortality in sugar and ponderosa pines is probably caused by the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae), although either the western pine beetle (Dendroctonus brevicomis) or the pine engraver beetle (Ips sps.) could be the causative agent. To control these species, infested trees can be felled and cut into firewood or lumber, or shredded, to dry out the cambium under the bark, which will kill at least some of the beetle larvae. Maintaining stand conditions that enhance tree health and vigor and maintaining a mixed-species stand will also aid in their control. Thinning operations should be timed for summer or fall, when humidity is low and tops and limbs will dry out rapidly. This will limit infestation by Ips sp., which infest these tree parts.
Sporophores (fruiting bodies, or conks) of conk rot (Phellinus pini), also known as red ring rot or white speck, were observed on some Douglas-firs, primarily in the area south of USFS Road. Old sporophores of velvet top fungus (Phaeolus schweinitzii), also known as cow pie fungus or red-brown butt rot, were observed near the stumps of some large Douglas-firs, primarily in the DFR4D type. The only practical treatments for these problems are to remove infected trees from the stand to reduce spore production, maintain stand conditions that enhance tree health and vigor, and maintain a mixed-species stand.
The best treatment to prevent damage to trees from destructive agents is to maintain a healthy, vigorous forest through timely thinning and harvesting. A healthy tree is less likely to be infested with insects or disease, or to succumb to these destructive agents, than an unhealthy tree.
It would also be beneficial to encourage species of birds which prey on insects, especially bark beetles, which are destructive to conifers. The best way to do this is to learn about the specific habitat requirements for desired birds and then provide as much of these elements as possible. California Wildlife and Their Habitats: Western Sierra Nevada (General Technical Report PSW-37), by Reginald Barrett, et. al., U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, Berkeley, CA, contains information on the habitat requirements of many of the species that are found on this Ranch. Many of the birds desired for insect control require cavities in snags for nesting. This habitat need can be supplied by retaining snags and/or by placing nest boxes throughout the property, but especially near riparian areas.
Bears sometimes damage young conifer saplings by breaking off their tops when they mark their territories. In some areas they strip bark from the trunks of trees to eat the cambium, weakening or killing the trees. No such damage was observed on the Ranch or is known to occur in Trinity County, although it is common on the Hupa Indian Reservation and on the coast.
Small populations of yellow starthistles (Centaurea solstitialis) are found in some grassy areas of the Ranch. Other landowners have been able to effectively control this species by hand pulling plants before they go to seed. The best time to do this is when the plants are young and in the early morning when the roots are held less tightly by the soil. If the seed head has already formed, plants should be removed from the area and burned in a stove. Alternatively, where there are populations with many stems, the tops may be removed using a weed eater. The plants will produce new tops, which will need to be removed again, but this will limit the production of flowers and seeds.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), or Klamath weed, is found in some open, grassy areas, especially in the WTM1D type. As the landowners do not have or intend to acquire livestock and no one living in the vicinity runs cattle on the open range, this species is not a problem.
One of the best ways to keep track of pest problems is to periodically walk through the Ranch, looking for recent damage. Such damage, especially that caused by bark beetles, is generally quite obvious, usually identified by yellowing, then browning, crowns and woodpecker removal of the outer bark of the trunks.
The only fire of substantial size (>100 acres) recorded in the watershed since 1910 was the fire in 1987, which burned a large area from Hyampom north into the Eltapom Creek drainage and up to the southeast corner of the property. It can be expected that despite all efforts, another large fire will occur again sometime in the future. The mix of residential development, forest and shrub lands, hot summer weather, and high fire ignition risk make fire and fuel management of high concern to the landowners.
All of the lands in the watersheds that include the Skunk Ranch are rated very high fire hazard severity by CAL FIRE’s Fire & Resource Assessment Program (FRAP). Fire hazard severity, a classification applied to all lands that CAL FIRE has fire control responsibility for (but also extending to other wildlands), is a measure of hazard, risk, and values at risk. The wildfire threat, an index based on potential fire behavior (fuel rank) and expected fire frequency (fire rotation) is rated very high for the watersheds. This rating for the Skunk Ranch watersheds is supported by the following factors:
Residential areas are bordered by steep slopes with flammable fuels.
Roads to some structures are not adequate to accommodate 2-way fire control traffic.
USFS Road is a dead end road and the only egress into and out of the Skunk Ranch.
USFS Roads and are well-traveled during hunting season when fire weather may still prevail.
Fire start records for the watersheds and surrounding areas indicate that human caused fires were mostly started along roads and in residential areas.
Fire season weather tends to be hot, dry, and sometimes windy.
Wildland vegetation tends to be dense, with most areas having continuous fuels, including dead fuel on the ground.
Fire ladders exist in many areas.
The nearest fire station is a considerable distance from the Skunk Ranch.
Summer lightning storms are the primary source of fire ignitions during dry, hot periods in late summer when fuels are most flammable. They are the main cause of catastrophic fire starts. Lightning from summer thunderstorms is the main source of ignition in the Buckeye, Twin Lakes and Eltapom Creek watersheds, causing about 66 (85%) of the approximately 78 fires started between 1910 and 2001, with most of those fires starting on mid to upper slopes.
The following is a synopsis of the types of fire that might occur on the Ranch, taken from a “Report on a Literature Search Pertaining to Fuelbreaks and Fire Behavior” prepared by Kenneth Baldwin in 2005 for the NRCS (the report is included on the CD attached to this plan). Text quoted from that report is italicized.
An understanding of the types of fires encountered in northern California can help fire and fuel managers assess the efficacy of pre-fire fuel treatments. Fire managers generally recognize three types of fires, ground, surface, and crown, based upon the flaming front pattern (Agee 1993, Davis, Baldwin, Peterson, National Wildfire Coordinating Group).
Ground fires are those that consume organic matter (duff) beneath the surface litter layer. These are slow moving, hard to detect, difficult to control where duff is thick, and often the most destructive of fires (they can kill roots and the cambium at the base of trees) (Agee 1993, Davis, Peterson, National Wildfire Coordinating Group). On the Skunk Ranch, this type of fire is likely to occur only at the base of older trees, especially ponderosa pines, where duff and litter have built up over many decades.
Surface fires are those that burn surface litter, limbs and logs, and small vegetation (grass, shrubs, and seedling and sapling trees) without burning large areas of forest canopy (Agee 1993, Davis, National Wildfire Coordinating Group). There may also be some torching of trees and some ground fire in duff. These fires are highly variable, depending upon surface-fuel packing, bulk densities, and size-class distributions (Peterson). Depending upon the fuels, these fires can spread rapidly (Agee 1993; Baldwin). Surface fires generally have flame lengths under 10’ and fireline intensities under 812 BTU/sec/ft. These fires can be further divided into surface fires with 0-3.27’ flame lengths and intensities <75 BTU/sec/ft and understory fires with 3.28-9.9’ flame lengths and intensities from 75-812 BTU/sec/ft. Hand crews can generally control surface fires while understory fires are too intense for direct attack (Agee 1993). This is the most likely fire to occur on the Skunk Ranch and the most benign in terms of severity of damage to trees. Pre-fire fuel treatments can create conditions that will most likely generate surface fires with low flame lengths.
Crown fires are those that spread through the crowns of trees and shrubs. They (and grass fires) are generally the fastest spreading fires. Crown fires are the least amenable to control. (Davis) They can be classified as either passive/active or active/independent (Baldwin, Peterson, National Wildfire Coordinating Group).
Passive/active fires are a combination of surface fires that support extensive passive and active crown fires. Passive crown fires, commonly called torching, result from vertical flare-ups of surface fire through fuel ladders into the overstory canopy. These fires do not spread horizontally through the canopy. Active (continuous) crown fires, the most common type of sustained crown fire, are dependent upon and synchronous with surface fires that supply enough heat energy and/or embers to maintain the canopy fire (Baldwin; Peterson, National Wildfire Coordinating Group). These are the second most likely fires to occur on the Skunk Ranch and can cause substantial damage to overstory trees from torching. Pre-fire fuel treatments can create conditions that will reduce torching and most likely generate surface fires with low flame lengths.
Active/independent crown fires can move through the canopy independently of surface fires when the crowns of trees are spaced closely enough, their bulk density and flammability is great enough, wind speeds are high enough, and fire intensity is great enough to maintain the fire energy. (Baldwin; Peterson, National Wildfire Coordinating Group) Crown fires generally have flame lengths over 10’ and fireline intensities over 812 BTU/sec/ft (but can range up to 11,600 BTU/sec/ft or more) (Agee 1993). These are the least likely fires to occur on the Skunk Ranch as there are several natural fuel breaks that will likely interrupt crown fires; the power line right-of-way, white oak woodlands interspersed with grasslands, the wet meadow/marsh area, and the ridgeline road above the SPI clearcut. Active/independent crown fires are also rare along stream zones, at the base of slopes, and on flat ground.
An alternative classification for crown fires divides them into three phases based upon critical levels of surface fireline intensity and crown fire rate of spread (ROS). These phases are: 1) a passive crown fire, where the ROS of both crown and surface fires are equal and only tree torching is occurring, 2) an active crown fire where the ROS is above a minimum spread rate, 3) an independent crown fire where the ROS is mostly independent of heat from the surface fire, and 4) a conditional surface fire, where the active crowning ROS exceeds a critical level, but the critical intensity level for surface fire is not met (i.e. a crown fire will not initiate from a surface fire but an active crown fire may spread from an adjacent stand) (Agee).
The Anderson Fire Behavior Fuel Models are a commonly used classification for fuels (Anderson, Hal E., “Aids to Determining Fuel Models For Estimating Fire Behavior”, GTR-INT-122, April 1982). These models were refined to incorporate more site specific fuel conditions by Joe Scott and Robert Burgan (Scott, Joe H. & Burgan, Robert E., “Standard Fire Behavior Fuel Models: A Comprehensive Set for Use with Rothermel’s Surface Fire Spread Model”, RMRS-GTR-153, June 2005). These publications are included on the CD attached to this plan.
Using these models, the DFR4D type is primarily represented by Fire Behavior Fuel Model 8, Fire Spread Model TL3 (moderate load, conifer litter), although there are areas of FM 9 and 10. The dead surface fuels are needle and limb litter from the second-growth trees and scattered residual conifer logs from the logging in the 1950s that are in advanced stages of decomposition, as well as more recent logs from snapped off tops and windfalls. The live surface fuels in this type consist of scattered conifer seedlings and saplings and sparse shrubs, forbs, and grasses. In general the surface fuels are of low hazard as they are scattered, low to the ground, and are generally of larger diameter than the fuels that mainly contribute to rapid fire spread. But there are spots where surface fuels, including small shrubs, are more concentrated and could cause flames to flare higher. There are also discontinuous clumps of dense, pole-sized conifers that can act as fuel ladders. The dense canopies in these areas provide avenues for fire to travel between tree crowns.
In Fire Behavior Fuel Model 8, “Slow-burning ground fires with low flame lengths are generally the case, although the fire may encounter an occasional jackpot or heavy fuel concentration that can flare up. Only under severe weather conditions involving high temperatures, low humidities, and high winds do the fuels pose fire hazards. Closed canopy stands of short-needle conifers or hardwoods that have leafed out support fire in the compact litter layer. This layer is mainly needles, leaves, and occasionally twigs because little undergrowth is present in the stand.” Total fuel load of live and dead fine woody material less than 3” in diameter is estimated at 5 tons/acre. The dead fuel load of material less than ¼” in diameter is estimated at 1.5 tons/acre and the live fuel load of foliage is estimated at 0 tons/acre. The fuel bed depth is estimated at 0.2 feet (Anderson, 1982). Based on a fire carrying fuel type of TL3 (moderate load, conifer litter), under the worst summer fire weather conditions (midflame wind speed of 9+ MPH and very low dead fuel moisture), fire rate of spread is approximately 5.2 chains/hour (1 chain = 66’), with flame lengths of 1.9 feet. (Scott & Burgan, 2005)
The MHC3D type is about evenly represented by Fire Behavior Fuel Models 8 and 9, Fire Spread Model TL2 (low load, broadleaf litter), although there are areas of FM 10. The dead surface fuels are leaf, needle and limb litter from the second-growth trees and scattered residual conifer logs from the logging in the 1950s that are in advanced stages of decomposition, as well as more recent logs from snapped off tops and windfalls. The live surface fuels in this type consist of scattered conifer and hardwood seedlings and saplings and sparse shrubs, forbs, and grasses. In general, the surface fuels are of low hazard as they are scattered, low to the ground, and are generally of larger diameter than the fuels that mainly contribute to rapid fire spread. But there are spots where surface fuels, including small shrubs, are more concentrated and could cause flames to flare higher. There are also discontinuous clumps of dense, pole-sized conifers that can act as fuel ladders. The dense canopies in these areas provide avenues for fire to travel between tree crowns.
In Fire Behavior Fuel Model 9, “Fires run through the surface litter faster than model 8 and have longer flame height. Both long-needle conifer stands and hardwood stands, especially the oak-hickory types, are typical. Fall fires in hardwoods are predictable, but high winds will actually cause higher rates of spread than predicted because of spotting caused by rolling and blowing leaves. Closed stands of long-needled pine like ponderosa, Jeffrey, and red pines, or southern pine plantations are grouped in this model. Concentrations of dead-down woody material will contribute to possible torching out of trees, spotting, and crowning.” Total fuel load of live and dead fine woody material less than 3” in diameter is estimated at 3.5 tons/acre. The dead fuel load of material less than ¼” in diameter is estimated at 2.9 tons/acre and the live fuel load of foliage is estimated at 0 tons/acre. The fuel bed depth is estimated at 0.2 feet (Anderson, 1982). Based on a fire carrying fuel type of TL2 (low load, broadleaf litter), under the worst summer fire weather conditions (midflame wind speed of 9+ MPH and very low dead fuel moisture), fire rate of spread is approximately 3.75 chains/hour (1 chain = 66’), with flame lengths of 1.4 feet (Scott & Burgan, 2005).
The MHW4D type is primarily represented by Fire Behavior Fuel Model 8, Fire Spread Model TL2 (low load, broadleaf litter), although there are areas of FM 9. The dead surface fuels are primarily leaf and limb litter from the second-growth hardwoods and scattered residual conifer logs from the logging in the 1950s that are in advanced stages of decomposition, as well as more recent logs from snapped off tops and windfalls. The live surface fuels in this type consist of clumps and scattered seedlings and saplings (primarily canyon live oak) and sparse shrubs, forbs, and grasses. In general the surface fuels are of low hazard as they are scattered, low to the ground, and are generally of larger diameter than the fuels that mainly contribute to rapid fire spread. But there are spots where surface fuels, including small shrubs, are more concentrated and could cause flames to flare higher. There are also discontinuous clumps of dense, pole-sized conifers that can act as fuel ladders. The dense canopies in these areas provide avenues for fire to travel between tree crowns. The specific fire behavior characteristics of FM 8 are described above.
The MHW3D and NC types are primarily represented by Fire Behavior Fuel Model 9, Fire Spread Model TL2 (low load, broadleaf litter). The dead surface fuels are primarily leaf, needle, and limb litter and scattered conifer logs from the logging in 2001. The live surface fuels in these types consist of clumps and scattered tree seedlings and saplings (primarily canyon live oak) and sparse shrubs, forbs, and grasses. In general the surface fuels are of low hazard as they are scattered, low to the ground, and are generally of larger diameter than the fuels that mainly contribute to rapid fire spread. But there are spots where surface fuels, including small shrubs, are more concentrated and could cause flames to flare higher. There are also discontinuous clumps of dense, pole-sized conifers and hardwoods. The specific fire behavior characteristics of FM 9 are described above.
The WO3P type and the WTM1D type (when dry) are represented by Fire Behavior Fuel Model 1, Fire Spread Model GR2. The dead surface fuel is primarily grass. The live surface fuels in this type consist of grasses and forbs, with trees in clumps and as scattered individuals. The surface fuels in this type are of low hazard when they are green, but are of increasing hazard as they die and cure. Fires in dead grass generally spread rapidly, are of high intensity, and can have quite high flame lengths that can spread fire into surrounding trees. The Lowden fire near Lewiston started as a grass fire that jumped a road and eventually burned 23 homes and about 2,000 acres of forest.
In Fire Behavior Fuel Model 1, “Fire spread is governed by the fine, very porous, and continuous herbaceous fuels that have cured or are nearly cured. Fires are surface fires that move rapidly through the cured grass and associated material. Very little shrub or timber is present, generally less than one-third of the area. Grasslands and savanna are represented along with stubble, grass-tundra, and grass-shrub combinations that met the above area constraint. Annual and perennial grasses are included in this fuel model.” Total fuel load of live and dead fine woody material less than 3” in diameter is estimated at 0.74 tons/acre. The dead fuel load of material less than ¼” in diameter is estimated at 0.74 tons/acre and the live fuel load of foliage is estimated at 0 tons/acre. The fuel bed depth is estimated at 1 foot (Anderson, 1982). Based on a fire carrying fuel type of GR2 (low load, dry climate grass), under the worst summer fire weather conditions (midflame wind speed of 13+ MPH and very low dead fuel moisture), fire rate of spread is approximately 100 chains/hour (1 chain = 66’), with flame lengths of 8 feet (Scott & Burgan, 2005).
The WO4P type is represented by two Fire Behavior Fuel Models, FM 1, Fire Spread Model GR2 and FM 5, Fire Spread Model SH1. The specific fire behavior characteristics of FM 1 are described above. The dead surface fuel is primarily young shrubs (greenleaf and whiteleaf manzanita, deerbrush, gooseberry, blackcap, California hazel) and annual grass. The live surface fuels in this type consist of young shrubs, grasses, and forbs, with trees in clumps and as scattered individuals. The surface fuels in this type are of low hazard when they are green, but are of increasing hazard as they die and cure.
In Fire Behavior Fuel Model 5, “Fire is generally carried in the surface fuels that are made up of litter cast by the shrubs and the grasses or forbs in the understory. The fires are generally not very intense because surface fuel loads are light, the shrubs are young with little dead material, and the foliage contains little volatile material. Usually shrubs are short and almost totally cover the area. Young, green stands with no dead wood would qualify: laurel, vine maple, alder, or even chaparral, manzanita, or chemise.” Total fuel load of live and dead fine woody material less than 3” in diameter is estimated at 3.5 tons/acre. The dead fuel load of material less than ¼” in diameter is estimated at 1.0 tons/acre and the live fuel load of foliage is estimated at 2.0 tons/acre. The fuel bed depth is estimated at 2.0 feet (Anderson, 1982). Based on a fire carrying a fuel type of SH1 (low shrub fuel load with some grass, dry climate), under the worst summer fire weather conditions (midflame wind speed of 5+ MPH and very low dead fuel moisture), fire rate of spread is approximately 2.5 chains/hour (1 chain = 66’), with flame lengths of 0.9 feet (Scott & Burgan, 2005).
Very few fires (~1%) cause most (98%) of the burned area nationwide. Large fires burning during extreme fire weather conditions may involve large areas of fuel, multiple fires, and fire spotting. Because multiple stands and fuel conditions are involved in large fires, it appears that fuel management is required over large landscapes to reduce the area and severity of fires. Fuel treatment options are needed that are effective during extreme fire weather and in steep, mountain topography, conditions that increase crown fire spread and severity. Treating small or isolated stands without assessing the broader landscape may be ineffective in reducing large-scale crown fire.
That said, there is still value in developing shaded fuelbreaks to protect lives and property, as most fires entering the Ranch are likely to be surface fires. Kenneth Baldwin’s “Report on a Literature Search Pertaining to Fuelbreaks and Fire Behavior”, prepared by Kenneth Baldwin in 2005 for the NRCS, discusses fuelbreaks in depth. In this report, Peterson, David L., et. al., 2004, “Fuel Planning: Science Synthesis and Integration—Forest Structure and Fire Hazard”, Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-xxx, Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, is quoted as follows:
“In forest stands that have not experienced fire or thinning for several decades, heavy thinning combined with (often multiple) prescribed-fire or other surface-fuel treatments, or both, is necessary to effectively reduce potential fire behavior and crown-fire hazard. Prescriptions for treating individual stands should be developed in the context of fuel conditions across the broader landscape, so that effective spatial patterns of reduced fuel can be maintained over decades. Until more empirical data on the effectiveness of fuel treatments in reducing fire behavior and fire effects in large fires are available, the following scientific principles can be used to guide decision making: (1) reduce surface fuel, (2) increase canopy base height, (3) reduce canopy density, and (4) retain larger trees.”
To enhance fire control efforts, facilitate the use of prescribed fire, and increase the fire resiliency of the forest, it is advisable to thin stands to remove conifer seedlings, saplings, and lower and mid-story conifers to reduce ladder fuels and open the tree canopy. Retain the largest diameter, fire-resistant trees. Where they are found, retain a greater proportion of hardwoods, as their leaf shape and arrangement provide less developed fuel ladders. The lower limbs of residual trees should then be pruned to increase the distance between the base of the crowns and surface fuels (shrubs and litter). This distance should be at least three times the height of surface fuels. Tree boles can be utilized for fences, firewood, or other uses. Slash can be disposed of by piling and burning, lopping and scattering, either with or without a follow-up broadcast burn, and/or chipping/shredding for use as mulch.
Priority areas for fuel reduction thinning are as follows:
The DFR4D forest north of the power line, south of the WO3P type, and southwest of the main house.
The DFR4D and MHC3D forests within 200 feet north and south of the main access road through the Ranch.
The MHC3D forest within 200 feet of Bear Creek Studio and access road.
The DFR4D and MHC3D forests within 200 feet of USFS Road 4N09, from the west end of the main internal property access road to the east boundary of the property.
On National Forest lands, within 200 feet of USFS Road 4N09 between the east boundary of the property to the junction with the east end of the main access road to the property and along the eastern leg of the main access road.
The DFR4D and MHW4D forests within 200 feet of the two cabins in the northwest corner of the APZ parcel.
Prescribed fire can be used effectively to reduce fuels that would otherwise hamper fire suppression efforts during wildfires. The surface fuel conditions and much of the topography in the DFR4D and MHC3D types is ideal for both piling and burning or broadcast burning. The existing water system, supplemented by fire trucks, can assist in control of prescribed fire. However, the landowners prefer shredding or chipping litter, waste wood, and ladder fuels for use as a medium for soil factory/worm castings.
The three main internal access roads that join up with USFS Road 4N09 are adequately gated and posted. However, there is a dirt road entering the Ranch through National Forest in the southern 40-acres of the APZ parcel and an ATV road entering from underneath the power line in the same parcel that are not gated. These roads should be blocked or gated and posted to discourage trespass.
The Ranch is fenced and posted along some sections of USFS Road 4N09, but the fence and signs need to be maintained to discourage trespass. The portion of USFS Road 4N34 that runs through the Ranch is not fenced, so better signage would help discourage trespass.
Law enforcement is provided by the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department (emergency 911), Bruce Haney, Sheriff (530) 623-3740. Law enforcement on the National Forest is provided by the Hayfork Ranger District (530) 628-5227.
Streams, Wetlands, and Ponds
Water conservation is critical to maintaining adequate in-stream flows to support fish and other aquatic species during the dry months of the year. The Summer 2013 “Conservation Almanac” published by the Trinity County RCD lists ten water conservation best practices. It references a brochure, “Know Your Water Rights”, created by the Salmonid Restoration Federation that outlines the rights and responsibilities of people who divert water from springs and creeks. The brochure is included on the CD attached to this plan. The “Conservation Almanac” also references regulation of water storage tanks by the State Water Resources Control Board. The Division of Water Rights of the Board can be accessed at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/index.shtml to obtain information and necessary permits.
No ponds exist on the Ranch, but there is a location in the wet meadow at the head of a seasonal watercourse (see “Vegetation Types” map) that would be suitable for construction of a small pond. Ponds create excellent habitat for amphibians and Western pond turtles and attract a variety of other wildlife. The landowners will consult with Pat Higgins regarding a development plan for the marsh/pond. Engineers from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and/or the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are another resource for help in planning.
The main access road to the Ranch crosses Buckhorn Creek over a bridge. The road approaching this bridge has the potential to transport sediment into the creek. The road should be adequately graveled to prevent disturbance of the soil, water bars should be maintained to prevent rilling or gullying of the road surface, and a vegetative filter strip should be maintained between the road and the creek to trap sediment.
Outside of the Ranch, USFS Road crosses Buckhorn Creek with an undeveloped ford. This ford ranges from dangerous to impassable during the winter months. As Buckhorn Creek is tributary to Eltapom Creek, which supports an anadromous fishery, it behooves the USFS to upgrade this ford to reduce sediment transport into the creek. This can be done relatively cheaply by installing a concrete apron containing a culvert for low flows or by installing a flatcar bridge. The USFS and Trinity County RCD should be contacted regarding this work.
Sediment sources that are entering Buckhorn Creek through the Class II tributary running through the most southern portion of the APZ parcel and Class III tributaries to it need to be stabilized. Specific contributors to sedimentation need to be identified and classified as to the severity of their contribution during the first winter storms of 2013-2014. Stabilization should begin in 2014. The dirt road that enters the most southern portion of the APZ parcel from the east, just south of USFS Road, has been cut by a Class III channel and is a priority for stabilization, by installing a rocked dip. Erosion from the power line right-of-way and sedimentation from roads, including USFS Road and the access road to Bear Creek Studio, are likely to be major contributors. The road along the Class II watercourse and the washed out crossing of it may also be contributors.
The eroding stream banks along some portions of the three Class III tributaries that converge into the main tributary to Buckeye Creek that is just north of USFS Road 4N09 need to be stabilized. This will be a major project requiring placement of rock armoring, willow wattles, and re-vegetation with suitable plants. Suitable plants that will also provide food for wildlife and birds may be elderberry, blueberry, California blackberry, western raspberry (blackcap), snowberry, wild rose, wild grape, sunflower, Lotus, Melilotus, lupine, clover, vetch, sedge, barley, fescue, brome, and/or needlegrass. Consult “A Study of Plant Materials Suitable for Use in Watershed and Wildlife Habitat Improvement in the Trinity River Watershed, California” by Stephen Matthews, Michael Furniss, and Tom Leskiw, 1990, which is included on the CD attached to this plan. Consult with engineers from the NRCS, RCD, and/or CDFW for stream bank stabilization specifications.
The land slides below the road in the MHW4D type need to be stabilized. The most practical way of doing this is to first prevent runoff from the road above the slides from flowing onto the slides. Actively eroding portions of the slides should be re-vegetated with a combination of the native shrubs and grasses found in the area. Shrub seeds can be collected on the Ranch and grown to produce seedlings that can be used for re-vegetation. Alternatively, seedlings can be obtained from the RCD. Native perennial grass seed should be obtained from an outside source, as it will be difficult to collect an adequate supply from the Ranch.
In the event of future soil or vegetation-disturbing projects, buffers of undisturbed vegetation, leaf litter, and soil should to be maintained on either side of the creeks to act as sediment filter strips, to protect stream banks from erosion, and to shade the creeks. Care needs to be taken to prevent sediment and debris from entering the creeks and to minimize excessive water temperatures, especially during summer and fall. On Buckhorn Creek stream buffers should be 75 feet wide (slope distance) on slopes up to 30%, 100 feet wide on 30-50% slopes, and 150 feet wide on slopes greater than 50%. On Buckeye Creek and all Class II tributaries, buffers should be 30 feet wide on slopes up to 30%, 50 feet wide on 30-50% slopes, and 100 feet wide on slopes greater than 50%. On Class III tributaries, buffers should be 25 feet wide on slopes up to 30% and 50 feet wide on slopes greater than 30%. Runoff from roads and exposed soils needs to be routed in a manner which will allow it to pass through this filter strip before entering the creeks.
There may be opportunities to improve wildlife habitat in the forested areas through vegetation management. In general, many species of wildlife benefit from an increase in “edge”, the interface between different vegetation/habitat types. This “edge” can be in a vertical and/or horizontal direction and can be created by burning, land clearing, timber harvesting, thinning, and/or planting. Wildlife also benefits from an improvement in any of the conditions necessary for its survival, such as food and water sources and cover. Often only one condition is limiting to the size, health, and/or diversity of wildlife populations and an improvement in that one condition will cause a significant effect.
Any forest management activity can be expected to affect some or all species in some way. Every species has its preferred habitat and some have rather narrow habitat requirements. Species vary in their ability to adapt to suddenly altered, or even slowly changing environments. Some species may be adversely affected by vegetative manipulations. Any species which are particularly valued should be studied thoroughly so their habitat requirements are understood and management activities then tailored to help maintain or enhance their populations. A wildlife biologist could be consulted for species-specific management planning.
If timber harvesting is done, selection, group selection, or commercial thinning is recommended as those methods maintain a relatively stable forest environment and thus minimize the impact on existing wildlife populations. Selection harvesting maintains a multi-storied canopy, which favors a greater abundance of species than a single-storied stand. Douglas-fir, ponderosa and sugar pine, black, white, and canyon live oak, Pacific madrone, California hazel, blackcap, and Himalayan blackberry (a non-native species) are all particularly valuable species found on the Ranch, as they provide abundant food for a variety of wildlife. For other suitable species consult “A Study of Plant Materials Suitable for Use in Watershed and Wildlife Habitat Improvement in the Trinity River Watershed, California” by Stephen Matthews, Michael Furniss, and Tom Leskiw.
Although a park like forest is pleasing to the eye and perhaps more fire safe, it is not as beneficial for wildlife as a forest with logs and snags, rotten, decadent hardwoods, and at least some tangled thickets. Logs provide habitat for small mammals, some birds, and for over a hundred invertebrates, which in turn become food for small mammals, birds, and even bears. Snags are habitat for many invertebrates and provide nesting, denning, roosting, and perching sites for a variety of birds and mammals. When harvesting trees, retain at least one snag per acre over 18 inches in diameter, two snags per acre in the 12-18 inch diameter class, and six snags per acre in the 6-12 inch class and leave ten logs of various sizes. Leave a mix of conifer and hardwood snags. A “messy” forest provides more foraging, roosting, nesting, and cover habitat than a neat and tidy forest. It is recommended that this type of forest be encouraged wherever aesthetics or fire hazard are not of primary concern.
Recreation and Aesthetics
Hiking access over existing trails and skid trails can be improved by tread work and removing trees and shrubs. New trails can be constructed to link various features on the Ranch, such as the bridge over Buckhorn Creek with the water intake up the creek.
The uncompleted cabins should be finished so they can be used as temporary shelters for forest and agricultural workers. In the off season these cabins can be used for retreat housing, for guests, and for training workshops.
The forest adjacent to USFS Road will be managed to enhance its ability to screen the Ranch from the road. This screen will serve a threefold function, acting as a filter to muffle road noise, creating visual privacy for the landowner and wildlife, and discouraging illegal shooting of wildlife from the road.
Slash (waste wood) from forest stand improvement projects or sawmilling will not be disposed of by burning. Some wood may be burnt to heat a conifer resin steam distillation unit. The majority of the waste wood will become carbon-sink carbon, since it will be converted to soil and worm castings, which will eventually be used to provide nutrients for the growth of new vegetation that will sequester carbon rather than emit it.
It is possible that pile burning of slash or broadcast underburning will be done in selected areas for purposes of agro-forestry management. If this is done, the required permit will be obtained from the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District and burning will only be done on permissive burn days. Information on the type of permit required, the cost, and burning requirements can be obtained by calling (707) 443-3093 or visiting the website at www.ncuaqmd.org.
Climate Considerations and Carbon Sequestration
The forest management practices anticipated for this property are designed in part to enhance the sequestration of atmospheric carbon. This makes the Ranch suitable for profitable carbon sequestration/carbon credit programs. Funds should be granted to measure carbon sink carbon, i.e. carbon already sequestered and stored in the ground. This can be done quite cheaply with a small core drill, e.g., small diameter pipe driven into the ground, so the core of soil can be tested for carbon content. The core drilled carbon plus the carbon held in the living trees can be combined to create a carbon baseline. The periodic test will provide quantitative totals of sequestered carbon. The Skunk Ranch would like to establish a carbon baseline so that it can someday sell carbon credits on the carbon market.
The efficacy of carbon offsets from forest management is an ever evolving subject. It behooves the landowners to stay abreast of developments in this regard. The August 2013 issue of “Science Findings” published by the USFS PNW Research Station, presents information on carbon offsets that should be considered. This issue is included on the CD attached to this plan.
Other issues that should be investigated are the costs and requirements associated with producing certified carbon credits that can be sold on the carbon market. For such a small property, these costs may prohibit this avenue for producing net revenue.
The landowners’ have set up ownership of the Ranch as a California Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). This will allow the Ranch to be preserved in as close to perpetuity as possible. They will attempt to have at least three generations connected with the land, with enough people to assure sustainable self-sufficiency for the residents and the land. The ultimate goal is to prevent sale of the land or land use that would harm the ecosystem.
For larger properties, conservation easements are sometimes used to limit development during the lifetime of or following the death of the owners. Conservation easements put permanent legal restrictions on development, which are then enforced by the organization that holds the easement. Typically there is an initial fee for setting up the easement followed by an annual fee to monitor it. However, the current zoning of the land as APZ and TPZ (see Appendix 2) adequately limits future development, provided the landowners continue to comply with the required restrictions.
One option of interest to the landowners is an elk nursery to raise Roosevelt elk for reintroduction into the wild. This would require a license from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There would also need to be provision for a food source for the animals as they were being raised.