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HFQLG Forest Recovery Act, Pilot Project

Feather River Region

Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, Pilot Project

  • Location: Plumas, Lassen, and Tahoe National Forests
  • Time Frame: 1998–2012
  • Project Objectives:
    • Manage vegetation and fuels to achieve an all-aged, multistoried, fire-resilient forest

Congress enacted the HFQLG Forest Recovery Act and established the pilot project in 1998. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests have been major players in the forest health, fuels loading, fire management, and watershed restoration area. The pilot project covers approximately 1.5 million acres and in the first 10 years of the program, 175,224 acres have been treated to demonstrate the effectiveness of fuels and vegetation management in meeting ecologic, economic, and fire reduction objectives. Treatment activities include shaded fuel breaks called DFPZs, forest thinning by group and individual tree selection, and riparian management. The desired condition is an all-aged, multi-storied, fire-resilient forest that provides a continuous supply of forest products and promotes community stability. DFPZs have been implemented widely throughout the pilot project area. When wildfires have coincided with completed treatments, the DFPZs consistently have slowed rate of fire spread, reduced fire intensity, reduced impacts on soils and vegetation, and improved suppression capabilities. Following are three example treatments.

Example 1 - The Pitville DFPZ, located on the Hat Creek Ranger District south of Fall River Mills, included 5,500 acres that were commercially thinned and 5,500 acres of controlled burn. The Peterson fire affected a portion of the DFPZ. Hat Creek district fire officers estimated that without the DFPZ, the fire would have been at least 1,000 acres larger and would have been a dangerous crown fire as opposed to a slow-moving ground fire. Vegetation treatment costs were about $500/acre. Fire suppression costs in California generally are about $1,000 to $2,000/acre.

Example 2 - The Kingsbury Rush DFPZ, located northwest of Quincy, was implemented on the Mt. Hough Ranger District of the Plumas National Forest. The area was treated with mechanical thinning and controlled burning in 2003–2005. In July 1998, the Rich wildfire started at the bottom of Feather River Canyon. The DFPZ shaded fuel break slowed the fire so much that firefighters were able to concentrate suppression efforts on higher-priority areas closer to communities. A fire that was expected to burn long into the summer, costing additional money, tying up firefighting resources, and damaging natural resources quickly ran out of steam when it hit the DFPZ. Firefighters were able to suppress the fire before it could burn communities and watersheds.

Example 3 - The Calpine DFPZ is located on the Sierraville Ranger District (Tahoe National Forest) near the community of Calpine. It had been pre-commercially thinned, slash-piled, and burned several years before the Angora Wildfire burned through the area in June 2007. It initially was contained at 2 acres within the DFPZ by a small crew. However, a spot fire approximately 1/8 mile away started and burned out of the DFPZ. When the fire left the untreated area, it aligned with the slope and wind and began torching and crown runs. The fire burned uphill into a second DFPZ with significant intensity. The second DFPZ caused the fire to drop to the ground and once again become a slow-moving, ground-surface fire.