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Twenty years after the Quincy Library Group formed to address timber management in a swath of Northern California, an independent organization has studied the project and issued a report that indicates mixed results — the group’s forest thinning strategy does reduce the spread and severity of wildfire, but it didn’t attain the desired sociological and economic results.
The latter can be attributed partially to the scale of the project, which never reached its goals, according to the Pinchot Institute, an independent consulting firm selected to conduct the study. Appeals and litigation plagued the project from its inception, limiting the timber sales and acres harvested.
The report’s conclusions, which were released to the public Dec. 17, included the following: “While the HFQLG pilot project originated through an unprecedented type of collaboration, it also included significant federal investment, approximating $293 million, the economic impacts of which cannot be separated from the impacts of management approaches introduced. …
“However, where the HFQLG pilot project was implemented it helped reduce the damaging effects of wildfire, and in the process produced needed economic stimulus, albeit not at the level anticipated.
“That the full effects and potential impact of the HFQLG pilot project remain uncertain well beyond the five year duration first proposed demands caution. The HFQLG pilot project has demonstrated the potential of collaborative engagement, but as yet, not a model for how institutions and collaborative partnerships must adapt to achieve the complex outcomes of promoting forest health, economic stability and maintaining environmental values.”
The Quincy Library Group is scheduled to discuss the report during it Jan. 23 meeting, but one member has already written a response.
John Sheehan analyzed the findings of the report, and summed up by saying, “Whether the federal government learns the lessons on wildfire and the need for a healthy private industry to help carry the load is up to all of us locally.”
Bill Coates, one of the original co-founders of the group, addressed the report’s comments on the cost of implementing the project, which he said was very small “compared to the enormous blank check the federal government has to write to fight fires.”
The report is highly complimentary of the fuel reduction component of the project.
“The implementation of DFPZs (defensible fuel profile zones) as a fuel reduction strategy clearly achieved many of the intended benefits including reduced fire severity,” the report read.
“Wildfires impacting DFPZs repeatedly showed decreases in fire behavior, flame length, and fire severity. The DFPZ treatments also enhanced suppression efforts and effectiveness by serving as anchor points for fire line construction and for burnout activities; they were also used to facilitate safe movement of firefighting personnel and equipment to and from wildfire areas.”
However, when it comes to monitoring, protecting riparian areas and endangered species, the report is less positive.
“However, the spotted owl population within the pilot project area declined during the implementation period and the evaluation of whether the pilot project treatments contributed to this decline was not completed,” the report read.
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