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Master Stewardship Agreement Yields Optimism

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Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors heard an update on projects related to the Master Stewardship Agreement that was signed last December between the county and the Stanislaus National Forest.

The goal is to work together to identify and seek funding for mutually beneficial projects to improve the forest’s health and make it more resilient to wildfire. Part of the stipulation is that the projects receive consensus support of the Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions group, which is comprised of representatives of both industry and conservation interests. YSS has created a Supplemental Project Agreement subcommittee that helps identify projects and make recommendations to the county. Also, the county has subcontracted with the Tuolumne River Trust for project management. The county is required to fund at least 20-percent of the revenue of the MSA and the forest service covers the remainder.

An early project that is near completion is the Looney Stewardship Project, Phase 1. It covers the design work for 994 acres in preparation of a timber sale.

A project that will get underway this winter is referred to as the Two Mile Fuel Reduction Project that will result in 318 acres of mechanical shredding.

Also, the county has recently received a $5-million grant via the California Climate Investment program. The money will allow for commercial thinning of 2,457 acres, up to 500 acres of reforestation, and prep work for 3,788 acres for prescribed burning. However, the most hyped aspect mentioned at today’s meeting was to provide Lidar mapping of 1,403,312 acres across the county. The 3D laser mapping will help identify areas most in need of forest health improvements.

The various supervisors lauded the Lidar plan. District Two Representative Randy Hanvelt stated, “This is high tech, and it eliminates a lot of the cost and manpower of trying to do this…. The neat thing is that we are doing the whole county. It will set up our private landowners, and our fire safe councils, to do work inside the county, to supplement everything else we are doing (on forestlands). This is just amazing.”

A contract has been awarded for the Lidar mapping, and the plan is for it to be carried out sometime later this fall when trees still have leaves and there is minimal snow on the ground.

The county also learned that around $155-milliion in additional California Climate Investment money will be available each of the next five years as part of recent state legislation signed by the governor. County staff, the Forest Service and YSS will meet over the coming months to discuss applying for the next round of funding, as applications are due January 29.

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