USA — San Bernardino National Forestofficials have started preparations for a multimillion dollar effort to removedrought- and insect-devastated trees north of Crestline.
U.S. Forest Service fire battalion chief David Kelly said the Miller CanyonFuels Reduction Project, intended to reduce fire dangers on more than 4,400acres of forest land, was approved Wednesday.
Work crews have started marking the project area’s boundaries, Kelly said.Actual tree removal could begin in about a month.
“It’s going to be a big helicopter show to start, with helicopters andlogging equipment,” Kelly said.
Kelly announced the project’s approval late Thursday at a community meetingin Lake Arrowhead. The Miller Canyon project – intended to reduce wildfire risksin the Crestline, Valley of Enchantment, Blue Jay and Lake Arrowhead areas – isexpected to cost between $10million and $11million. Also a long-term effort,Kelly said it’s too early to know when the work will be finished.
But the announcement of work in Miller Canyon wasn’t the focus of the LakeArrowhead meeting. Instead, fire and forestry officials sought to informmountain dwellers that over the long haul, people who live in the woods won’t beable to rely
on projects funded byUncle Sam to reduce fire dangers.
“The money’s going to be gone,” San Bernardino County Fire MarshalPeter Brierty warned, adding that people who live in the forest will bearresponsibility for clearing vegetation from their own land.
“It’s going to come back to you year after year after year,”Brierty continued.
In the short term, however, there is a pool of money that mountain landownerscan use to help pay the costs of clearing trees and brush from their ownproperty.
Shawna Patterson Meyer of the nonprofit San Bernardino National ForestAssociation spoke at Thursday’s gathering to promote the reimbursement program,which is called Forest Care.
Meyer, director of Forest Care, said the program launched in June and about75 property owners have participated. The program is open to mountain landownerswho have lots that are smaller than five acres with 200 or more trees per acrestanding on that land.
People who contact Meyer’s organization can arrange for a CaliforniaDepartment of Forestry and Fire Protection forester to evaluate their land.Property owners then are required to choose their own contractor to clear awaytrees. Through Forest Care, 75 percent of tree-removal costs are reimbursed.
The average reimbursement, Meyers said, is about $1,500. The program wasfunded with $6million of U.S. Forest Service money. Meyers said she expectsForest Care will be around for five years.
“We need to get people hopping on this because this is money for them,”Meyers said. “We can’t expect that we can continue to rely on this.”