USA — Forest Care, an innovative approach to grassroots forest stewardship delivered by the National Forest Association and Cal Fire, is celebrating its second anniversary of restoring mountain forests and helping keep mountain communities safer from fire. Forest Care allots funding received from the U.S. Forest Service to help private landowners thin green vegetation on their forested lots to aid in efforts towards restoring forest health and changing fire behavior in Southern Californias San Bernardino Mountains.
More than 900 landowners have participated in the thinning program, with an amazing $1.8 million committed to reimburse residents for the on-the-ground work occurring on more than 300 privately owned acres across all mountain communities!
“This program is an example of community protection being everybody’s business, said Jeanne Wade Evans, San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor. Im glad to see the sustained congressional and private interest in continuing this important work on lands close to and adjacent to the San Bernardino National Forest.”
The response from residents has been overwhelming, said Shawna Meyer, Forest Care Director. Participants are so positive about their experiences with the program and the way their property looks afterwards. Thinning unhealthy trees on overcrowded lots has been shown to raise property values an average of 1-3% is a huge bonus in todays economy.
Community shows enthusiastic response. Many program participants have noted the programs positive effects on their property as well as in their neighborhood.
From the start of the program to the finish – everyone I came in contact with was wonderful very informative, professional, and personable, said one participant in a survey. This program was a godsend.
According to another participant, All of the foresters we had contact with were excellent as to their knowledge, courtesy and communication, but took such a personal interest that it raised our interest and that of our neighbors. Seven of them and us cannot say enough good things to express our respect and appreciation.
The comments we receive from landowners are amazing, Meyer said, it is exciting and humbling to be part of such a proactive community movement.
Responses to voluntary surveys distributed to landowners who have completed the program indicate that 93% of respondents said they were Very Satisfied with Forest Care overall. In terms of work completed on their property, 89% said they were Very Satisfied. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said that at least 50% of the forest health information received through the program was new to them.
These responses just highlight the effectiveness of a model that reaches out to individuals on a one-on-one basis, said Glenn Barley, Unit Forester for Cal Fire. People need this information and the option of receiving it on site at their property is invaluable.
Two years of change. Through Forest Care, landowners are able to meet with a licensed, professional forester to help create a Forest Care tree removal plan specific to their property. Forest Care foresters provide free consultations for landowners, even those who may have already done some work and desire information on how to continue or how to perform maintenance on their forested lot. Forest Care provides up to 75% reimbursement of costs of thinning trees 12 inches in diameter and less, pruning branches 8 feet from the ground and removing dense brush.
Launched in 2006, the past two years have been a time of growth for the program in several ways. Originally intended for properties less than five acres in size, Forest Care is now able to reimburse participants for thinning on parcels up to 20 acres. In addition to strengthening existing partnerships, new partnerships have sprung up that extend program benefits to a wider audiences, including between Forest Care and local Homeowners Associations that enable interested landowners to treat commonly owned land around their parcel. In an even more recent development, Forest Care stands ready to support landowners efforts in meeting the new San Bernardino County Fire Hazard Ordinance requiring the thinning of live green trees and brush. Residents fall under the ordinance may postpone their inspection if they work with the Forest Care program to have the necessary work done on their property.
How does land management help? Forest fuels treatment programs help improve forest health in two important ways. First, fuels reduction changes fuels to a more natural arrangement, and causes fires to stay low and burn mildly. The restoration of this natural cycle improves the resistance of the forest while reducing the severity of future disturbances.
The second benefit of fuels reduction is in improved overall forest health. Trees that grow in unnaturally high densities often become stressed as a result. During disturbances such as droughts, beetle attacks, and fires these stressed trees are not able to withstand the challenges posed by their environment. Many die or are unable to recover. Thinning intervenes early in this chain of events, proactively treating the causes of over-stressed trees rather than treating the symptoms.
Maintaining the health of our forests takes the strength, willingness, and teamwork of an entire community. With Forest Care you can help make our mountain communities safer places to live. To schedule your appointment with a licensed professional forester, get materials to hand out to others in your neighborhood or community, or to arrange for a Forest Care staff member to give an exciting and informative presentation to your group or club, call (888) 883-THIN or visit www.sbnfa.org.
About Forest Care Forest Care is one of 6 programs managed by the San Bernardino National Forest Association (SBNFA), a 501(c) 3 nonprofit. The mission of Forest Care is to help create forest-friendly communities through reducing fuels in the short-term and instilling stewardship values for long-term change. Forest Care partners with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and is funded through a U.S. Forest Service grant.