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Posts Tagged: Bill Stewart

Communities in rural areas are at increased risk of wildfire damage

Weather is one factor causing greater wildfire damage in California, but more critical is the state's exploding population, spawning communities in the once sparsely inhabited ranch and timberland regions long known to burn, reported Scott Smith of Associated Press. The story was picked up by the New York Times, the Orlando Sentinel, the Texarkana Gazette, and other publications.

The Erskine Fire destroyed 285 homes and an AT&T microwave cell hub in a rural-residential neighborhood near Lake Isabella last month. Twelve more homes were damaged. An elderly couple died of smoke inhalation.

Bill Stewart, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and co-director of the Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley said rural areas throughout California, where cattle grazed and loggers harvested trees, have given way to subdivisions of homes in the last 50 years. Residents in these places must be aware of the danger, and not rely on the local fire department to tell them when to clear the grass and trees that could easily spread fire to their homes, he said.

"That's the issue — more people living right next to wildland," Stewart said of the wildfire near Lake Isabella. "If no one lived there, this wouldn't have been a big story."

With 285 home lost in the Erskine Fire last month, the blaze underscored concerns about building homes near wildlands.
Posted on Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 12:56 PM
Tags: Bill Stewart (11), Wildfire (151)

More forest research needed to understand best management strategies

A coniferous forest along Tenaya Creek in the Sierra Nevada. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) forestry expert Bill Stewart joined U.S. Representatives Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) and Tom McClintock (R-California), and an environmentalist in a one-hour discussion about the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015 with Michael Krasny on KQED Forum. The act was recently passed by the House and is now awaiting action by the Senate.

During the program, Stewart said there is a need for more research to study different approaches to forestry management.

“Chad (Hanson, the environmentalist) and the representative (McClintock) feel they figured it all out, but there are some big questions worth exploring,” Stewart said.

Hanson is the director of the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute

At the beginning of the discussion, Westerman and Hanson outlined their visions of proper management of federal forests. Westerman said the bill would make forests more healthy and sustainable.

"We're going to have fire," he said. "In California, a lot of resources are being spent on fire suppression. With the Resilient Forests Act we are creating more fire prevention, scientifically. Salvage logging is a part of that. Also, thinning and reducing fuel load."

Hanson said Westerman's points were untrue. He said current efforts to suppress fires and post-fire logging lead to more intense fire in the future and damage wildlife habitat.

Stewart said salvage logging need not be a yes-or-no question.

"It depends how you design that," he said. "Snags (standing dead trees) are important. Do we leave 500 snags per acre, 50, 5 or zero. We can try all four approaches and see."

Stewart pointed out that the Resilient Forestry Act, if passed, would require environmental assessment of active forest management vs. following a hands-off policy.

Posted on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 at 11:25 AM
Tags: Bill Stewart (11), wildfire (151)

Attacking fire from the air is costly

Fire retardant drop on a Southern California wildfire. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Dropping fire retardant from airplanes onto roaring wildfires is expensive, dangerous and may have minimal impact, reported Kevin Oliver in an aerial-minute TV news piece investigating aerial fire fighting for KCRA-TV in Sacramento.

The aerial attack on the 2013 Rim Fire near Lake Tahoe cost $11 million, a substantial portion of the $95 million effort to put out the blaze, the story said.

"It's a huge cost," said Bill Stewart, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources fire science researcher and former state firefighter. "It can go up as high as you want and keep on sending aircraft."

Stewart, who serves as a UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in the Center for Forestry at UC Berkeley, questions whether air drops are used more than they should be.

"When the fires are really hot, sometimes they are not effective. The flames are going up so the (water and retardant) never gets on the fires," Stewart said.

Air attacks are often referred to within the ranks as "CNN drops," Stewart said, because they look good on TV, and the general public expects them.

"It helps some, and if you didn't do it, people would say, 'Why didn't you call it in?'" Stewart said.

He believes the money used for air attacks could often be better spent on hand crews and bulldozers.

"I always asked, 'What's the cost-effectiveness of these drops?' and they said, no one has ever tried to look at it," Stewart said.

Posted on Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 8:47 AM
Tags: Bill Stewart (11), wildfire (151)

Land donation to double UC research forestlands

The University’s goal is to harvest knowledge, not timber.
The University of California will add 4,584 acres of Northern California mixed-conifer forest to its research lands, doubling the size of UC’s research forests, as a result of a land donation approved yesterday (November 16) in Sacramento. The transfer is the largest single acquisition of forestland in the University’s history.

The donation was approved at a meeting of the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, a private foundation that was established in 2004 as part of a Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) bankruptcy settlement to ensure that over 140,000 acres of California's pristine watershed lands are conserved for the public good and to serve California's young people.

“This four-and-half-thousand acres is a tiny portion of the total PG&E lands, but it’s an enormous boon to UC’s research and outreach capabilities,” said J. Keith Gilless, a professor of forestry and dean of the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources, which houses the UC Center for Forestry.

The UC proposal focused on learning how California’s working forests in key watersheds can be managed to sustainably provide essential ecosystem and climate benefits over the next century.

The new lands will enable researchers to:

  • Learn how different components of forest ecosystems will respond to climate change, increasing fire risks, and invasive species;
  • Use and measure a range of forest-management approaches, including reserves, to better understand all the forest ecosystem components;
  • Broaden outreach to K-12, community college and university students; researchers; and the public.

“The University’s goal is to harvest knowledge, not timber,” Gilless said.

UC’s proposal received widespread support from the research community, including Yale University, Cornell University, Oregon State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of British Columbia.

John Battles, a professor of forest ecology at UC Berkeley, said that UC shares the goals expressed in many public comments, which stressed the value of intact forests, tall trees and wildlife habitats. But Battles also noted the importance of research.

“Conservation in this era of change is confronted by the reality that no ecosystem, no matter how remote or wild, is protected. We want to be proactive by learning how to build resilient forests under a changing and stressful climate,” he said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Stewardship Council board of directors also approved a donation of 7,016 acres to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Calfire) for a new state demonstration forest that will be located adjacent to the new UC forest parcel near the Pit River in Shasta County. The Stewardship Council also discussed funding a shared research and outreach facility that would be shared by the two public entities.

Together, the UC and Calfire donations significantly expand the existing research and demonstration state forests owned and operated by state entities and will complement the forest research currently conducted on US Forest Service and National Park Service lands.

“The addition of new forest types and locations broadens the ability of UC Center for Forestry to collaborate with a range of public and private forest owners to conduct critical research and education on forestry management, climate change and other issues affecting the Sierra and Cascade ranges,” Gilless said.

The donation comprises two locations: 3,100 acres near the Pit River in Shasta County, on the west side of the Pit-McCloud watershed, and 1,484 acres in the Lake Spaulding area in Nevada County, near the top of the Yuba-Bear River watershed. Before this donation, the UC Center for Forestry held 5,131 acres over four research sites in Contra Costa County, Plumas, Tulare and El Dorado counties.

Due to land survey work and the California Public Utilities Commission's detailed land-transfer process, the Stewardship Council estimates that UC will take possession of the new lands in approximately one year.

Related story: New Report Highlights Carbon Benefits of Forests




John Battles, Professor of Forest Ecology, UC Berkeley, (510) 643-0684

J. Keith Gilless, Dean, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources; Professor of Forestry, UC Berkeley, (510) 642-7171

Bill Stewart, Director, UC Center for Forestry; Cooperative Extension Forest Management Specialist, (510) 643-3130, (510) 318-0377 (cell)

Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 8:26 AM
Tags: Bill Stewart (11), donation (1), forest (21), John Battles (4), Keith Gilless (5), timber (1)

Passing land and legacy on to the next generation

Succession planning helps land owners pass on their land and their passion for it.
Passing family land from one generation to the next can pose emotional problems, financial problems and legal problems, noted a feature story in The Willits News. UC Cooperative Extension has been offering a series of succession planning workshops, titled "Ties to the Land," to help families deal with these issues.

”Family forests create many benefits through their stewardship actions, but the legacy can fall prey to the confusing details of land titles, permits, and inheritance if families have not crafted a succession plan,” said Bill Stewart, UC Cooperative Extension forestry specialist and organizer of the series. “This is especially true for owners who do not live in the county where their forest is. Their heirs have probably spent little time on the land, and the lack of shared goals can become a problem.”

With succession planning, land owners clarify their values and goals for the forest or ranch, determine their heirs' interest in the property, learn legal and business considerations, and understand the financial impacts of ownership transfers across generations.

Posted on Monday, November 7, 2011 at 8:49 AM

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