Members of the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council board are standing outside their office and displaying a Goldspotted oak borer trap. These will begin to appear throughout the community later this spring. From the left, Eliott Taylor; Edwina Scott, executive director; Don Patterson, project manager; Ron Perry and Doris Lombard; Mike Esnard, president, Pat Boss, project manager; and Thomas McCullough, treasurer. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

The Greenwood Award Ceremony, which was scheduled for Friday, May 17, has been postponed until Saturday afternoon, May 18. The traditional Friday dessert reception has been canceled this year.

The recipient of the 2013 Greenwood Award is the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council, which was formed in 2001. The MCFSC “tirelessly strives to make our community more fire-safe. Whether it’s though public education, obtaining grants to help homeowners with the costs of abating their properties, or the volunteer work of the Woodies, our community is a safer place due to their efforts,” wrote the Earth Fair committee about the 2013 honoree.

“We’re really happy because it shows the environmental community is completely behind our fire safety efforts,” said Mike Esnard, MCFSC president. “There was once a time in our recent past where taking out a tree or shrub was horrific.”

“Yeah, ‘Do not touch manzanita’ was the attitude,” added Ron Perry MCFSC director. But these attitudes have changed. Residents are now much more cognizant of what they can do on their properties to lessen the threat of fire while protecting the forest.

As Esnard and other members stressed, a safe forest is a healthy forest, too. These are not conflicting goals. “The community response has been working. There’s a lot of support,” Esnard said.

“Catastrophic wildfire could destroy not only our human communities, but it could change our local environment as we know it,” Holly Owens replied in an email. “Fire Safe Council has actively been striving to make our communities as fire safe as possible, through education and direct action, working with the public and governmental agencies.

“The grants they’ve obtained have helped many homeowners abate their properties — removing hazardous ‘fuels’ and bringing their properties into compliance with fire code. The removed trees are cut into firewood, often made available to low-income and senior individuals, and other ‘green’ waste is chipped into mulch or taken to a biomass plant where it is turned into energy,” Owens wrote summarizing some of the reasons for the MCFSC Greenwood Award this year.

The grant request for funds to help homeowners replace cedar shake roofs with fire-safe shingles is another example of changing community attitude, added director Tom McCullough.

When the idea was first proposed, he had a friend question the merit of subsidizing individuals for new roofs. But when it was explained how burning embers can enter homes, cause fire and expand the fire, recognition of its community benefits created supporters.

While its 2012 grant funding is still available, the MCFSC is uncertain what if any funding will be available in 2013. Nevertheless, their efforts in educating the public about the risk of fire in a community on the edge of the forest will continue.

The search for new funds and new funding sources remains a high priority. MCFSC Executive Director Edwina Scott has said the approval of the grant funding for replacing cedar shake roofs has been approved.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing these funds, MCFSC’s first FEMA grant. But the council is working with FEMA for future grants. According to Scott, the federal agency is more familiar and comfortable making awards for flood threats, but after the roofing grant, they recognized the danger of wildland fires and want to add this category to their grantee list.

“FEMA said they’re willing to learn,” Scott said. “We just have to demonstrate that it’s a high risk hazard.”

Another new focus may be seeking funds for watershed protection. Large wild fires can do great damage to watershed habitat, so reducing that threat comes from fire safety, Scott said.

One of the Woodies’ new projects is inspecting local oak trees for indications of the Goldspotted oak borer. Inspections can be arranged through the MCFSC, The GSOB hotline number to arrange inspections is (951) 659-8328.

Highlighting this recent threat to the local forest, the Earth Fair committee has asked Kevin Turner, Goldspotted oak borer coordinator for UC Agricultural and Natural Resources at UC Riverside to discuss how Goldspotted oak borer has devastated native oak forests around San Diego and is now here in Idyllwild and Riverside County. He will be speaking Saturday, May 18 at the fair. Arborist Deborah Geisinger will also be available for more information.

The Greenwood award is annually presented to honor an individual or group for exemplary action in service to our regional environment. Individual recipients of the Greenwood Award have included Dr. Kate Kramer in 2012, Ina Rae Lengyle and former County Supervisor and Idyllwild resident Kay Ceniceros. Organizations, which have been honored, include Sage Mountain Farm in 2010, the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy and the Friends of the San Jacinto County Parks.

New to 2013 Earth Fair
A magician will appear Saturday during the Earth Fair. This will be the first magic act at the annual event. Award winning magician Steve Owens began his craft at the age of 12. Since then he has been a member of the Magic Castle, appeared on national television and performed in six different countries.

He will perform his cutting-edge magic Saturday, May 18 at the 24th Idyllwild Earth Fair.

“The butterfly tent has been expanded to also include praying mantis, stick bugs and ladybugs (only the monarchs will be “free” in the tent. We also have reptiles, including 3 types of snakes an a bearded dragon, chickens and a goat!” Owens said.