The U.S. Forest Service has issued a decision approving the continued maintenance of the Strawberry and West Ridge fuelbreaks to the south and west of Idyllwild.
On Nov. 8, San Jacinto District Ranger Arturo Delgado signed the decision memorandum. The affected area covers a total of 166 acres on local national forest lands. The Strawberry Fuelbreak was last treated in 2001 and the West Ridge Fuelbreak in 2006.
Funds are available in the San Bernardino National Forest budget to begin some maintenance work in 2014, according to Delgado.
Maintenance can employ a variety of methods, including whole tree yarding, slash yarding and removal, chipping, mastication, hand cutting, piling, burning and possibly broadcast burning. Maintenance will treat about 75 to 85 percent of the vegetative understory.
Generally, the fuelbreak’s width will be 300 feet, but it may vary between 250 feet and 500 feet, the minimum and maximum.
Heavy equipment buffers will be used where the fuelbreak crosses or nears Strawberry Creek, Dry Cr eek or short-lived streams. The buffers’ size will vary, but will be greatest near Strawberry Creek.
Fuelbreak maintenance to enhance community protection and reduce the risk of loss of human life, structures, improvements and natural resources from wildland fires or subsequent flooding is an important component of the San Bernardino National Forest Land Management Plan.
The proposed action was described in a letter on Jan. 22, 2013, and ran as a legal notice in the Jan. 24 Town Crier. The only comment was a concern about the condition of Forest Service Road 5S24. The commenter was concerned whether fire personnel could access the area from this road.
In the decision memorandum, Delgado replied, “It was determined that the problematic portions of this road are designated Level II and will thus be maintained through Forest Service maintenance and is outside the scope of the Purpose and Need of this Proposed Action.”
According to Forest Service documents, Level II roads are administrative and public use roads maintained for pickup trucks and other high-clearance vehicles. Passenger cars are not prohibited from using these roads but surface conditions usually discourage prudent passenger car drivers.
Appeals of the decision must be filed within 45 days of Nov. 14. An appeal should be sent to Appeal Deciding Officer, Jody Noiron, Forest Supervisor, 602 S. Tippecanoe Ave., San Bernardino, CA 92408. Electronic appeals may be sent to [email protected].