A map of the proposed work along the Pine Cove fuel break.             Map courtesy of U.S. Forest Service
A map of the proposed work along the Pine Cove fuel break. Map courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service announced that comments on its proposed maintenance of the Pine Cove and Idyllwild West fuel breaks should be submitted Aug. 8.

The work is the maintenance of existing fuel breaks. These fuel breaks combine with Strawberry, West Ridge, Fisherman’s, and the South Ridge fuel breaks to provide protection around Idyllwild and Pine Cove from fires approaching from the west. The total affected area for this project is about 234 acres.

The Pine Cove fuel break was last treated in 2005. The regrowth of vegetation has reduced its effectiveness. The width of the fuel break will vary from a minimum of 300 feet to a maximum of 1,500 feet.

Two different treatment levels are proposed. In the first 300 feet, immediately adjacent to the private property boundary, Treatment Level 1 would create an open forest structure with no standing dead trees or down logs remaining.

Treatment Level 2 would be beyond the first 300 feet and extend to the outer edge of the fuel break. In this area, the fuel break would still be an open forest structure, but standing dead trees (snags) and down logs would not be removed. These meet the San Bernardino National Forest Land Management Plan requirements of 10 to 15 snags per five acres and six down logs per acre. However, leaving this material must not compromise the fuel break’s integrity.

Fuel reductions will be maintained through a variety of methods, including whole tree yarding, slash yarding and removal, chipping, mastication, hand cutting, piling and prescribed burning. Options include removal and possibility public or commercial fuel-wood or manzanita sales. The biomass removal will use either designated skid trails or landings located by existing Forest System roads.

Depending on weather conditions and administrative restrictions, mechanical treatment could occur any time of year. Where terrain makes mechanical operations unfeasible, the brush would be cut with chainsaws, placed into piles, and then burned during the winter months generally December through May, according to the Forest Service planning document. Broadcast burning on the fuel break could also occur to reduce brush, tree litter and duff buildup. It is anticipated that 15 to 25 percent of understory vegetation cover would be left.

Please send comments in email text or in readable format (.doc, .pdf, .txt, .rtf) to: [email protected], with “Scoping – Fuelbreak Maintenance NEPA” in the subject line or by mail to: Kayanna Warren, project lead, at U.S. Forest Service, San Jacinto Ranger District, Attn: Kayanna Warren, P.O. Box 518, Idyllwild, CA 92549. The Proposed Action and relevant project documents are available at http://data.ecosystemmanagement.org/nepaweb/project_list.php?forest=110512. Paper copies are available upon request.