The U.S. Forest Service is requesting comments by Nov. 5 on its proposal to create or to maintain defensible space abatement around many of its administrative sites in the San Jacinto Ranger District.

Administrative sties can include recreation cabins, communication sites, fire lookout towers, developed camp sites, day use areas, fire stations, trailheads, travel routes, and areas under special-use permit to Riverside County the state, and private parties.

The purpose of the abatement is to reduce hazardous fuels in order to increase safety and ease of firefighter operations, if needed, near these sites.

The California Public Resources Code, Section 4291, requires a minimum 100 feet of vegetative clearance around permitted structures. The Forest Service will reduce fuels around these administrative sites and infrastructures where terrain, vegetation and predicted fire behavior deem necessary.

The fuel reduction locations will be called Administrative Defense Zones and the work will encompass about 5,030 acres.

While 100 feet is the minimum distance for defensible space, the actual width of fuel reduction could range from 20 to 1,500 feet. This depends upon the infrastructure’s value, fire risk and site-specific factors including fuel type, terrain, emergency response time, access and fire history.

Actual treatments will range from removal of shrubs and brush, to thinning, mechanical treatment, pile burns, broadcast burns and, possibly in some areas, skyline yarding. No herbicides would be used, according to the scoping report, and no new roads constructed to do the work.

The intensity of fuels management would vary within these widths, with the most intense being within the first 30 feet around structures.

Depending upon the type of administrative area, there are five different treatment levels, most distinguished by the distance from the structure or site. For example, treatment level 1 is within 30 feet of the structure and would trim 90 percent of vegetation to ground level.

The area around the Idyllwild Water District’s wastewater ponds is an example of where levels 1 and 2 treatments might be applied.

Level 3 treatments would be conducted between 100 to 300 feet from the structure or site. This would include the area around the Riverside County greenwaste transfer station in Idyllwild.

Level 4 treatments extend from 300 to 1,500 feet from the site and includes ranger stations such as Keenwild, the helipad at Keenwild, Alandale and Vista Grande.

Level 5 treatments are along roadways.

The San Bernardino National Forest is requesting written comments to help identify key issues, mitigation measures and analyze effects of the proposed action. Specific areas to be considered are:

1) federally listed species or designated critical habitat, species proposed for federal listing or proposed critical habitat, or Forest Service sensitive species;

2) flood plains, wetlands, or municipal watersheds;

3) congressionally designated areas, such as wilderness, wilderness study areas or national recreation areas;

4) inventoried roadless areas or potential wilderness areas;

5) research natural areas;

6) American Indian and Alaska Native religious or cultural sites; and

7) archaeological sites, or historic properties or areas.

The project’s documents are available at: https://data.ecosystem-management.org/nepaweb/nepa_project_exp.php?project=53571. Paper copies are available upon request by contacting Charles Wentz, project lead, at charleswentz@fs.fed.us or 909-382-2944.

The Forest Service is requesting to receive all comments by Nov. 5, 2018.

The responsible official is Robert Taylor, district ranger, San Jacinto Ranger District. Written, facsimile, hand-delivered, oral and electronic comments concerning this action will be accepted but the preferred method for receiving scoping comments is by email (in e-mail text, or readable format .doc, .pdf, .txt, .rtf).

Send comments to charleswentz@fs.fed.us with “Scoping – Admin Defense Project” in the subject line. If you are unable to send comments electronically, you may send them by mail to US Forest Service, San Jacinto Ranger District, Attn: Charles Wentz, P.O. Box 518, Idyllwild, CA 92549, or by contacting Charles Wentz, project lead, at charleswentz@fs.fed.us.

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