Plumas Audubon Society has partnered with the Greenville Rancheria, Feather River Land Trust, Feather River Resource Conservation District, and other local partners to initiate Forest Health Projects in Genesee Valley on the Heart K Ranch, and other private and public properties.
Plumas Audubon's objectives with these forest health projects is to improve oak woodland habitat, leave dead trees, and to have less impact on the understory by not using mechanical harvest techniques.
The partnership worked with residents and landowners in the Genesee Valley watershed to develop a wildfire restoration plan for a 6,100 acre pilot project area. The plan aims to build capacity to facilitate collaborative stewardship of National Forest and adjacent private lands and to develop a plan that facilitates partners to secure funding to implement restoration actions leading to job creation and business development.
In February 2017 the Sierra Nevada Conservancy funded the Genesee Valley Watershed Improvement Project through Prop 1 funds. This project involves resource surveys and preparation of environmental compliance documents for 839 acres of private and public lands in Genesee Valley. The project proposes forest thinning and under burning to improve the health of the forest and nearby riparian vegetation along Indian Creek. Project implementation is not currently funded.
The Heart K Healthy Forest Project began in Summer 2012. This project was focused on blending Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and contemporary science-based methods to restore forest and riparian habitats. The Project was located on the Heart K Ranch, a 884-acre working ranch supporting diverse habitats such as oak woodlands, extensive willow and cottonwood stands along the riparian corridor, and montane meadows.
Due to years of fire suppression, the Heart K Ranch’s forests have become overgrown, unhealthy, and susceptible to catastrophic wildfire. Located in Genesee Valley, the Ranch land is an important cultural place for the Mountain Maidu, who lived here for many generations prior to European settlement. Fire suppression in forested areas and commercial timber harvesting practices guided by western science have led to negative effects on structure, composition, and function of forest ecosystems. The term Traditional Ecological Knowledge, or TEK, describes the knowledge held by indigenous cultures about their immediate environment and the cultural practices that build on that knowledge. TEK includes an intimate and detailed knowledge of plants, animals, and natural phenomena, the development and use of appropriate technologies for hunting, fishing, trapping, agriculture, and forestry.
The ultimate goal of these projects is to restore species having cultural value to the Mountain Maidu, provide a place to practice traditional ecological practices, and in the process, restore habitat type and associated species that have declined or become unhealthy in the absence of fire. The project worked to stabilized ¼ mile of eroding banks, thin approximately 100 acres of upland forest, and employ local indigenous people.
By including TEK as a way of managing land, our forest thinning plan is more than just reducing fuel loads to prevent catastrophic wildfire. Bringing together local Mountain Maidu, the US Forest Service, Plumas Audubon, and other local experts, the importance of preserving cultural sites, protecting key areas for avian species, enhancing tree species diversity, and opening the dense canopies to promote black oak growth was recognized and integrated into the plan. Ultimately, it is hoped that we can introduce fire back onto the landscape, as is currently being practiced on adjacent lands, to maintain forest health and diversity.
The Heart K Forest Health Project was funded through the Sierra Nevada Conservancy Proposition 84 Grants Program and compliments the work already started under two Toyota Together Green grants awarded to Plumas Audubon in 2011 and 2012.
Point Count Monitoring on the Heart K Ranch
The Plumas Audubon Society has partnered with the Feather River Land Trust to conduct long-term avian monitoring on the Heart K Ranch. This program has worked evaluate the effects that habitat management and restoration projects have on the bird communities that utilize the grassland, riparian and oak woodland habitats in Genesee Valley. The results from this effort will help to guide the future management of this unique property. Surveys were conducted by Plumas Auduon in 2012-2015.
Several special-status species are known or could potentially occur on the Heart K property that would not be adequately sampled with point counts including the Bank Swallow and Western Screech-Owl. Species-specific surveys and inventory are being conducted for these species.
Installation of bird boxes, willow planting, conifer removal, under burning, and other techniques are being utilized at the Heart K ranch to increase available habitat for wildlife.