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May 19, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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May 19, 2010
 

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Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Wednesday, May 19, 2010 1B r bIFCC F 1 INSIDE SECTION B: EDITORIAL AND OPINION UPCOMING EVENTS roup -ieb rates The Big Flat area underwent an almost unfathomable change from 1993, when the first picture was taken, to 1995, when the project was implemented. The finished product survived a 100-year flood in 1997 and still looked immaculate nine years later in 2006, when the second picture was taken, This success demonstrates the long-term staying power of the work. CRM helps the land return to its original state and nature does the rest, maintaining that condition as it did before manmade erosion disrupted its efforts. Photos by Joshua Sebold Joshua Sebold Wilcox said the group Staff Writer came to the conclusion that jsebold@plumasnews.com "if everybody could come to- gether and share their re- The Feather River Coordi- sources -- technical, political hated Resource Management and financial -- then maybe group will soon celebrate its we could start working on an 25th year of restoring the effective enough scale to Feather River watershedbegin to reverse the degrada- by reversing the effects of tion that occurred through- desertification, out the watershed." If I tried to tell you the He said around the same short version of the work the time Washington, D.C., set Feather River CRM is doing up a system that allowed in Plumas County, it would different federal agencies to probably sound a little bit work together. like burned-out hippy banter. The program manager I can imagine a lot of eyes explained that led to partner- glazed over as readers imag- ships in our county between ined someone who just walked groups as diverse as the out of Woodstock holding a University of California, U.S. piece of sod and une of Grace Army Corps of Engineers and Slick'shair ties while,pro- - individual lemdowrlers: ,, claiming, "If we can turn this "Say a Forest Services fish ditch back into a beautiful biologist is available and the meadow, we can harvest landowner is willing; that magical pixie dust to prevent biologist could be assigned flooding, save wildlife, slow by the Forest Service to go the pace of global warming do a fish survey on private and increase the water supply property as part of a CRM to the rest of the state." project." OK, I made up the part Wilcox said CRM basically about pixie dust, but I don't consists of an agreement think it was that much of a between all of these agencies, stretch. 25 without counting local My point is that the daily landowners, while the five conversations of people who people working in CRM office immerse themselves in the function as "the tip of the worlds of geology, ecology shovel." and hydrology seem a little He explained there weren't out there, even in California. obligations for any single CRM presentations are entity to participate in a par- chock full of unusual terms ticular project, but CRM like "granitic batholith." created a ready-made struc- That may sound like theture for times the different name of a dragon flying over agencies found it useful to the stage at a Grateful Dead work together. concert, but it's really a One of the most common description for areas of land questions about CRM is made up primarily of very "exactly what do they do?" large pieces of rock formed The long answer begins by magma, about a third of with the acknowledgement the Feather River watershed, that they do a lot of different What I'm trying to say is things, from helping teachers the end points of science (nu- find ways to use the water- clear power, solar cells, radar shed as an asset for teaching and space travel) often seem science, to supporting a corn- pretty insane and counterin- munity greenhouse, to actual tuitive when first explained work on the ground. to the general public because Before we go too far follow- Joe Six-Pack doesn't see all ing that train of thought, the small steps that lead to let's pursue the short answer these breakthroughs, instead. Like all of those scientific The largest part of CRM's wonders, CRM's work began work is restoring meadows simply, humbly and locally, that have been destroyed, Program manager Jim essentially by the process of Wilcox told the Plumas Cotmty settling the West. Board of Supervisors that CRM The formation of roads and began in 1985, as a discussion railroads, along with genera- on then-supervisor Johntions of livestock walking Schramel's patio with then over the land caused erosion, Community Development starting a process that Commission representative changed the meadows into John Sheehan, PG&E em- the beginnings of desert ployees, members of the local environments. resource conservation district Tall lush grasses were and others, replaced by sagebrush, and Wilcox said the group sat slow bubbling meadow flows down to discuss a common turned into trenches where problem. "In the upper water- the water flew down all at shed our lands are eroding once after rains and dis- and PG&E is catching thatappeared into the distance. sediment in their power Reversing that process has dams and it's impacting their arguably been the largest operation, part of CRM's work and, "Yet PG&E doesn't have despite popular conceptions control of the land, they can't about government agencies go stop the erosion and the being unable to cooperate, landowners don't have thethe organization has been resources to stop the erosion quite productive, completing themselves." 115 projects in its 25 years. Monitoring coordinator Kara Rockett, project manager Leslie Mink, watershed coordinator Gia Martynn, program manager Jim Wilcox and project manager Terry Benoit act as "the tip of the shovel" for Coordinated Resource Management, They are the central piece of CRM that stays constant regardless of what agencies are invelved in a particular project. just a slow moving bit of water, and everything left. "Now you've got the trout back; you've got the beaver back; you've got the wildlife back. I tell you, to me it's. really rewarding. "I think it's a terrific program; you ought to really be congratulated." Wilcox told Olsen he attributed CRM's success to the fact that, despite the cooperation of state and federal entities, the program was "a locally developed, locally supported solution." "Without the support of the community we wouldn't be here." Despite that reality, the next challenge for CRM been to convince people 5 lt- side the counfy tllat the work CRM has spent those years local success of the organiza- benefits them as well. not only doing the work on tion, as it has turned people Olsen encapsulated the the ground, but also conduct- like conservative, anti-big argument when he explained ing research in support of an government Plumas County that he visualized the ravines ongoing quest for funding. Supervisor Ole Olsen intobefore: When a storm would The completed-projects list believers of a program that, come through and "all that includes 66 restoration jobs, 13 to many people, must sound water ran right down out studies and strategies, 19 plan- a lot like state- and federal- of the meadow, down the ning and coordination pro- sponsored environmentalism. Feather River into the jects, and 17 education efforts. At a recent meeting OlsenSacramento and out into the CRM has been doing the attributed his admiration of ocean." actual work down in the dirt, the program to the fact it has "The way it is now with the monitoring the effects of its repeatedly demonstrated meadows restored, it's like a work, teaching the next clear, positive results and sponge. Where the water ran generation about the complex seems to help everyone and offbefore, now it's retained interactions that make a everything in the county up here and it's retained in watershed function, and from wildlife to PG&E to the meadow. It gives water training landowners and private landowners, off all the rest of the year; to others in ways to avoid "What you do is terrific,me, that's easy to see how causing erosion that can where you can see something that would work. I would lower property values and that has actually been done. think that people down- choke vibrant waterways "I used to fish at Cloverstream that need that water into dry ravines, you know, terrific trout, but for domestic purposes would It's hard to argue with the then it got up to 80 degrees, really appreciate that." This is exactly the argument CRM is currently making and it's crucial that the group con- tinues to convince people out- side the county that the work benefits them, as two-thirds of the organization's funding has come from state and federal sources in the last six years. The county has supported many CRM projects and studies with Title III funds, money from Congress that is meant to partially replace lost revenue from the changes in the timber industry. But CRM also relies heavily on money from the state from things like water bonds, which municipal water districts are also ptwS , ---- Wilcox said some of these other entities from large cities and counties were interested in getting "all the water they can as cheap as they can, preferably at other people's expense." He has heard plenty of noise in the water bond arena labeling CRM as "hippies " in Birkenstocks planting willows." This seems ironic given that Wilcox grew up in agri- culture, moved to Plumas to work on a ranch, and spent 10 years here cutting trees be- fore his current tenure with CRM. The program manager said the main weapon in the battle against those types of politics was "data from ourselves and See CRM, page 8B 150 140 130 120 110 10(] 9e 5[ 4C i Carbon Stocks (restored vs unrestored meadows) Restored Meadow I Unrestored Meadow 1( ( # / j / / This chart displays the striking difference in carbon sequestration abilities between areas decimated by erosion and those that have been revitalized by CRM projects. With help from the University of Nevada-Reno, CRM hopes to use the baseline data from this study to track the improvements when the three eroded areas are restored to show the change in carbon-retaining properties from start to finish.