BSMAAC Meeting Report

Yesterday’s meeting was the longest yet (4 and 1/2 hours), with four power point presentations and a SRO crowd. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a meeting as well-attended as this one was. It was great to see such community involvement in action. The tone of the meeting was one of sharing information and points of view.

BSMAAC meeting, 3/26/10

The first presentation, was given by Kelly O’Brien on the new Monterey County Wildfire Community Protection Plan. Kelly did a wonderful job of informing us about what it is, what it does, and how. The plan is complete, and is available for viewing here: firesafemonterey Please read Kelly’s interpretation and presentation about our MCCWPP and the work she and many others are doing to make collaboration possible, as well as sustain this as a “living” document open to change as change occurs. Her comment is below in the comment section.

All agencies hoped to sign on in support of this plan, have, and all required to sign, have done so, save one. The Monterey County Board of Supervisors has not yet agreed to this plan. The reason given is that the Sierra Club has lodged an objection to the plan’s desire to permit homeowner to create the 100 ft. defensible space recommended by all fire fighting agencies with a minimum of regulatory impediments and the maintenance of the “big box fire” breaks.

Lawyers for the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club sent a 7 page letter to the Board of Supervisors, which is too lengthy to repeat here, but concludes thusly:
The letter does not state that it will bring litigation against the county, but that is clearly the concern, given the nature of the letter.

However, by far the most controversial subject was the creation of a new Wilderness Area from the eastern portion of the Andrew Molera State Park. This has been introduced by Bill Monning, State Assemblymember, as AB 2074, who was present and seriously listening to the concerns expressed by the Big Sur Community. Tom Hopkins, president of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance was present and he and Gordon prepared the power point presentation on behalf of the VWA.

Bill Monning, State Assembly

Michael Caplin on behalf of the Coast Property Owner’s Association prepared a power point presentation which outlined concerns over the loss of a portion of the big box fire breaks. Michael’s presentation covered specifically the Andrew Molera Wilderness area designation, but it also referenced the wilderness expansions which have occured since the creation of the Ventana Wilderness Area in 1968 by President Johnson, which has more than doubled in area since it’s creation 42 years ago.

This is a long and complex subject, but one I think my readers who live and work here should be interested in. Toward that end, I plan on doing a more in depth presentation of the information on the wilderness designation expansion, hopefully, in the next few weeks.

The final power point presentation was on the USFS Firescape plan, presented by Sherry Tune, District Ranger of the Monterey District of the LPNF, and Jeff Kwazny, Resource Officer.

Sherry Tune, District Ranger, Monterey District of the LPNF

This firescape plan is just in the formation stages and there will be ample opportunity for public input.

USFS Firescape Proposal

4 thoughts on “BSMAAC Meeting Report

  1. Hi, Kate!

    As always, thank you for your reporting on events on behalf of our communities!

    The Monterey County Wildfire Working Group, or MC2WG (the organization of which I am Ad-Hoc Chair, is comprised of representatives from unincorporated areas surrounding the Los Padres National Forest and county-wide rural rangelands who have actively developed the Monterey County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (MCCWPP) and whose members continue to develop local, neighborhood Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP).

    The Mission of MC2WG is to coordinate efforts so, that each of our areas, and the Monterey County Fire Safe Council (MCFSC), reap the mutual benefit of community collaboration in the important effort to successfully plan for reduction of wildfire-consumable fuels, excellence in emergency planning and practice and wildfire prevention education.

    MC2WG members include public agency representatives, non-profit organizations, interested parties and private citizens.

    Of the “interested parties,” representatives of groups identified as “environmental” or with environmental interests, were invited to participate in the nearly 90 meetings MC2WG held over the past 15 months.

    Representatives of the Sierra Club attended 3 of our meetings prior to authorizing their lawyer, Gary Patton, to issue their interpretation of the CWPP and their advice to the county not to sign the document. That said, Julie Engell, and I, have a meeting schedule to discuss our differences and – ostensibly – to seek common ground.

    Jack Elwanger of the Pelican Network and Wild Bug Sur attended a few meetings and has remained informed via email notices. I count Jack as an active and open partner in the implications of the CWPP.

    Tom Hopkins of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance has been “in the loop” for more than six months and in active personal conversation with me for the last month or so. We continue close, lively discussion with VWA in an effort to resolve disagreements and reach common understanding.

    It’s important to recognize that, while a CWPP is a voice for our communities adjacent to federal lands to have a say in how those lands are managed for the purpose of fire safety, the CWPP is – by definition – a public and collaborative process.

    The Supervisors of Monterey County – taking their direction from County Staff (Legal and Planning) are simply applying “due diligence” to the question of signing the MCCWPP. In other words, they are doing a responsible job, both fiscally and administratively, in carrying out the public trust.

    Some of our interested environmental groups have expressed a concern, based on their stated ‘mission’, for clarification on certain sections of the MCCWPP. This may result in minor revisions to the MCCWPP, which, by the way, is a “living” document and is up for regular development and revision, again by nature and the need to remain relevant.

    What is important to remember as discussions continue is that we are all concerned about making our communities less vulnerable to the ravages of wildfire. I think that it’s also safe to say that we are all concerned about preserving the unique beauty of the lands next to, and in which, we live. Such magnificence is, after all, WHY we live here!

    We, as a community, therefore, have a choice to make, when it come to discussing our differences:

    Do we stand on ideology or do we stand on progress?

    I submit that the reason our country is so politically dysfunctional is that we we have lost the ability to convert what we stand for into pragmatic compromise.

    It’s our choice to make, now and in the future.

    I know that for which I stand.

    With respect and thanks,

    Kelly Erin O’Brien
    Chair, MC2WG
    Resident of Jamesburg-Cachagua, aka Big Sur without the beach

  2. Kelly, thank you so much for the comprehensive explanation, that I didn’t have time or space for on my blog. Your dedication to community service brings a bright light to all of us. Thank you.

  3. No one in their right mind wants Big Sur, or any of the other rural communities in Monterey County, to be at risk for loss of life or property due to wildfire. Likewise, no one in their right mind wants to upset the ecological functions of the wildlands on the Big Sur coast and in the Ventana backcountry — functions that are essential for these lands to retain the beauty and majesty that we all cherish.
    While implementation of the January 2010 draft of the Monterey County Community Wildfire Protection (MCCWPP) plan may be seen as an effective tool to promote fire safe communities, it fails to simultaneously protect our public wildlands. This is unnecessary. Monterey County can have both an effective Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) and preserve wildland ecological functions and wilderness values.
    It is true that various local conservation organizations have been invited to participate in the “collaborative” process that produced the current MCCWPP draft. However, being invited to collaborate does not make a collaborative process. True collaboration places equal value on the participating points of view and distributes authority equally among the various collaborators. The conservation community has not been allowed to “collaborate” at this level in the MCCWPP process.
    Had true collaboration with the conservation community taken place, the current MCCWPP would not include several extreme notions that are unnecessary for community wildfire protection, such as the establishment of permanent bare-earth firebreaks up to 30 feet wide in designated wilderness.
    Such firebreaks are not only economically infeasible they provide a host of environmental complications while adding marginal, if any, benefit to the control of future fires. Permanent bare-earth firebreaks cause extensive soil erosion that contributes increased sediment load to steelhead habitat. They also become pathways for invasive exotic plants and motorized trespass routes for dirt bikes and ATVs – which are frequent ignition sources of wildfire.
    Managed fuelbreaks, on the other hand, are areas where combustible vegetation has been reduced so that fires burning into them can be more readily controlled. Managed fuelbreaks provide effective wildfire control lines without the environmental complications of bare-earth firebreaks. Managed fuelbreaks can also provide low impact recreation trails that contribute to a sustainable local green economy. Managed fuelbreaks are a practical solution for wildfire control while being less destructive to ecological function and wilderness values.
    Other extreme notions in the current MCCWP are the “recommendations” that major changes be made to a host of important environmental laws including the Coastal Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The need for these changes is particularly curious given that the CWPP for San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties – which includes comparable amounts of Wildland Urban Interface as Monterey County – manages to effectively plan for the implementation of fire safe communities without need to gut the authority of these environmental laws or build permanent bare-earth firebreaks in their wildlands. In fact, the SM/SC Plan specifically describes how to achieve fire safe rural communities while preserving its listed species.
    We should ask ourselves: Why can San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties get the job done for the benefit of their rural communities but the Monterey County plan is embroiled in controversy? Is it because the SM/SC Plan was written in a true collaborative process while the Monterey process was dominated by the ideologues mentioned in Kelly’s post?
    Come on Kelly, let’s cut the ideology and make some progress. Let’s achieve that pragmatic compromise you speak of. Let’s achieve it for Big Sur and the other rural communities, and also, let’s achieve it for the healthy ecological function of the wild coast and backcountry that we all cherish.
    Tom Hopkins, President
    Ventana Wilderness Alliance

  4. Hi Kate , and you tried to escape the city life that is following you into your wilderness,,,,, tell me again just how that can be done ?

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