USFS closes all developed recreation sites in CA

Forest Service closes developed recreation sites throughout California until April 30

GOLETA, Calif. – USDA Forest Service appreciates the public’s interest in outdoor recreation, particularly in light of current events. The Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service, in response to the recent statewide shelter-in-place order issued by the Governor of California, is joining the cause to aggressively mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by closing developed recreation facilities on our National Forests statewide.

“Developed recreation sites” refers to designated recreational use areas designed to facilitate public use. Information on individual recreation sites and opportunities are available from local National Forests.

Closures of developed recreation facilities are being put in place until at least April 30th in an attempt to avoid groups of people and promote social distancing of staying more than six feet apart.

While designated recreation sites will be closed, the general Forest area including the extensive trail system will remain open and available to the public. Hiking and walking outdoors are widely considered beneficial to maintaining one’s health. It is the intent of USDA Forest Service to maintain trail access to the extent practicable.

Please keep health, safety and the environment in mind when visiting National Forests. Your personal responsibility is critical to ensuring public safety and preventing further restrictions. We ask that you consider whether your personal participation in outdoor recreation at this time would pose an unnecessary risk to others as we all work together to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19.

We appreciate your cooperation in keeping our National Forests safe and healthy for everyone’s use.

Misc. Updates & Info

From the USFS:

Los Padres National Forest offers
virtual services in response to Covid-19
GOLETA, Calif. – Los Padres National Forest is limiting public access to its offices and implementing virtual services beginning today to protect the health and safety of employees and members of the public during the COVID-19 outbreak in accordance with guidance from federal and state authorities.

Customers needing information, permits and maps are encouraged to call the Supervisor’s Office or Ranger District Offices during regular business hours for prompt customer service, or by visiting the Forest website at

https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/lpnf for additional updates.

“As we work through an unpredictable and rapidly changing situation, health and safety is our number one priority,” said Los Padres National Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott. “We are committed to continuing to support our communities and fulfill our mission as we all work together to minimize the impacts and spread of COVID-19.”

These actions have been taken based on the best available medical advice to limit gatherings of large numbers of people and to promote social distancing.
Members of the public are encouraged to call the following Los Padres National Forest offices:

Supervisor’s Office – (805) 968-6640
Santa Barbara Ranger District – (805) 967-3481
Santa Lucia Ranger District – (805) 925-9538
Ojai Ranger District – (805) 646-4348
Monterey Ranger District – (831) 385-5434
Mt. Pinos Ranger District – (661) 245-3731

Visitors to our National Forests are urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html.

I also got a notice they were suspending controlled burns, but cannot find it.

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PEBBLE BEACH CO. CLOSES HOTELS 

In a statement on its website, the P.B. Co. announced it was closing The Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Inn at Spanish Bay. The closure also applies to the company’s four golf courses and goes into effect at 5 p.m. today

“The health and well being of our guests, employees and their families is of paramount importance,” the statement said. “In light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, Pebble Beach Resorts has temporarily suspended our resort operations. For more than 100 years, we have welcomed guests from near and far to enjoy legendary golf and world-class accommodations along a backdrop of stunning natural beauty. Once the world is ready to travel again, we look forward to welcoming you to Pebble Beach.” 

The company said it was continuing to take reservations for arrivals after April 17. It also announced that “in order to provide essential services to Pebble Beach residents, our Gallery restaurant and Pebble Beach Market will both be open for take-out meals only.” 

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Governor Newsom Signs Order to Protect Public Health by Expanding Vote-by-Mail Options and Extending Deadlines for Presidential Primary CanvassPosted: 20 Mar 2020 09:00 PM PDTSACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today issued an executive order to permit vote-by-mail procedures to be used in three upcoming special
Governor Newsom Deploys California National Guard to Help Distribute Food at Food Banks & Protect California’s Most VulnerablePosted: 20 Mar 2020 08:07 PM PDT  Food banks are seeing a shortage in volunteers and experiencing greater need due to COVID-19   Governor calls for
Benefit programs available to help California workers who are losing wages due to the impacts of the CoronavirusPosted: 20 Mar 2020 06:24 PM PDTSacramento – Workers who have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced due to the impacts of COVID-19
SBA Offers Disaster Assistance to California Counties Small Businesses Economically Impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19)Posted: 20 Mar 2020 04:48 PM PDTSACRAMENTO, Calif. – The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Oregon small

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I highly recommend reading this article in VOMB for Under the Sheltering Skies to get a first hand report for what this sheltering in place has been like to our service industry employees. httpshttps://voicesofmontereybay.org/2020/03/19/my-last-paycheck-at-a-santa-cruz-restaurant/

And from McWeekly: “What a week this has been. In many ways, our lives and community have been transformed by the arrival of a pandemic in Monterey County. Hour by hour and day by day, all of us have been forced to adapt and let go of routines, plans and expectations. This is true right here at the Weekly, where a dogged and dedicated team has tirelessly pursued breaking stories while publishing our annual Best Of Readers Poll (our biggest issue of the year) and launching this new daily e-newsletter, Monterey County NOW. While taking on that work, we lost seven beloved staff members to layoffs this week in an effort to respond to a major malfunction in the economy. What a week this has been.” Amen. Is 2020 over, yet?

Get take out, when you can, from your local restaurants. Tip well, if you can. Buy gift certificates for use later. Shop your local stores and markets. They are doing everything they can to provide you with what you need. Donate to your local news outlets, if you can, as advertising revenue is drying up. Stay home, wash your hands, and most of all, be kind.

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I think there were a couple other notices buried somewhere in my inbox, and if I find them, I will either add them here, or post another post after the photo tomorrow. BTW, I encourage you to send me any photos from your time of solitude for my photo Sunday posts. I think this is the only time when I wish I were married again so I would have someone to talk to and commiserate with…then I recover my sanity and smile.

USFS Rule Change re small land tracts

USDA Forest Service announces proposed changes to improve conveyance of small tracts of lands

FEBRUARY 26, 2020 – 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is seeking public comment on a proposed rule change that would expand use of the Small Tracts Act and provide the Forest Service greater flexibility to resolve land management challenges through sales, exchange, or interchange of small land parcels. The proposed changes are among those that implement new authorities the Forest Service received through the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018—also known as the 2018 Farm Bill.

The proposed rule would allow parcels that are physically isolated, inaccessible, or lack national forest characteristics to be conveyed if they are 40 acres or less in size. It would also allow parcels 10 acres or less where permanent, habitable improvements have been made to be conveyed if encroachment was neither intentional nor negligent. Proceeds from these land exchanges could then be used to acquire lands or interest in lands in the same state that are suitable to be included in the National Forest System. Those proceeds may also be used to reimburse costs associated with the competitive sale of eligible lands.

“These changes are designed to help improve forest conditions, safety and service to the American people” said Chief Vicki Christiansen. “They will also help us to be better neighbors to landowners that border our national forests and grasslands.”

The proposed regulations will be open for public comment for 60 days following their publication in the Federal Register. More information on these rules and instructions on how to provide comments are available at http://federalregister.gov/d/2020-03639.

Recreational Shooting Ban extended on LPNF

Recreational shooting ban extended for six months

GOLETA, Calif. – Los Padres National Forest officials announced that the Forest Order prohibiting recreational shooting has been extended until June 30, 2020, to provide for public safety due to increasingly high fire danger conditions in the extended weather forecast and the potential for a wildfire sparked by shooting.

Despite recent winter rainfall, live fuel moisture levels across the Forest did not significantly recover and are currently hovering just above the 60 percent critical threshold. Predictive weather forecasts indicate persistent, strong offshore wind events through April that will likely further reduce fuel moisture levels.

Long-range weather models have consistently shown well below normal precipitation and drier than average weather with a high likelihood of elevated temperatures through the spring months. If these forecasts are accurate, grasses will cure out earlier than normal and grass fire activity could occur weeks earlier this year. These conditions allow fire to burn readily and remain present in the larger dead and downed fuels in the landscape.  Even with recent precipitation and cooler temperatures, live fuel moistures are slow to rise due to a state of dormancy in the brush.  

Preventing accidental starts from recreational shooting under dry conditions is key to protecting life and property. Shooting ranges under permit by Los Padres National Forest monitor and implement preventative measures to avoid accidental starts.

Under this Forest Order, discharging a firearm is prohibited except in the designated target ranges at the Winchester Canyon Gun Club and the Ojai Valley Gun Club. Persons hunting during the open hunting season as specified in the laws of the State of California and having a valid California hunting license are exempt from this Forest Order.

A violation of this prohibition is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.

The Lookouts of Big Sur

Here is my latest article for Voices of Monterey Bay:

In the fall of 1984, Soaring Jenkins and future husband Isa Starkey climbed up Cone Peak for the first time. She made it up the 2¼-mile trail — cussing, sweating — and there met Ruth Albee, who’d been a lookout in various places for a decade.

Ruth “was in her 60s and loved the trail I’d just sworn at,” Jenkins said. “But I looked around and fell deeply, instantly in love with the tiny glass room and the wide expanse of ocean and mountain views. I told her I wanted to be a lookout and she said, ‘Go ahead and apply here; I’m going to work next year at Chews Ridge Lookout.’”

It was that easy. Jenkins was a lookout there for the next six years and she says she did it for the love of the place. Other Big Sur fire lookouts I know say they do it out of a feeling of service and duty. It’s a way to give back to Big Sur.

Though it was one of the most difficult and isolated lookouts in California, Jenkins-Starkey told me that “I wanted that job more than anything, I felt a strong magnetic pull to be there, yearned for it, and learned everything I could through the Fire Brigade training, to prepare for it.”

For the rest of the article, including interviews with Nadine Clark, of Big Sur, and Scott McClintock, of the Federal Fire Lookouts Association, on the Chew’s Ridge Lookout Program, see https://voicesofmontereybay.org/2020/01/02/they-look-out-for-us/ :

“I had a May Sarton quote taped next to my desk: ‘Loneliness is the poverty of self, solitude is the richness of self,’” said Jenkins-Starkey. “It got me through a lot. After I’d been there several years I began to feel that everyone ought to have a long, long period of solitude to learn the contents of their mind, to learn how to exist, to just be, instead of always doing something.”

Learn the contents of one’s mind through solitude. I like that.

Prescribed Burns in LPNF

Los Padres to begin implementing prescribed fire activities

GOLETA, Calif.— Los Padres National Forest officials today announced plans to begin implementing their annual prescribed burning operations on the Forest over the next few months. When favorable weather conditions are present, specific project locations and dates will be shared on the Forest’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The objectives of the projects are to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire to people and communities, create conditions which offer a safer and more effective wildfire response, foster more resilient ecosystems, and minimize the effects of large wildfires on the landscape.

When implementing these projects, fire managers follow a burn plan that outlines the “prescription” or environmental conditions such as temperature, wind, fuel moisture, ventilation and relative humidity that need to be present before the project begins. When the criteria are met, crews implement, monitor, and patrol each burn to ensure it meets the goals and objectives outlined by managers. The prescribed fire program will continue through the winter and spring months as permitted by weather and other environmental factors.

Prescribed fires including both understory and pile burning are intended to reduce the amount of vegetation, such as needles, small plants, brush, and small trees which can carry fire from the forest floor into the treetops. Studies and experience have shown that prescribed fires stimulate the growth of grasses, forbs and shrubs that provide food for deer, mountain quail and other wildlife.

The ignition of all prescribed burns is dependent on the availability of personnel and equipment and appropriate conditions. Prescribed burn planning and execution are closely coordinated with the National Weather Service and Air Quality Management Districts in order to manage smoke production and minimize impacts as much as possible.

When these burns occur, information signs will be posted along the roadways to alert the public to the burning activity and subsequent visible smoke in the area.

For questions on the Los Padres National Forest prescribed fire program, please contact Fuels Management Specialist Rebecca Dykes at (805) 961-5764.

USFS to limit public comment due to changes in the NEPA

“Under President Donald Trump, federal agencies have chipped away at the reviews and permitting required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws. Earlier this month, the Forest Service proposed a significant overhaul of the NEPA process for logging and development on millions of acres of federal forest and grassland across the West. 

In a statement, the Forest Service said NEPA environmental reviews are time-consuming, redundant and prevent active maintenance of healthy forests. The agency called it the first serious change to NEPA’s regulation of forest management in more than 10 years. 

The public has 60 days to weigh in on these significant changes. The proposed NEPA revisions comment period closes Aug. 12. Here are some key takeaways:

The proposed changes would reduce environmental review for logging and infrastructure.

The Forest Service wants to expand the number of projects that would qualify for “categorical exclusions” — projects that can bypass environmental analysis or environmental impact statements. The exclusions would apply to forest thinning, various types of road and trail building, brush removal and recreational site management. More controversially, forest projects of up to 7,300 acres (with logging on up to more than half of those acres) could be excluded from NEPA review. Mineral and energy exploration — such as using seismic testing to gather geological data and various small-scale infrastructure building — could also be exempt if it lasts less than one year.”

For the rest of this article see: https://www.hcn.org/articles/u-s-forest-service-might-limit-public-comments

Forest Fire Lookout Project – Chew’s Ridge, 6/6/19

CHEWS RIDGE LOOKOUT

Project Description

The Monterey Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest, in partnership with the Forest Fire Lookout Association, will be exploring the possibility of activating the Chews Ridge Lookout and staffing it with local volunteers in order to provide firefighters with early fire detection, as well as other assistance to the National Forest.  In many circumstances, catching a fire when it is still young can prevent it from becoming large and destructive.  This project gives volunteers the opportunity to help improve fire safety in Monterey County rural areas, the Ventana Wilderness, and the Los Padres National Forest.

To read about this project in detail, see: https://firelookouthost.org/chews-ridge-project/