The 6 scenarios below describe situations where treatment would be needed. Following these scenarios are descritpions of treatment methods we will use in SLFAP to achieve our goals of reducing the risks of these scenarios.
- Thinning of small trees: When many small trees (trees less than 10 inches in diameter) grow very close together, they are incapable of growing to the best of their ability. Without room to get sun and water, the trees stay small and keep many layers of their branches such that some even touch the ground. In addition to being unable to grow into a healthy forests, these groupings of trees can create severe fire safety hazards.
- Pruning: As mentioned above, some trees keep their branches on the bottom of the tree for long periods. When there is fire on the ground, these branches can act as steps on a ladder and bring the flames up into the trees canopy. Pruning removes these branches, and makes the tree more fire resilient. Also, pruning can be used to cut back some of the many sprouts hardwood trees, like oaks, maples, and dogwoods, helping them become one large tree rather than a bush.
- Removal of small, dead trees: When forests like the one described above burn, they leave behind many dead or dying trees. After as little as one year, these trees can become safety hazards when they fall. When many of these trees fall in one place, they can create "jackpots," or places where future fires can burn very hot due to all the fuel.
- Removal of dead and/or living brush: Once a forest burns, the brush below the dead trees can flourish with all the newly available sunlight. Some brush species grow happily below living forests canopies, but their numbers have been able to increase without limitation because they used to be burned by wildfire at more regular time periods. In both cases, brush can serve as a continuous fuel layer that can carry fire quickly when weather conditions have been dry.
- Hazard tree removal: Fire, drought, and bugs have killed many trees in Butte County. Tree hazards include dead or dying trees, dead parts of live trees, or unstable live trees (due to structural defects or other factors) that are within striking distance of people or property (a target). Hazard trees have the potential to cause property damage, personal injury or fatality in the event of a failure. The larger the tree, the more potential damage it can create when it falls. These trees need to be felled by professionals that will make sure the least amount of damage occurs as the tree comes down.
- Reforestation: After a fire or other major disturbance like a pest outbreak, to look like a forest again within our lifetimes, there are situation where planting trees will speed up the land's recovery. Where there used to be trees and now there is nothing but dead ones, a cover of brush, or bare ground, planting trees is often recommended. There are also cases where trees aren't a safe option to plant, in which case planting native shrubs and forbs may be a better option.
Treatment Method Descriptions:
- Hand cut and pile (pile burning): Cutting material down with a chainsaw and then sizing pieces such that they fit in to piles no bigger than 4x4x4 feet, waiting for the piles to dry out, and then, with a permit where required, burning the piles on a permissive burn day.
- Hand cut and lop and scatter: When the amount of cut material is small enough that it can be no deeper than 6 inches when spread out, the material can be simply scattered. This treatment may make the treatment unit eligible for prescribed, broadcast burning.
- Hand cut and chip (chipper may include a grapple piler): After material is hand cut with chainsaws, it can be chipped in a chipper that is either towed behind a truck or one that runs on tracks. Chipping material can reduce fire hazard. For tow-behind chippers, the treatment unit must have road-side access (roads can be improved [rocked or paved] or unimproved). Chippers that run on their own are restricted to slopes less than 65% where there is little risk of soil erosion. They must be kept out of protected watercourse areas. If there is a lot of material, a different machine, called a grapple piler, may feed the material into the chipper.
- Mastication: Masticators are machines that have heads that grind, shred, chop, or chip material--reducing the size of the material. They can come in various sizes, from a small skid steer with a horizontal drum head to large machines with self-leveling cabs and boom arms with masticating heads. Whether they are tracked or on wheels, they often have the common side effect of disturbing soils as they move back and forth and turn to masticate the fuels. Masticators should be limited to slopes under 35% to maintain minimal soil effects and always kept out of protected watercourse areas. The terrain--how rocky and steep the property is--will largely determine whether this type of treatment can be used or not.
- Hazard Tree removal: Depending on how close a hazardous tree is to infrastructure, a professional arborist may either climb these trees and cut them down in small, tethered portions, hire a crane to perform the task, or carefully fell the tree in a safe direction. Otherwise hazard trees will be removed by a licensed timber operator mechanically or by hand-felling. Large downed logs would then be transported via skidding.
- Prescribed fire: Prescribed fire is also sometimes called a “controlled burn,” “prescribed burn,” or "underburn." They are often conducted to reduce wildfire risk, improve wildlife habitat, and/or improve the health of timber stands. A land manager lights a prescribed fire only after selecting a prescription (a recipe for the right range of temperature, winds and forest conditions that will result in a safe and beneficial fire) and obtaining the needed permits. If this is an option you are considering, you can get free help. Read more about how to implement prescribed fire on your property and feel free to contact the Butte County PBA.
- Planting trees and/or native plants: Planting trees and native plants will be done if it is likely that once they grow up, they will help suppress invasive plants and dangerous levels of brush. Planting is done after the site is prepared by using the treatments listed above to clear the ground. Plants are planted by hand and can come with shelters if they are likely to be browsed.