Frequently Asked Questions

What is the UCST Statement of Neutrality?

    The Statement of Neutrality describes the conventions and procedures that the UC Science Team has agreed to follow during the SNAMP project. It establishes agreements related to maintaining expertise, transparency, and independence. It also defines the SNAMP scope of research with an updated study area map. You can find more information on the statement of neutrality in the "Statement of Neutrality Questions & Answers Sheet"

What is a fireshed?

    Firesheds define the scales at which fires and fuel treatments are considered for the SNAMP study sites. They are conceptually analogous to a watershed. Fireshed delineation begins with the identification of a "problem" fire - a fire that has the the greatest potential impact on human and natural resources based on historical weather patterns and terrain. Often, this fire is an actual wildland fire that occurred in the past under weather conditions that rendered suppression actions ineffective. The fireshed is delineated based on the problem fire so that it includes areas with similar fire regimes, fire history, and wildland fire risk issues. (summarized from Collins et al. 2010)

Who started SNAMP?

    In February 2005, the State of California Resources Agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Forest Service, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to develop an active multiparty adaptive management and monitoring plan consistent with the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment. The University of California was asked to serve as a neutral third party with expertise in projects of this sort. The president of the University sought interest from representatives from all the UC campuses with environmental science programs.

Where is SNAMPs funding coming from?

    SNAMP is funded by the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Water Resources, California Department of Fish and Game, and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

How much does this study cost?

    This study is budgeted to cost $12 million over 7 years and will have spent $7.6 million through the 2011 calendar year.

Is the SNAMP project required to abide by NEPA?

    The Forest Service must abide by NEPA for all fuel treatments. The UC Science team, however, is only collecting data and is outside the NEPA process.

What is the geographical extent of California that SNAMP research may affect?

    SNAMP research is focusing on effects of fuels treatments proposed under the 2004 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment. Therefore it would affect those 11 National Forests in the Sierra Nevada.

What are the differences between the SNAMP study and Blodgett?

    SNAMP focus is on very specific landscape scale responses (1000’s of acres) to fuels treatments while incorporating adaptive management and public input at all levels of the project. Blodgett studies a broad range of ecological effects on stand level responses (100’s of acres) to fire and management with limited adaptive management and public input.

How were the two sites chosen?

    The study looked for two sites that represented the major biogeographic features in the Sierra Nevada to include a mixed conifer forest with watersheds. Selection criteria also included old forest habitat for species at risk, a large enough area to support fireshed scale research, active future planning for fuels management by the Forest Service and sufficient capacity for the Forest Service to implement treatments.

How many acres are in each site and how many acres are actually being considered for treatment?

    The northern site (called Last Chance) covers ~24,500 acres with ~2,650 acres being considered for treatment.

    The southern site (called Sugar Pine) covers ~18,000 acres with ~2,000 acres being considered for treatment.
    (Thinning and Biomass by Tractor: 1,200 acres, Mastication: 600 acres, Prescribed burning: 200 acres)

How are trees chosen to be removed?

    US Forest Service specialist develop a silvicultural prescription that identifies the species, size, and spatial arrangement of trees to be removed. Then a US Forest Service crew walks the project and marks individual trees to be removed with paint (although in some cases they mark only trees that will be retained). Prescriptions typically specify certain species and sizes of trees, as well as snags (dead trees) to be retained for wildlife habitat. (For the Sugar Pine Project these include islands of oaks and clumps of large trees, over 30 inches in diameter).

What models are the Fire and Forest Ecosystem Health (FFEH) team using?

What model is the water team using in their research?

Is the FFEH team looking into the changes of tree species composition after fuels treatments?

    This is not a direct question that the FFEH team is looking into. However, they will have pre and post treatment data that could provide some information towards answering this question.

Is SNAMP investigating the effects on wildlife biodiversity from fuels treatments?

    No, SNAMP wildlife researchers are focusing on the effects of fuels treatments on the Spotted owl and Pacific fisher only.

What is a Fisher and why is SNAMP studying them?

    Pacific fishers are medium-sized predators of porcupines and squirrels which were once common in mid elevation forest habitats throughout the Sierra Nevada. These animals are now absent from the Sierra Nevada mountains north of Yosemite NP. We are studying fishers in the Sierra National Forest to find out how many remain in the area, and to determine the best ways to manage forest habitats to prevent fishers from disappearing from the southern Sierra Nevada.

Is SNAMP investigating the effects of climate change on forest health?

    No. However, the FFEH team will have pre and post treatment data that could be applied to this question.

What if only thinning treatments occur but not other fuels treatments?

    SNAMP researchers will investigate the effects of what ever fuels treatments occur as implemented by the Forest Service.

What is lidar and where can I learn more about it?

    Lidar stands for "light detection and ranging." It is a spatial technology that uses a laser to measure the distance from a lidar sensor to an object. The SNAMP spatial team will be using lidar to map our study sites and support the forest health, water, and wildlife research. To learn more about lidar please see our lidar FAQs handout, and our spatial team newsletters that focus on lidar: Vol. 2, No. 3, and Vol. 5, No. 1.

Where does the lumber go from treatments at the southern site?

    Larger logs that are removed through thinning projects can often be made into lumber. The two closest lumber mills to the southern site are in Sonora and Terra Bella, California. Where the wood goes depends on what company gets the contract with the US Forest Service to conduct the thinning. The company that wins that bid can take the logs to which ever mill they choose, usually based on distance and price.

Where does the biomass go from treatments in the southern site?

    Biomass is ground up woody material or chips that is made on site from smaller trees that are too small or uneconomic to be turned into lumber. If prices allow, this biomass will go to a electrical generation facility. The company that wins that bid can take the chips to any facility they choose, usually based on distance and price. If this is not economical, this biomass remains on site and is usually burned as part of the treatment.

What is the Forest Service policy on the large slash piles left after fuels treatments?

    The slash piles left after a fuels treatment project are considered hazardous fuels. As such, the Forest Service develops specifications on how and where the piles are to be placed. The intent is to burn these large piles at an appropriate date. The timing of the burn is dependant on several factors; approval from the Air Quality Resources Board, cooler weather (many fuels treatments are conducted during the summer months) and available man power.

What do SNAMP researchers do during lag time between treatments?

    Almost all science teams will continue to collect data between treatments. Teams will also proceed with data analysis and data sharing, as well as participating in meetings and field trips which the public is invited to attend.

After the study ends, will the Forest Service do more treatments in the study areas?

    The UC Science Team is unaware of any more treatments planned in the study areas after the study is completed. However, that decision is left up to the Forest Service.

How can I become involved in SNAMP?

Are there any volunteer opportunities available to the public in assisting the science teams?

    Prospective volunteers should submit their area of interest and any related experience to the study site representatives: Kim Ingram (Northern Site) and Anne Lombardo (Southern Site). This will then be forwarded on to the science teams for consideration. Any member of the public is invited to participate in Integration Team meetings and field trips.

What are the desired post treatment silvicultural conditions at Last Chance?

Desired conditions include:

  1. At least 2 tree canopy layers;
  2. At least 24" dbh in dominant and co-dominant trees;
  3. A number of trees greater than 45"dbh, and the retention of all live trees greater than or equal to 30" dbh;
  4. 40 to 70% canopy cover, depending on plot location;
  5. Higher than average levels of snags (4 per acre) and down woody material ( 10 to 20 tons per acre);
  6. Retain at least 40% of exisiting basal area;
  7. Retain clusters/groups of trees (5 to 7 trees) in the 20 to 30 size class - 1 to 2 clusters per acre; and
  8. Riparian zones of 25' to 100' depending on stream classification.

What are the risks of the introduction and/or spread of noxious weeds within the Last Chance treatment areas and what plans does the Forest Service have to combat noxious weeds?

The overall risk assessment for noxious weeds within Last Chance is low to high depending on which alternative is being considered. However, all of the alternatives will be following a 4 step management plan that includes:

  1. The use of weed free plant materials for erosion control - if needed.
  2. All equipment that operates off roads must be cleaned before it enters the project area.
  3. All equipment that is operating off roads before it moves from an infested area with in the project to another area, must be cleaned.
  4. The project area will be monitored for the invasion of noxious weeds and any finding will be reported to Forest Service management.