Public comments sought for proposed Castle Fire Ecological Restoration Project

Public comments sought for
Sequoia National Forest officials are seeking public comments on the proposed Castle Fire Ecological Restoration Project within the area impacted by the 2020 Castle Fire on the Western Divide and Kern River Ranger districts. The project area is immediately adjacent to California Highway 190, Mountain Home State Forest, Balch Park, Alpine Village, Camp Nelson, Cedar Slope, Coy Flat, Doyle Springs, Pierpoint, Ponderosa, Sequoia Crest, and a few small private inholdings in Tulare County. Public comments sought for
The Castle Fire Ecological Restoration Project aims to restore and promote a healthy forest ecosystem and re-forest burned forest where natural regeneration is unlikely.
“Removing dead and dying trees, combined with restoration efforts, including planting and seeding, would re-establish healthy forest conditions that provide wildlife habitat,” stated Forest Supervisor Teresa Benson. “The restored conditions would be more resilient to drought, insect/disease outbreaks, and high-severity fire.”  
According to Forest Ecosystem Staff Officer Gretchen Fitzgerald, there is a need to restore healthy forest conditions in the areas burned by the Castle Fire. Public comments sought for
“Without specific management action, such as planting and seeding, some areas will not recover due to the high severity of the fire,” she explained.
To contribute to the restoration’s success, site preparation, including the removal of dead and dying trees and treatment of competing vegetation would need to occur.  
The following specific actions are being evaluated for meeting the purpose and need:
—Fall and remove dead/dying trees using mechanical ground-based equipment.
—Trees with commercial value for sawtimber or biomass could be sold. Trees not sold could be chipped for ground cover, lopped and scattered, piled and burned, or placed for erosion control.  
—Retain some large dead trees to meet wildlife habitat needs.
—Within the Wildland Urban Interface defense zone, fall and remove trees that have the potential to strike private communities and reduce ladder fuels in low severity burned areas.
—Plant native conifer species to supplement natural regeneration. Reforestation would include site preparation, planting of seedlings, and release of seedlings by a combination of hand, mechanical, and chemical methods. Public comments sought for
—Repair and maintain road system as necessary to implement restoration activities. 
—Construct temporary roads as necessary and decommission them within three years of project completion.
—Reduce extensive areas of high fuel loading using various techniques that could include piling and burning or understory burning.
Send suggestions or concerns related to the proposed project to comments-pacificsouthwest-sequoia@usda.gov with a Castle Fire Restoration subject line. Comments would be most helpful if received by Friday, February 26, 2021. Public comments sought for
For questions or to discuss the proposal, contact Steven Caracciolo, Vegetation Program Manager, at steven.caracciolo@usda.gov.
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