Chapter Updates – High Sierra Chapter

September 2015 meeting, Fresno, CA. The first of the fallwinter meetings was attended by chapter members, Reedley College staff and students plus special guests from the California Board of Forestry and CAL FIRE.

Several speakers addressed the current state of affairs with the drought in our area. Matt Meadows, PG&E, gave an overview of the results from his snow surveys. The Sierra Nevada snowpack was the lowest in recorded history, affecting all the rivers. Ground water reserves also are dwindling. This has severely limited the amount of hydroelectric power generated this year. Predictions are that the region may be in for a good “El Niño” rainy season, but we will have to wait and see.

Diane Savin-Dukleth, USFS, reported on the huge Rough Fire, which burned over 151,623 acres. It was lightning caused from a small late July storm in a remote area that has some of the steepest and most rugged ground in the country. Due to the extremely dry fuel conditions and insect killed trees, the fire was so intense and unpredictable that it appeared unstoppable at times. It burned areas that normally wouldn’t carry a fire, crossing the Kings River and several roads.

Retired USFS silviculturist, Mark Smith, reviewed the results from his field work looking at restoration of Sierra National Forest areas that had large forest fires in the past. He noted that forests that were commercially thinned over five years ago have less insect-related tree mortality. The SCE managed land and the areas thinned under the Dinkey Collaborative projects also are holding their own. Smith suggests that the High Sierra Chapter host a statewide summer NorCal/SoCal SAF meeting next year to study and showcase these areas.

SCE forester and chapter chairman, Ryan Stewart, spoke about the scope of the insect killed trees on federal and private land in the Shaver Lake region. This unprecedented insect kill leaves few alternatives to land owners. The volume of merchantable sized dead trees is so immense that it is beyond the capacity of the remaining saw mills in this part of the state. He said funding may be available to help land owners remove dead material.

November 2015 meeting, Fresno, CA. The guest speaker for our November meeting was Dr. Rob York, manager of Blodgett Research Station. Rob spoke on, “High-grading and low-grading: Pitfalls in using diameter thresholds for marking.” This is a long-term study that documents significant negative effects of large tree removal (high grading) on long term productivity and species composition in a productive mixed confer forest.


Forest Conservation Days 2015 was all set to go for September 21–25, 2015, at Sequoia Lake YMCA Camp, but was cancelled due to the Rough Fire. Diane Savin-Dukleth, the main FCD coordinator, had booked over 1,200 students from the greater Fresno area to come.

We cancelled FCD for fear of exposing the students to the smoke. But, by the end it was lucky the firefighters could save the camp at all. The fire burned very close to the camp, and if conditions had been right, all could have been lost, and we would need to look for another location to house FCD.

Don Dukleth, Diane Savin-Dukleth and other High Sierra Chapter members who have been the main FCD coordinators are looking to the future, hoping to pass the torch on to new volunteers for 2016. This transition is crucial if FCD is to continue.

Roles that need to be filled: school contact/booking coordination, volunteer recruitment (station staff, school bus greeters, etc.), food management (buy and set up lunch fixings), tour guide training and supply coordinator. Don and Diane will help set a date for 2016 and will assist the new coordinators on all the details to run FCD. Please contact Diane Savin-Dukleth and/or Thomas Catchpole to help take over the planning jobs of FCD. Thanks again to all the volunteers who helped in 2014 and were prepared to help this fall. For FCD information go online to:


Chapter member Don Dukleth is this year’s District 3 Presidential Field Forester Award recipient. Congratulations Don! Don received the award at the national Society of American Foresters (SAF) convention in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was selected by his peers for the award in District 3 (California, Nevada, and Hawaii). Don works for Southern California Edison Company (SCE) as a forest ecologist.

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