Cathedral Mountain Ranch Association

 

- 2004 Wildfire Grant Committee Progress Report -

 

 

CMRA Wildfire Grant Program - Background

 

Over the past several years of sustained drought, native vegetation in our region has undergone considerable stress as the consequence of extremely low moisture content in live trees and a fading natural resistance to a variety of parasites and disease.  A blister rust and bark beetle infestation has attacked the conifer/evergreen stands across much of the state contributing to widespread concentrations of dead and diseased trees on both public and private lands – including Cathedral Mountain Ranch.  Prolonged drought, gradual deterioration of forest health, and the growing accumulation of dead/diseased “host” trees at CMR has sustained the spread of harmful insect infestation and disease as well as increase the risk exposure of CMRA Members and their homes to wildfires of either natural or accidental causes.

 

The 2003 Cathedral Ridge and Saderbalm fires in the wilderness area to the south of CMR created considerable activity, interest and tension in our area.  Concern was elevated as fire fighters put CMR residents on evacuation alert, shared wildfire defense strategies, and positioned Hot Shot crews to maintain vigilance around our homes.  After discussions among neighbors and at regular CMRA Board meetings, a volunteer Committee, comprised of interested CMRA directors and members, was organized to spearhead an effort to improve overall wildfire awareness at CMR, organize removal of dead or diseased trees and other wildfire fuels from around homes, common lands and along escape routes, improve forest health, enhance wildlife habitat and investigate opportunities for grant funding to offset expected program costs of a longer term wildfire prevention program at CMR.

 

With the goal of making ‘informed’ recommendations and decisions, Committee members dedicated many hours to wildfire and fire ecology research and arranging fact-finding meetings with the US Forest Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Stillwater Conservation District, Stillwater Mining Company Environmental Department, professional Foresters, Nye Volunteer Fire Department, and other rural/mountain Homeowner associations in our region involved in similar projects.  Hosted visits to CMR for site-specific discussions were arranged for representatives from various state and federal agencies as well as knowledgeable forestry and wildfire defense professionals. Committee members also toured other mountain home communities and met with homeowner groups from Red Lodge (400 Ranch) and Boulder River Watershed Association involved in grant-supported programs to reduce wildfire risk in their respective communities.

 

The CMR Committee was ‘a little surprised’ with the success of its first ever attempt at the grant writing/application process when CMRA was awarded approximately forty thousand dollars in matching funds for its Initial Phase Project under the 2004 Western States Wildland Urban Interface Grant Program.  The grant provides for reimbursement of 50% of allowable costs incurred by CMRA for its program.  Those costs may include direct contractor charges, in-kind or “soft match” charges for volunteered time or services provided by Members, commercial rates for operating CMRA equipment, costs of educational materials and general administration time/expenses.  The grant was described generally in the June 2004 mailing to CMRA Members.  The grant conditions and proposed program were discussed in more detail during an informative and enthusiastic gathering of interested Members at the Lodge on the evening before the 2004 annual membership meeting and again on the following day during the CMRA Annual Meeting.  Click to view a copy of our 2004 Grant Application.

 

2004 ‘Phase I’ Program Highlights

 

After conducting an initial wildfire risk assessment of CMR in consultation with a professional Forester, Nye Fire Department personnel and the State Department of Environmental Quality grant administrator, several key program objectives were established.  These objectives were applied in our initial grant application and formed the basis for our 2004 Grant Project as well as a conceptual longer-range program outline in the event future grant funding is desired and available. 

 

The key objectives included:

 

  1. Obtaining permission and participation by a sufficient number of CMR home or lot owners to allow effective and efficient demonstration projects to be conducted on reasonably representative areas comprised of both ‘individual’ and CMRA ‘common ownership’ property.

 

  1. Limiting the size and scope of the initial project area to ensure that our first project could showcase the grant project to our Members and demonstrate, for the State and Federal agencies controlling grant funds, CMRA’s ability to organize its members and implement a successful project.

 

  1. Completing sufficient work in representative Demonstration Areas to various compliance standards in order to:

 

    1. Allow the CMRA Board, the Wildfire Committee and its contractor (FIRELINE Fire Protection Services) to better estimate future project costs and more effectively plan for the remainder of the program.

 

    1. Allow Members to better visualize and assess the esthetic impacts of the applying Firewise Community/USA qualification standards at a home in CMR’s specific setting.  For those interested, a link to the Firewise Community/USA website: www.firewise.org/usa is provided on the CMR website.

 

    1. Determine the level of general Membership interest in CMRA working toward the Firewise Community /USA™ designation acknowledged by the insurance and mountain real estate industries.

 

    1. Demonstrate for Members the visual impacts of compliance with Western States Wildland Urban Interface Grant Standards and our grant administrator’s (Beartooth RC&D) specific “prescription” for hazardous fuel reduction grant compliance and forest health initiatives at CMR.  Click to view a copy of the Hazardous Fuel Treatment Technical Specifications.

 

  1. Designation of a suitable location for implementing our first demonstration project founded on a practical set of characteristics, priorities and achievable work goals that might enhance the success potential for CMRA’s grant application, including:

 

    1. A preliminary CMR wildfire risk assessment, concentrations of “hazardous fuel” (dead and diseased trees, dry plant debris, ladder fuel, etc.) within areas of higher home/cabin density.

 

    1. Identification of more critical access/escape routes for residents, fire fighters and equipment necessary for wildfire defense and control.

 

    1. Proximity to the National Forest boundary or “wildlands/urban interface” (a key qualification for the grant which the Committee had targeted).

 

    1. Location and defensible status of important CMR infrastructure including our drinking water system, existing or proposed fire protection installations, the Lodge, maintenance/equipment area, etc.

 

  1. Planned use of a professional contractor and equipment for the more technical or hazardous project tasks in higher safety risk areas of denser growth, limited access or rough terrain.

 

  1. Designation of select areas and tasks where Members, families, guests and CMRA equipment can safely participate in individual or organized group hazardous fuel removal, habitat restoration and revegetation activities to satisfy our matching requirements under the grant.

 

 

Summary of ‘Phase I’ Project Progress in 2004:

 

  1. The Committee dedicated a lot of hours (and consumed a lot of Sandi’s cookies) in research, coordination meetings, telephone calls, emails, travel, writing and proof-reading application drafts, photographing, tracking down permission waivers, processing invoices, calculating “match” accounts, responding to Member suggestions, complaints and complements, and in ‘down right hard physical labor’ in getting our wildfire fuel reduction project launched.  THANK YOU Committee members!

 

  1. The Committee was notified of its 2004 Grant Award back in November 2003; however, funding was not formally available (and official ‘match’ work couldn’t commence) until later in June 2004.

 

  1. The Committee distributed project waiver/permission requests to the Members after the July Annual Meeting and by the end of July had received a sufficient cluster of signed owner waivers to officially launch the first Demonstration Area project.

 

  1. In August the CMRA Board approved and executed a Management Plan Agreement designating Beartooth Resource Conservation & Development as the agency’s official grant administrator and CMRA’s technical and forestry coordinator.

 

  1. Also in August, CMRA Board executed an agreement with FIRELINE Fire Protection Services to provide contract services for the CMR hazardous fuels treatment program in compliance with standards prescribed under Beartooth RC&D agreement.

 

  1. By mid-September, the Contractor’s equipment had been mobilized to CMR and Fireline personnel commenced project work at the first (Firewise specs) Demonstration Area in the Sky View-Rocky-Hawk Trails area. Also, our CMRA Caretaker and equipment prepared access to and cleared a safe wood slash depository and burn site on private land (with less rigid limitations for burning) adjacent to the CMR property.

 

  1. A few very ambitious Members worked tirelessly wearing out their leather gloves at the Demonstration Areas, around their lots and homes, and with Joe (CMRA Caretaker and equipment operator) in cleaning up many piles of dead wood stacked by Members at the designated temporary drop sites around CMR.  THANKS FOLKSyou, the Committee and your Chiropractors know who you are!!!

 

  1. The “trained eye” and measurements of our RC&D grant administrator estimated that the combined efforts of our contractor and Members, had resulted in over 40 tons of tree slash being cleared from the Demonstration Areas and other parts of CMR and hauled to the burn site by Thanksgiving weekend!!!

 

  1. To meet an October 2004 application deadline, CMRA submitted supporting data for continued funding under a ‘consolidated application’ (prepared by Beartooth RC&D) for funding under the 2005 Western Wildland Urban Interface Grant Program.  If the grant is approved and CMRA Members decide to continue with the program, an additional $39,000 of grant funding, net of all Agency administration fees, could be available for continuing our program.   This additional grant funding would be made available to CMRA on the same 50:50 matching basis as our current grant and could be applied to expanding our wildfire fuel reduction, habitat restoration and revegetation project at CMR.

 

  1. Our 2004 hazardous fuel reduction work project was ‘wrapped up’ as the contractor removed his equipment with the weather change in late November.  However, a few ambitious residents and Committee members continued with wood slash cleanup activities around the ranch until the winter snows came to CMR.

 

 

The Wildfire Grant Committee is happy to report to the CMRA Board and Membership that our 2004 Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project goals of reducing wildfire risks on a portion of CMR, improving general forest health, providing ‘demonstration areas’ to allow Members to observe the physical impact and visual effects of alternative stewardship practices at CMR, and decide on the future of the project, have been accomplished.  We ended the 2004 work season with approximately $3000 surplus in ‘matching fund accruals’ and approximately $24,000 remaining of our available Grant fund for continued work in the Spring of 2005.    

 

The Fire Grant Committee appreciates the effort and interest expressed by many CMRA residents and lot owners during the 2004 grant project.  We welcome your continued participation and any ideas or suggestions that would help make the program better.

 

 

 

Sandi Crawford                                                   Ralph Green

bearpawmt@earthlink.net                                     rgreen@stillwatermining.com

 

 

Bill Clossin                                                          Mark and Sue Reynolds

wclossin@starband.net                                          doc4@att.net