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GE Forum to host Community Wildfire Protection Plan

By Christian Kallan

With another fire season on the way, Sonoma Valley environmental protection leaders are working to create a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) for the Glen Ellen area. Fire Safe Sonoma received funding from the California Fire Safe Council to assist Glen Ellen in completing the local wildland fire safety risk assessment.

Such a plan is developed at the community level to identify and prioritize areas that pose a hazard and high probability of fire risk which require mitigation or fuel reduction. Being documented and included in a CWPP enables any particular project to be eligible for local, county, or state funding.

Spearheading the effort locally are Ellie Insley, Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC) board member, and Mark Newhouser, who serves as restoration project manager at SEC. Both appeared before a Glen Ellen Forum on March 7 to introduce the CWPP effort and request that the Forum help facilitate the creation of the CWPP and host its stakeholders and process. Insley is also on the chair of the Glen Ellen Forum Landscape and Environment Committee.

“Part of what we’re doing tonight is a plea for help. For anyone interested in wildlife preparations, reach out to Ellie or myself,” said Newhouser, an at-large member of the North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Council.

The first order of business is to recruit a team of volunteers to work on the plan, then follow the templates provided by Fire Safe Sonoma to complete the planning process by the end of the year.

“It will be a joint process; we want to share the fun and the work and the glory with anyone who wants to participate,” said Newhouser.

The process and purpose of creating a CWPP was outlined in the 2003 federal Healthy Forest Restoration Act. It asks for a narrative framework, a list of areas of concern and steps to take for their mitigation, and the benefits and outcomes of such a community-based plan.

Insley described several areas that might be worth studying for inclusion in the CWPP, including situations where non-native invasive plants have spread through the understory and pose a fire risk.

“Once you have this CWPP, then you can take it to the county or FSC (California Fire Safe Council), state FSS (California Fire and Safety Specialists), or other funders. Because it’s written into the plan, we can get money to do it.”

For the first step, the pair requested that Glen Ellen create a CWPP with a community stakeholders meeting, to be held either virtually or in person sometime in April. The next step would entail distributing and evaluating a community survey of local areas of concern and provide input on the plan’s development.

While some money was available to create the CWPP, Insely said that it has been used to hire a consultant to oversee the process. However, she, Newhouser, and any others who want to join the effort will be working on a volunteer basis. “There’s real incentive to look around your neighborhood, talk to your neighbors, and identify the things that you actually think are real fire hazards,” she told the forum. “Look around, think about what the hazards are, let us know during the meetings, and we’ll put it in the plan.”

A week after the forum, it was announced that the first Glen Ellen CWPP Community Stakeholder meeting will be held via zoom, on Mon., April 25, from 5-7 p.m. To register to attend, contact Glenellen. org.