It was years before the Valley Fire that a somewhat shy and soft-spoken genius on our housekeeping staff planted the thought that would eventually grow into Harbin’s action plan to restore our forests. He introduced us to a government agency called the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and described how they could suggest better land management practices, offer trainings, provide grants…all to help keep our forests and streams healthy. He had researched them and then suggested we make contact to see if they could be of help. At the time, many of us felt it was unimaginable that such a beneficent agency could exist and that their services would be so supportive and generous. Though it seemed fanciful and too good to be true, Deirdre Davis and her husband Neil Nelson, then Harbin Land Managers invited NRCS staff to visit Harbin and give a presentation. They came and gave their talk and blew our minds.
The first project the NRCS established was to design fuel-breaks up on the highest parts of our forests, up where the fire roads lead deep into the wild. While working on this project, NRCS made it clear to us it would be best to design a forestry management plan and that we would need a dedicated forester to implement this project. NRCS put us in touch with a forester, who began advising us about best land management practices and ecological restoration. Just as importantly from today’s vantage point, he helped us establish relationships with other government agencies like the Farm Services Agency (FSA) which, along with the NRCS quickly stepped forward after the Fire with significant financial funding for our extensive re-build and huge biomass cleanup projects. Of course, this was immensely appreciated.
Then, immediately after the fire, with a forester to guide us, and government grants to support us, 50,000 baby trees were purchased and seedlings planted at the Placerville County Resource Conservation Center. Without their timely input we wouldn’t have thought to order these saplings which take a full year to grow before planting. At the time, we were all still reeling with the idea that Harbin was decimated by the fire and not focused on reforestation. Our Forester will also be coordinating the planting of those saplings this winter. We hope to continue our relationship with him and NRCS for years to come.
So, it all began with seeds of an idea — a dedicated Harbinite and two savvy Managers willing to follow up a seemingly “fairytale” suggestion. Thanks again Tom… wherever you are! And Deirdre and Neil, thanks to you both for your intelligent dedication as well. Here’s hoping our new forests may live happily ever after!