Tag Archives: Sierra National Forest

Marijuana Grower Pleads Guilty

Sierra National Forest Marijuana Cultivator Pleads Guilty

Submitted by the Department of Justice

FRESNO, Calif. — Humberto Ceballos-Rangel (Ceballos), 37, of Mexico, pleaded guilty today in connection with his involvement in a large marijuana cultivation operation found by law enforcement last summer in the Sierra National Forest in Madera County, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

Ceballos pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture, to distribute, and to possess with the intent to distribute 50 or more marijuana plants. According to court documents, Ceballos and his co-conspirators caused significant damage to public land and natural resources. Ceballos was found at a campsite within a marijuana cultivation site with 5,904 marijuana plants. A firearm and ammunition were recovered from a vehicle associated with the cultivation operation. The cultivation operation caused significant harm to the environmental landscape. Native vegetation was cut to accommodate the marijuana plants, foot trails, and cooking and sleeping areas. Water was also diverted from a nearby creek to irrigate the marijuana plants. Agents found and removed from the site insecticide, propane tanks, and a large quantity of trash and hose line. Ceballos has agreed to make restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the costs of cleaning up the site.

The charges against Ceballos’ co-defendants, Francisco Javier Gomez-Rodriguez, 38, Alejandro Ramirez-Rojo, aka Alejandro Ramires, 31, also citizens of Mexico, and Anthony Isaac Santibanez, 20, of Woodlake, California, remain pending. These charges are only allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ceballos is scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on April 18, 2016. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET). Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

california department of justice campaign against marijuana planting, sierra national forest, marijuana grows on public lands

Officials defend Rough Fire efforts

Rough Fire now over 151 thousand Acres

Top land managers are offering a Op/Ed defending and explaining the response to the Rough Fire.  The fire is now over 151 thousand acres and listed at 87% perimeter containment.  The lighting caused fire started on July 31st.   The forest supervisors and superintendent felt there was a need to clarify some common misconceptions about the Rough Fire.

The Rough Fire: The fire that continually defied suppression efforts.

We want to recognize the residents of east-side communities who lived with smoke from the Rough Fire for many weeks and we thank you for your patience while numerous valiant efforts to contain the fire were made.

We also understand that smoke affects one of the primary attractions of the east-side, which is the broad spectrum of recreational opportunities that people from throughout the world come to experience.

However we must dispute several sentiments shared with various east-side media outlets that suggest that this fire was a managed-lightning fire for resource benefit.

In particular, we must refute the idea that our firefighters did not do enough or that we, as land managers, underestimated this fire in initial attack and over the following weeks.

Allow us to share with you of the nature of the fire response.

When lightning ignited seven fires on the Sierra National Forest on July 31st, firefighters quickly contained all but one and fire managers suspected that one was going to be a problem.

Kings Canyon Drainage is known for its stunning beauty because of its dramatic steep cliffs that draw visitors from the world to enjoy this stunning scenery. It is also documented as the largest unbroken vertical rise in North America.

To a firefighter, it’s a no man’s land: steep, technical terrain that has been known for injuring firefighters over the years. It’s so steep that “rollouts” (burning material that gets loosened, rolls down the steep slope, and runs back up the hill) are a constant concern for fire crews. In fact, it is exactly how the fire progressed down the canyon. Aircraft and firefighters themselves can sometimes push the rollouts on these cliffs.

These conditions make it impossible to establish an anchor point for a firefighter to start a containment line. It’s not terrain that firefighters can safely engage a fire.

Add the fourth year of a drought. Add that this was ground zero for the worst die off of trees seen in the southern Sierra. Earlier this year, the U.S. Forest Service reported that 12 million trees had died in the southern Sierra Nevada, with areas along the Kings Canyon River Drainage hardest hit. Driving along the river drainage, you will see areas with up to 60% tree mortality. This area had missed several fire cycles, meaning there was a thick bed of dried fuels mixed with dead trees. Add continuous days of 100 degree (or more) temperatures.

Firefighters think about weather, fuel, and topography when trying to access fire behavior. The Rough Fire presented the worst of all three.   When fire managers added this all up, they knew they had a challenging fire to deal with. Never for a moment, and contrary to rumors, did fire managers ever consider anything but full suppression.  The problem was how. It was assessed by crews on the ground and by air, they reported the terrain too steep and that direct attack was not an option for safety reasons.

Aircraft cannot do it alone. Helicopters and tankers can slow the fire’s growth and reduce its intensity, but firefighters need to construct the containment line to stop the fire’s growth.
Once the fire became established, crew after crew of firefighters reported that they had never seen fire behavior like they were witnessing. It crossed dozer lines, roads, and rivers with incredible ease.

Firefighters found themselves working to defend Cedar Grove, Hume Lake, Grant Grove Village and Wilsonia, Balch Camp, communities near Wishon, the PG&E Power Plant, and Dunlap.
As the Rough Fire approached the sequoia groves of Giant Sequoia National Monument and in Kings Canyon National Park, firefighters worked to get the best fire effects possible. Giant sequoias are fire-adapted and germinate with the heat surge from the fire than opens the cones in the tree and releases the seeds to the nutrient-rich ash bed below—the catch was ensuring that this fire wasn’t too intense even for the sequoias.

Some of these communities experienced air that ranged from unhealthy to hazardous. Grant Grove Village and Wilsonia were evacuated first for smoke and remained evacuated for fire.
Numerous crews, including those on initial attack, made every effort they could to contain this fire. Many crews have been away from loved ones for most of the summer responding to fires throughout the west, many of which have also grown larger than historically seen and displaying unprecedented fire behavior. We are particularly grateful that, to date, our firefighters will make it home to their families and loved ones. One injury, in particular, reminded us how complex this terrain is; with the rescue being conducted by a roped-in technical rescue team.

So, we thank you for your patience and we recognize that you too have been affected by this fire. We also hope you will also take a moment to be grateful to all the dedicated men and women who worked tirelessly this summer to protect our communities and our infrastructure.

Dean Gould, Forest Supervisor of Sierra National Forest.
Kevin Elliott,  Forest Supervisor of Giant Sequoia National Monument/Sequoia National Forest.
Woody Smeck, Superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

rough fire, drought 2015, sierra national forest, sequoia national monument, kings canyon national park

Rough Fire Growing, Pumping Smoke into Eastern Sierra

Rough Fire causing Haze in the Eastern Sierra

The lightning caused fire near Hume Lake is having an effect on Eastern Sierra air quality.  The fire started back on July 31st, but has grown rapidly in recent days.  Here is the latest Forest Service update on the Rough Fire:

Summary

At this time the fire continues to follow the terrain, creating a mosaic effect between burned and unburned fuels.  It continues to grow at a slow to moderate rate of spread in all directions; moving north towards Spanish Mountain; east into the Monarch Wilderness, crossing over Brush Canyon and backing down to Tombstone Creek; west into Rough Creek and south towards Kings River.  A rapid rate of spread can be anticipated if the terrain, fuels and weather align together.

Wednesday additional overhead from a National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team will join the Sierra National Forest, Type 3 organization in managing the fire.

Closures

Currently there are no closures on the Sierra or Sequoia National Forests.  Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks remain fully open with no closures.

Visitors may experience smoke impacts in many popular recreational areas including Wishon Reservoir, Hume Lake and Cedar Grove area. For air quality updates visit http://www.valleyair.org/aqinfo/forecast.htm for more information.

 Fire Restrictions

Fire restrictions are in place for the Sierra National Forest.  Campfires are only allowed in designated developed recreation sites.

statistics
Acres burned:  5,226
Containment:  0%
Fire Start:  July 31, 2015
Cause:  Lightening
Total personnel: 217

COVER PHOTO BY GARY YOUNG.  Monday Evening view from Bishop.

rough fire, us forest service, drought 2015, hume lake, sierra national forest

US Forest Service Announces 30-Day Public Scoping Period for Revised Forest Plan

USFS Pacific Southwest Region Begins Scoping on Revised Forest Plans

The U.S. Forest Service today announced a 30-day public scoping period to start the National Environmental Policy Act process for revising forest plans on the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests. The scoping period begins August 29, 2014 with the publishing of the Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register.
The Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra are three of eight national forests selected as “early adopters,” meaning they will be the first forests to revise their land management plans under the 2012 Forest Service Planning Rule.  The planning rule provides the framework for Forest Service land management plans on national forests across the nation.
These three forest plan revisions will be completed through the development of one environmental impact statement (EIS).  The final EIS will result in three separate Records of Decision and three separate forest plans.  Forest Supervisors are the responsible officials for making decisions on their specific forest plans.
A “scoping period” gives the public a chance to tell the Forest Service what issues and concerns they think should be addressed in the EIS before alternatives are developed and analyzed in the EIS.  Public involvement is a critical piece of this analysis and considered in the range of alternatives, which will be made available for public review and comment when drafted.
The Forest Service expects to release a draft of the EIS and alternatives for public review by spring 2015.
The EIS allows for a robust public involvement process, which begins with the scoping period announced today.  Public meetings to answer questions and accept written public comment are scheduled.  For the Inyo National Forest, they will be held on:
·         6:00-8:00 pm -Monday, September 15at the Dyer Community Center in Dyer, NV
·         6:00-8:00pm – Thursday, September 18, Tri-County Fairgrounds, Sierra Street & Fair Drive, Bishop, CA
The Forest Service values public participation. Communications from the public regarding this project, including commenter’s names and contact information, will become part of the public record.
Comments, including anonymous comments, will be accepted at any time.  However, comments posted after the close of a designated comment period may not be given full consideration.  Anonymous comments and comments submitted after the close of the final designated comment period will not provide the commenter standing for administrative review.
Scoping comments must be received by September 29, 2014 and may be submitted:
·         Onlinehttp://tinyurl.com/r5earlyadopters (click on the “Comment on Project” hyperlink under the “Get Connected” topic at the right side of the webpage),
·         Electronic mailR5planrevision@fs.fed.us, or
·         U.S. mail: Land Management Plan Revision, U.S. Forest Service, 1839 South Newcomb Street, Porterville, CA  93257.
Please remember to specify which forest or forests your comments apply to.  For forest-specific information, please contact that forest directly:
·         Inyo NF: Deb Schweizer at 760-873-2427 or debraaschweizer@fs.fed.us
·         Sequoia NF: Alicia Embrey at 559-784-1500 or aliciamembrey@fs.fed.us
·         Sierra NF: Dirk Charley at 559-297-0706 x4805 or dcharley@fs.fed.us
The NOI, detailed proposed action and maps are available for review at http://tinyurl.com/r5earlyadopters.
For earlier information regarding forest plan revision documents and the planning process prior to the release of the NOI and scoping period, please visit the Pacific Southwest Region’s planning website at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/r5/FPR.

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES:

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if special assistance to participate in this meeting is needed, please contact the appropriate National Forest. Notification at least 48 hours prior to the meeting will enable the Forest Service to make reasonable arrangements.
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USFS Pacific Southwest Region Begins Scoping on Revised Forest Plans

http://www.kibskbov.com/revisedforestplanupdate/
US Forest Service / USFS Pacific Southwest Region / Revised Forest Plans / Inyo National Forest / Sequoia National Forest / Sierra National Forest / Eastern Sierra / Bishop