Another View: Project Canyon Safe 2011 ready to clean up

Another View
By: Kevin Hanley
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The accumulation of dangerous levels of dry wood and brush on federal lands put communities all across California in the direct pathway of a catastrophic fire. The residents of these communities have two choices. They can idly sit on their hands and hope that the federal tooth fairy will swoop in and save the day or they can discover their “inner pioneer” and do something about this serious public safety problem. We, the citizens, are the real owners of federal lands. We are not the meek subjects of the federal government. Last year, Auburn residents, with the memory of the devastating 49 Fire of 2009 firmly fixed in their minds, launched Project Canyon Safe to reduce the levels of dry wood and brush on federal lands on the rim of the American River Canyon. The first step was to get permission to work on the federal lands. Through the leadership of the members of the Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council, Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi, and the Auburn City Council, we were able to negotiate a historic agreement with the federal Bureau of Reclamation to permit residents work on federal lands in approved projects. The goal is to turn an unhealthy and crowded oak and pine woodlands into a park-like Shaded Fuel Break that can help prevent a catastrophic fire and provide more space for wildlife. It’s a win-win for everyone. Last year, on May 22, 2010, Auburn made history. On that morning, over 100 of the toughest men and women in Auburn – volunteers, the Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council, Auburn firefighters, California Conservation Corps members, and the crews of two brush clearing companies – converged at Robie Point and cleared 9 acres of federal land of dangerous levels of dry wood and brush. This hardy group of men and women – I call them the “Auburn Mountain Goat Battalion” because of the steep terrain – chipped over 150 tons of wood material in a single day. The Bible instructs us to “be fruitful and multiply.” Well, the success of the first Robie Point work project led to 18 neighborhood projects on the canyon and the clearance of over 70 acres in a single year. A generous donor created the “Project Canyon Fund” at the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Foundation to create a dollar for dollar matching challenge grant, which results in a 50 percent reduction in the costs of dry wood and brush clearing. To keep this great momentum going, we are launching Project Canyon Safe 2011. The Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council is organizing a volunteer work party at the Overlook off Pacific Street on Saturday, July 9, starting at 7:30 in the morning. The project will help support the Western States Run and Tevis Cup Ride trails. Recology is generously bringing 44 of their employees to the work party to give back to our community. They will also be providing lunch for the volunteers as we end the project at noon. Like the Robie Point project last year, it’s hard work but also a lot of fun as the toughest men and women come together to do something important for their community. Kevin Hanley is chairman of the Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council and an Auburn city councilman. -------------------------- project canyon safe If you would like to volunteer, give me a call at (530) 906-1042 or e-mail If you can’t volunteer on July 9, send a tax-deductible donation to the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, 601 Lincoln Way. Make your check out to “Project Canyon Safe,” and all the money will go toward paying for the wood-chipping costs of the project. Thank you. ~ Kevin Hanley