A crew from the watershed center in hayfork, an environmental non-profithave begun working on fuels reduction and forestry management on the gonpa lands and will be here for another 2 weeks. The work is paid for by a grant from the national resource conservation service, NRCS, in a federal program.
The basic work consists of clearing understory vegetation which has grown out of control. The landscape here, because of the mining operation, is still working its way back to a healthy equilibrium. The dense under story presents a wildfire hazard, and also jokes out younger natural growth of trees.
The crews clear out that understory selectively, leaving healthy young trees and islands every 20 ft or so a vegetation for smaller animal habitat. Traditionally this work is done by hand and is quite time consuming and expensive. In the last 20 years, a machine has been used that grinds up the understory vegetation, shreds it and leaves it on the ground to decompose and contribute to the health of the soil. That machine is what we've been calling the masticator.
The second picture is in the area cleared this morning, and you can see some young growth that has been opened up, shielded by conifers but out of the dense vegetation in conditions where such trees can grow to full potential.
And the foreground you can see some manzanita and other vegetation that has been ground up and left. A certified wildlife biologist worked through all of the areas along with the supervisor from NRCS to try to find and identify any nesting birds, not just large raptors but small birds who may be in shrubs. It certainly possible that some birds would be missed, but they didn't see any at all. And I haven't seen evidence either.
If anybody would like to walk those areas in the evenings or early morning to identify any bird song or look for movement, that would be an extra precaution. Most of the birds who might be nesting here, will fly away at the disruption, and either return to their nests or return and build new nests when things are quiet. There are some birds who won't leave their nests under any conditions unless they are disturbed and very close proximity.
Traditional ways of clearing the understory often involved fire and we have elected not to use fire because it's a death sentence for insects and small animals who cannot escape it. The masticator although it seems horrific, actually leaves the vegetation in a larger pieces, then using a wood chipper, which gives small insects a better chance of survival. The machine work will be followed by a hand crew which will selectively limb and clear standing trees, shrub Islands, etc.
As an added check on whether there are any nesting birds, someone could walk the area in the evening very attentively listening and watching. If you'd like to do that, let me know and I'd be happy to set you up with some bird song apps and a map of where the work will be done.
The retreat is based on a Dharma treasure (terma) of the late Chokgyur Lingpa, a contemporary and spiritual brother of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Chokgyur Lingpa is regarded as the last of the one hundred major tertons (treasure revealers).
Following the example of Guru Padmasambhava and many superb lineage masters, we perform Vajrakilaya to overcome outer, inner, and secret obstacles to dharma practice and activity. We apply the skillful means of wrathful compassion to our own minds.