Forest Service and interest group officials watched their money go up in smoke yesterday.
About 20 Forest Service and Tuolumne County Resource Advisory Committee members ventured into the woods to watch controlled burns on land cleared of flammable brush and debris. They were visiting 80 acres of the Mi-Wuk Village fuel break, land that RAC dollars paid to clear.
RAC a 15-member panel representing varying forest interest groups allocates federal grant money to projects benefiting public lands. For the fiscal year 2002, RAC distributed $279,000 among six projects, including the Mi-Wuk fuel break.
Yesterday's event was the Forest Service's chance to show off where RAC's money went.
The Forest Service, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Tuolumne County Fire Department, and Mi-Wuk-Sugar Pine Fire Protection District are helping clear a break that spans both public and private property around the Mi-Wuk community.
"This isn't just a Forest Service project, it's a community project," said Tim Adamiak, fire fuels specialist and battalion chief for the Stanislaus National Forest's Mi-Wok Ranger District.
The money RAC distributes replaces 25 percent of timber receipts, which once helped fund county road and schools project. Instead of timber money, now, under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, Tuolumne County will receive $2,480,000 each year through 2006.
Of that, 85 percent goes to roads and schools. The rest goes to RAC, which decides what projects on or around Stanislaus National Forest need funding.
Last year, the committee allocated $18,000 for the Mi-Wuk area project.
That covered a California Conservation Corps crew from Stockton to clear brush from a piece of land where vegetation grew so thick it was nearly impossible to walk through.
Yesterday, controlled burns cleaned out remaining debris.