City Council Meeting - FINAL


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  9.A.       
Meeting Date: 01/17/2023  
Co-Submitter: Rebecca Sayers From: Robert Wallace, Open Space Specialist

Information
TITLE:
Consideration and Approval of Grant Agreement: Grant Agreement between the City of Flagstaff and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management for Invasive Plant Grant (State) - Observatory Mesa Invasive Plant Prevention and Control. 
STAFF RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Approve the Grant Agreement #IPG 22S-702 with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, for Observatory Mesa Invasive Plant Prevention and Control Grant in the amount of $97,000, with a city match of $11,260 to support the maintenance of the Observatory Mesa Natural Area open space.
Executive Summary:
This project will support forest and woodland health through the prioritization of invasive plant prevention and control within the Observatory Mesa, Flagstaff, AZ focus area. This diverse location consists primarily of ponderosa pine overstory with small pockets of Gambel oak. Understory shrubs and grasses are diverse and support forest health. The area is an important component of the Flagstaff-area ecosystem. Several drainages and seeps join the Rio de Flag watershed, and the area is an important wildlife corridor that provides habitat for large mammals traveling between the San Francisco Peaks and Mogollon Rim.
 
This project will target invasive plant prevention and control, and revegetation to maintain the forest health of the area. The project will focus on two adjoining locations: Observatory Mesa (2,200 acres) and Thorpe Park (172.9 acres). The project will treat 74 infested acres for two years. Following the two-year treatments, 31 acres will be seeded with native species, including Blue Grama, Bottlebrush Squirreltail, Arizona Fescue, Slender Wheatgrass, Muttongrass, and Spike Muhly. This part of the project will include soil preparation, seed mix formulation, seeding, and erosion control.
 
This project will also accomplish educational objectives. It will initiate partner meetings (Coconino National Forest, Lowell Observatory, COF Parks) to discuss future management strategies for the area with the intent of expanding invasive plant awareness and treatment areas. The project will expand the recruitment of volunteers for monitoring & weeding to complete the project and to help maintain the area moving forward. Project leads will partner to host an invasive weed workshop once a year for two years. Through the invasive weed workshops, events, website, print, and social media awareness of invasive weed issues and community solutions will be expanded.
Financial Impact:
Grant funds will provide $97,000, with a participant match of $11,260, for a total project cost of $108,260. The City of Flagstaff Open Space program will provide a $2,500 in-kind cash match, and a volunteer time in-kind match of $8,760. The project will be completed by 03/31/2025.  While this grant was not budgeted for in FY2022-23, Open Space has other grants in its budget appropriation to cover the FY2022-23 expenses and will budget the remaining balance of the grant in the FY2023-24 budget.
Policy Impact:
Overview:
  • Supports all 7 PBB Priorities
  • Upholds our Quadrant 2 level PBB programming
  • Supports objectives of the Carbon Neutrality Plan
Open Space Program Goals:
  • Supports customer service objectives
  • Maintains open space for the community
  • Supports educational and recreational activities
  • Facilitates continued partnerships
  • Secures funding through grant opportunity
Connection to PBB Priorities/Objectives, Carbon Neutrality Plan & Regional Plan:
Top Supported Priority Based Budget Key Community Priorities and Objectives
    Environmental Stewardship:
    • Promote, protect and enhance a healthy, sustainable environment and its natural resources.
    • Engage community members through education and volunteer opportunities
    • Strengthen Flagstaff’s resilience to climate change impacts on built, natural, economic, health, and social systems 
  • Livable Community:
    • Provide amenities and activities that support a healthy lifestyle
Carbon Neutrality Plan
The top aligned CNP carbon neutrality plan number is Priority four: Commitments - Healthy Forests and Open Spaces; HF-1 Protect existing forests, resources, and meaningful open spaces. 
 
Regional Plan Support
Vision: In 2030, the Flagstaff region maintains a healthy system of open lands supporting the natural environment and our quality of life through stewardship by regional stakeholders. Top supported regional plan goals and policies include:
  • Goal E&C.6. Protect, restore and improve ecosystem health and maintain native plant and animal community diversity across all land ownerships in the Flagstaff region.
    • Policy E&C.6.3. Promote protection, conservation, and ecological restoration of the region’s diverse ecosystem types and associated animals.
    •  Policy E&C.6.7. Use best practices to control the spread of exotic and invasive plants, weeds, and animals, and eradicate where possible.
  • Goal E&C.10. Protect indigenous wildlife populations, localized and larger-scale wildlife habitats, ecosystem processes, and wildlife movement areas throughout the planning area.
    • Policy E&C.10.2. Protect, conserve, and when possible enhance and restore wildlife habitat on public land.
Has There Been Previous Council Decision on This:
Consideration and Adoption of Resolution No. 2020-46: A resolution adopting the Management Plan for Legally-Designated Open Space Properties.
Options and Alternatives:

Option A - Approve the grant agreement that allows staff to implement invasive plant prevention and management and native plant restoration.

Option B – Do not approve the grant agreement.
Background/History:
The City of Flagstaff’s Open Space Program was founded in 1998 as an outgrowth of the Flagstaff Area Open Space and Greenways Plan. The Program exists to protect and restore Flagstaff’s natural, cultural, and scenic resources to enhance recreational and educational opportunities for residents and visitors. Open Space properties managed by the program serve as a land resource, recreational destination, wildlife habitat, and transportation corridors while protecting other natural resources.
 
The City of Flagstaff acquired Observatory Mesa Natural Area in December 2013 with funding from the 2004 voter-approved Open Space bond and a 2013 Arizona State Parks Growing Smarter grant. Observatory Mesa serves as an important wildlife corridor for large mammals traveling between the San Francisco Peaks and the Mogollon Rim. Forest thinning efforts may have introduced invasive species that are now affecting native vegetation and ecosystem health. To work towards returning the area to a healthier condition this project is needed, and funding is necessary to manage the property. Given that the City purchased this property using funding from the Arizona State Parks Growing Smarter grant, the City is required to manage it as a non-motorized property to protect the conservation values associated with the property.
Key Considerations:
The Management Plan for open space provides a framework for managing the natural, ecological, historical, and recreational resources to minimize conflict and degradation, and serves as a resource to guide decision-making processes for designated open space properties.

The Plan identifies five overarching management goals for designated open space properties, which are listed below. This resolution and grant agreement directly support all the goals.
  1. To maintain, restore, and enhance the natural ecosystem processes of these properties, including watershed health (including intermittent streams), forest structure, native plant communities, and rare habitat types.
  2. To protect cultural resources present within these properties.
  3. To maintain and protect diverse and healthy wildlife populations.
  4. To provide opportunities for public use of these properties through passive recreational use, resource interpretation, education, scientific research, and other compatible activities in a manner that is consistent with the preservation of the conservation values of the site and the management goals.
  5. To maintain and develop partnerships that facilitate resource management, stewardship, and conservation.   
Expanded Financial Considerations:
On-going funding for maintenance and conservation are needed to keep up the Natural Area. This work is funded by two primary sources. Some projects are included in the Open Space base budget of $47,000. Additionally, volunteer groups donate their time to complete projects at no cost to the city. Though these means support maintenance needs, they do not cover all demands. This funding will allow the Open Space program to make progress toward addressing backlogged maintenance needs for invasive weed management.
Community Benefits and Considerations:
This funding will permit the continuation of our current level of service.
The Open Space program works hard to provide recreational opportunities and maintain open space but does not have the capacity to meet all needs.
  • We offer the community great places to walk, bike, run, and participate in other outdoor activities.
  • We are receiving the highest ever visitation. Trail counters installed at various locations at our three main regional preserves indicate that for FY 2021-22, we received over 99,000 visitors.
  • We provided science programs (e.g., forest ecology, plants, astronomy, and wildlife) for students and visitors at multiple open space properties and in classrooms. Programming reached approximately 775 students and 382 adults for FY 2021-22.
The Open Space Stewards program has 30 core year-round volunteers. During FY 2021-22 we also coordinated an additional 147 volunteers who provided trash clean-up, graffiti mitigation, input on projects, and trail work for our open space, contributing 1,061 hours of volunteer time.
Community Involvement:
This application for the Invasive Plan Grant was supported by:
  • The Arboretum at Flagstaff
  • Arizona Native Plant Society
  • Lowell Observatory
  • USFS Coconino National Forest
  • Picture Canyon Working Group
  • Open Spaces Commission
  • Willow Bend Environmental Center
Expanded Options and Alternatives:
n/a
Attachments
Grant Agreement
Project Location Map
Presentation


    

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