Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

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By the City of Santa Barbara

The City of Santa Barbara Fire Department and Parks and Recreation Department are working together to reduce wildfire risk in Santa Barbara's open space parks. Last week, the departments, with the support of a wildland firefighting hand crew from the California Conservation Corps, removed fire hazards and broke up potential ‘fire ladders’ in Stevens Park. Work efforts focused on areas of the park closest to residents, property, and public trails.

“We reduced ladder fuels that allow a fire that would have remained in the understory to climb and ignite a canopy fire,” said Mike Lopez, Fire Services Specialist with the Wildland Division. “We also broke down fallen deadwood that can end up smoldering weeks after a fire and reignite.”

Managing vegetation in the wildland urban interface (WUI), areas where undeveloped wildland meets human development, requires careful coordination to protect people and property while having the least possible impact on local ecosystems.

Before work was completed, a City biologist conducted a biological survey to assess the work area for sensitive natural resources. Flags were placed to mark resources to be protected, including woodrat middens and young oak saplings, while invasive plants and trees were targeted for removal. Crews also underwent environmental awareness training at the start of the day to ensure the work did not impact sensitive resources on site.

“This project has been an ongoing collaboration between Fire and Parks and Recreation. We were able to reduce hazardous fuels in Stevens Park, while also removing invasives to allow the young, protected native species a chance to thrive,” said Monique O’Conner, biologist and Associate Planner for the City’s open space parks. “This is a great step towards active habitat management.”

The two departments will host community walk-throughs of various open space parks in the coming year to highlight the ongoing vegetation management efforts in line with the goals and processes outlined in the City’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan. 

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a-1670471817 Dec 07, 2022 07:56 PM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

Hope they aren't using pesticides to "remove" invasive plants. The whole "habitat management" program usually involves spraying the crap out of things. Roundup, which so many mistakenly consider a benign tool for weed control = glyphosate = neurotoxin. "It is unequivocal that exposure to glyphosate produces important alterations in the structure and function of the nervous system of humans, rodents, fish, and invertebrates." (source: National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35562999/)

Babycakes Dec 08, 2022 09:34 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

My understanding is that they are using weed/growth-abatement products, but only in very limited amounts. The method is quite effective and has been used for years with absolutely no ill effect. The "trick" is to make sure that when used that the winds are below a certain speed and that there is little to no chance of rain. Fire is a constant danger here in "fire country", so we all need to do our part to mitigate the chance of total destruction of our lands and property. Just look at how many homes and structures were lost in the Painted Cave fire. Had the government listed to those who know best, the destruction would have been far/far less. At least now it seems that our government is finally listening to best how to reduce fire danger...thank goodness!!!

Sail380 Dec 08, 2022 09:39 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

You right SACJON. A fire would never burn 40 miles going from Santa Paula through miles of rough roadless terrain all the way to Santa Barbara. Would never happen. Wouldn't destroy homes and create a situation for deadly epic flooding.

sacjon Dec 08, 2022 09:48 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

SAIL - fair point, but how far deep in the forest and much money are you willing to spend to "thin" all our forests? Also, once a fire is in the canopy (off the forest floor), thinning the underbrush won't matter. How much of the forest do we cut down to make it as "natural" as possible?

Voice of Reason Dec 08, 2022 09:48 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

Sacjon, so because something is not easy, we shouldn't try, even though we know it's beneficial? (sounds familiar....) Not easy labor, no, but much cheaper than the operating costs for the fleets of aircraft needed days/weeks on end once a ranging wildfire gets going.

sacjon Dec 08, 2022 09:55 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

VOICE - not really because it's "not easy," but where does it end? Thinning around a city/community makes sense and should be done regularly to create a firebreak, but how far into the forests do we do this? How much wildlife habitat do we remove/destroy in the hopes that it will slow a fire from getting into the canopy and then jumping along ridges and down valleys? How extensive do we thin? Just the forest floor?

In theory, it sounds like a great idea, but how do we realistically implement this as a means of making the forest more natural so it burns without need for suppression, which is the goal, right?

Sail380 Dec 08, 2022 10:46 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

How much are we willing to spend? I thought the main argument for not wanting to thin the forest was lumber company capitalisms. How much money will the government make from thinning the forest??? Either way the loss of life and property will far outweigh the cost of mitigation.

Chip of SB Dec 08, 2022 10:46 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

Sac, you bring up a good point. Our forests are vast, and in many areas the terrain would make “raking” all but impossible. Fire is the only practical solution, and we desperately need to expand the use of planned burns. However, mechanical thinning and clearing, aka “raking,” is a very effective tool and can be used strategically to prevent large trees from being destroyed once fire returns to areas that have been damaged by fire suppression. This concept is really crucial to understand, fire suppression has damaged our forests and created an unnatural and unhealthy condition. A healthy forest in its natural state simply will not sustain a crown fire. This type of catastrophic event is caused by fire suppression generating ladder fuels. Programs to “rake” the forest and remove these dangerous ladder fuels prevent crown fires from killing large mature trees and save the forest. This type of work paired with planned burn operations is very effective in healing the damage caused by fire suppression and returning the forest to its natural state. Absent this type of approach, catastrophic fire will level the forest to a moonscape and it will take centuries for it to grow back.

Chip of SB Dec 08, 2022 11:10 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

Sac, it’s not destroying the ecosystem, it’s restoring it to the condition it was in before the white man came and started meddling with it. For millennia, frequent fires maintained the forest in a “thinned” condition, the last century of fire suppression had caused such widespread damage to the forest that many people now believe the damaged and unhealthy overgrown state of the forest is actually how it is supposed to be. Not so! Fire is the practical solution of the past and the future. Mechanical thinning or “raking” is a supplemental solution to be used near populated areas and to prepare strategically selected portions of the forest for the return of fire.

Chip of SB Dec 08, 2022 11:23 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

Wait a minute sac, are you saying you support fire suppression? You want to intervene in natural ecological processes to fundamentally transform the ecosystem over tens of millions of acres of land? You believe the white man’s conception that fire is evil is correct? You believe the state the forest existed in for millennia before the white man came is wrong and should be permanently altered?

sacjon Dec 08, 2022 11:33 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

"are you saying you support fire suppression" - when it comes near homes, of course I do. Are you saying to let fires burn and destroy homes, kill families? Of course you're not. Don't go from questions to accusations so quickly. Read my comments. I'm supportive of thinning near communities, but doing it throughout our vast forests isn't practical for the multiple reasons I've been hinting at - wildlife destruction, cost, etc. This is why I'm asking how we would do it. Calm down tiger.

Chip of SB Dec 08, 2022 11:40 AM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

Sac, the solution is a combination of mechanical thinning and clearing near populated areas and deep within forests in strategic locations combined with planned fires on a massive scale. This will disrupt wildlife somewhat, just the way nature intended. Massive intense conflagrations like the Thomas fire kill vast numbers of animals, and these massive fires are caused by fire suppression. Less intense and more frequent fires are less destructive to wildlife. They happened frequently until 100 years ago or so, the ecosystem is adapted for it.

sacjon Dec 08, 2022 12:17 PM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

"these massive fires are caused by fire suppression" - I just don't think that's correct. Yes, the more fuel, the bigger the fire, but you can't ignore the higher temps and the constant drought. There's no quick fix to out of control fires, but we can't ignore all the causes for their ferocity.

sacjon Dec 08, 2022 12:19 PM
Fuel Reduction and Invasive Plant Removal Conducted in Stevens Park

I mean, how does putting out fires when they threaten communities (ie, suppression) result in more clutter deeper in the forest where these start? Thinning the entire forest just doesn't seem practical. I guess we'll just have to disagree.

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