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Seventh Meeting
Santa Lucia Natural History Symposium
Esalen Institute, October 20, 2001

Fire Management in the Northern Santa Lucia Mountains

The format of this 7th meeting was a departure from our usual wide-ranging discussion of topics of interest (see SLNHS for information about our usual format). Instead, we focused our attention on a specific topic: fire management planning in the Monterey District of the Los Padres National Forest. We invited USFS planners Annie Buma and Judy Hahn, who have contracted to write local fire management plans (see below). We also invited local USFS Monterey District fire chief Steve Davis to present his view of the planning goals and how the plans would be implemented. The focus was on sharing, educating, and, we had hoped, problem solving. The Esalen art barn provided a relaxed, creative environment for informal discussion, and everyone had the opportunity to explore the issues. Steve Harper welcomed the group and gave a brief introduction to Esalen and the symposium, and Steve Chambers, who organized the symposium, acted as facilitator.

 Contents:  participant list  initial impressions supplementary materials  thank you

Below are some initial impressions from the meeting based on John Smiley's notes (attendees and others: please contribute your comments and we'll post these as well)

The two specific fire management plans under discussion were the MONTEREY DISTRICT DEFENSIBLE FUELS PROFILE ZONE (DFPZ) PROJECT and the VENTANA & SILVER PEAK WILDERNESS FIRE MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES. Presenter Annie Buma informed us that the DFPZ project was near completion, and that this meeting was probably the last chance for public input into the plan, whereas the second plan was only in the beginning stages and there would be a full year before completion.

1. The DFPZ project is outside the wilderness boundaries, and is an attempt to use fire and other tools to prepare fuel reduction zones primarily in areas which are traditionally used as fire breaks during wildfires. Thus the intent to to be proactive and preempt the need to clear large fire breaks during a wildfire. The scale of the proposed work is small (a crew of 3-5 people working year round) as compared to the scale of the area included in the analysis (2000 foot wide swath of many many miles of road).

2. The Wilderness Fire Management plan is designed to address the question of fuel reduction zones within the wilderness. We had the sense that it is focused on the periphery of the wilderness and an attempt to prevent fire from spreading out of the wilderness into surrounding lands; however there may also be an intention to divide major drainages with fuel reduction zones in an effort to prevent fires from burning several watersheds at once.

3. Spreading of weeds may be an unintended consequence of prescribed burning and other land clearing. The invasion of pampas grass after the Kirk fire was given as an example. We agreed that timing of treatment is crucial, and should be timed so that major invasive events (i.e. seed dispersal events) are not in progress.

4. What happens after the 10 year plan expires - clearly the weed problems will last longer than that? We agreed that we need to commit to long term cooperation, and the contribution of local expertise can be of great help.

5. To what degree will the proposed treatments alter natural vegetation types; e.g. from annual grassland to conifer stands. It seems that this is not actually a goal and that the aim is to change annual grasslands to native, but there was some doubt as the feasibility of this. However, it was pointed out that in many cases the habitats are already highly disturbed from fire suppression activities.

6. There is a great need for public education. At Fort Hunter-Liggett the control burns nearly always raise public alarm and calls to suppress the fires, and this will probably happen as part of the programs proposed for the forest.

7. What is the overall strategy for protecting developed areas? Can some traditional fire lines be abandoned if the aim of fire management changes from suppression to more integrated management, including protection of structures with fuel reduction zones, etc. This question of strategy seemed beyond the scope of this plan, and the chief strategy seems to be to re-use existing fire lines into the indefinite future. It seems that we need a regional planning effort to address this question.

8. It was suggested that the prescriptions and proposed treatments be divided into smaller regions and that local expertise be sought for the specifics in each region. Most landowners and land managers have detailed knowledge as well as specific concerns, but it may be difficult to contribute when the issues are being presented generically, for the whole district. Perhaps a series of field trips o proposed treatment sites, with locals invited.

If you have questions or comments, please contact John Smiley, Big Creek Reserve, Big Sur CA 93920 (831-667-2543)

Supplementary materials for participants (you can download these items by clicking or right-clicking on them and then doing "file save as" command, then type a filename and save it on your desktop):

Items provided by Judy Hahn and Annie Buma

Two draft documents which we examined during the meeting, and which may were used as the basis for providing comments: 1d step 1.doc and 1e step 2.doc

The scoping letter which identifies the purpose and need, and proposed
action for the Monterey DFPZ project Scoping Letter with signature 08801.doc

Threatened and Endangered Species list for the Los Padres Forest Los Padres TES Species List.doc

Excerpts from the Arroyo Seco Watershed Analysis relating to fire and
fuels management. WA fire fuels management excerpts.doc
You can access the Los Padres Website at the following
address to get the Arroyo Seco WA online:

"Southern California Mountains and Foothills Assessment" is used as a planning resource.

Copy of correspondence between Corky Matthews and Annie Buma, relating to the DFPZ proposal.

Copy of Steve Chambers comments on the DFPZ proposal.

Two policy statements from the California Native Plant Society*:

Statement of Policy Seeding After Wildfire ( Recent, well cited policy statement

Policy on Shrub land Management ( Statement includes discussion of controlled burning

*CNPS mission statement:The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) is a statewide non-profit organization of amateurs and professionals with a common interest in California's native plants. The Society, working through its local chapters, seeks to increase understanding of California's native flora and to preserve this rich resource for future generations.

Many thanks to:
Steve Chambers for organizing and facilitating the meeting, it would most definitely not have happened without you, Steve Harper for arranging the room and meal at Esalen Institute and reminding us of our goals and philosophy, John Smiley for helping Steve Chambers organize the meeting and maintain the web page, to Esalen Institute for generously offering meeting space, meals, and positive energy for our group, to Big Creek Reserve for supporting the symposium before, during and after the meetings, and to all the participants who took time out of their busy lives to spend a day getting to know each other and patiently digging into some difficult issues.

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