Conservation Update, 2018 Jan | SoCal Cons Analyst, CalFire Veg Treatment, Preserve at San Juan

From the Desk of Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair


WELCOME to Nick Jensen, CNPS’ brand-new SoCal Conservation Analyst! His job is to bolster the efforts of the SoCal chapters’ volunteers, participate in ongoing collaborative planning efforts with CNPS’ partner organizations, and form new coalitions to ensure inclusion of underrepresented and non-traditional partners. He is the lead CNPS staff person covering conservation advocacy across the 11 Southern California Chapters. This area covers 10 counties and is home to 25 million Californians (64% of the state’s population), with an additional 3 million people in Baja California, Mexico. A BIG job!

The CA Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (= CalFire) has reissued the DEIR for its proposed Vegetation Treatment Program (VTP), which aims to “treat” (withprescribed fire, mastication and/or herbicides) for “fire resistance” every bit of California’s State Responsibility Lands (SRL)—including in OC.

OC’s SRL are mostly the unincorporated areas in the foothills: i.e. our Wilderness and Regional Parks and Reserve areas. “Treatment” seems to mean cutting and maintaining fuelbreaks along every ridgeline. This is contrary to research that shows that the presence of a fuelbreak, in and of itself, doesn’t stop a fire from spreading; a fuelbreak’s main value is in giving firefighters a place to group (Syphard et al, 2012). A map showing OC’s SRL is Appendix A2.9 in The map has to be enlarged at least 400% to see the squiggly gray lines that denote the proposed fuelbreaks. Such extensive vegetation manipulation would result in:
1. Islands of CSS and chaparral in a matrix of grassy/weedy strips of fuelbreak.
2. A huge habitat disruption and loss for the myriad birds, insects and small animals that live within CSS and chaparral.
3. A huge increase in disturbance, wide open to invasive non-natives.

OCCNPS is among the several signatories on the strong, detailed critique of the VTP DEIR by the Endangered Habitats League. State CNPS and several other chapters, as well as many other CA enviro groups, are also each doing extensive comment letters.

Hopefully all these comments will convince CalFire to finally come up with a VTP that is truly based on current research on fire behavior, fire ecology, and on the reality of CA’s many and varied native habitats.

SANTA ANA MTS – Preserve at San Juan: The proposed final EIR ( has been issued for the “Preserve at San Juan,” a residential development planned for the inholding that touches Long Canyon Road, just west of Ortega Hwy, south of El Cariso Village. The staff report and date for the OC Planning Commission’s public hearing (tentatively, Jan. 24, 1:30 PM) are available from Such a project is a VERY poor choice for that site, and the EIR has numerous problems including numerous errors in its native-plant information.

ACTION NOW: If you are familiar with the site’s native plants, our Conservation Chair ( would very much appreciate your input!


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