Conservation Update, 2010 May | CNPS Fire Safety Policy, Trabuco Fire Defense Project

CNPS’ NEW POLICY: The Native Plants and Fire Safety Policy was adopted by the CNPS Chapter Council on March 13, 2010, after two-plus years of work in committee and much discussion and input from Council delegates and CNPS members statewide.
The Policy Statement: The California Native Plant Society opposes the unnecessary destruction of California’s native plant heritage for the purpose of wildfire fuel management. The California Native Plant Society supports protecting human lives, property and California’s native plants from poor fuel management practices. California’s superbly diverse native plants are its most valuable resource for erosion control and water conservation, and are vital to the long-term health of California.
The Policy Intent: To provide an authoritative policy that the California Native Plant Society and others can use to persuade legislators and regulators to approve fire-safe practices that maximize conservation of native plants and native plant ecosystems, while protecting citizens, firefighters and property.
Still to come: CNPS will develop specific guidelines for implementation that fits each of the many different fire environments and property development settings throughout the state. These will be supplemental to the policy and supported by current applicable fire science and botanical knowledge. The full policy, which includes definitions and references, can be downloaded at
SANTA ANA MOUNTAINS: The Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Trabuco Community Defense Project (TCDP) is available for public comment until May 14. [The TCDP is within the Trabuco Ranger District–a unit of the Cleveland National Forest (CNF)—that encompasses OC’s backyard Santa Ana Mts.] To obtain a copy of the EA and its maps, and to comment, contact Cindy Whelan (559) 297-0706 ext. 4931 or
The TCDP is part of a multi-phase hazardous fuel treatment project that the District is proposing in cooperation with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE); four of the other phases link with the TCDP.
The TDCP’s 13 units, totaling 465 acres, are strung out around the boundaries of private inholdings—the Rancho Carrillo, Rancho Capistrano, Decker Canyon, and El Cariso communities—located near where Orange and Riverside counties meet along Ortega Highway. CNF’s Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) has, among its goals, community protection from wildfire and restoration of forest health. The TCDP is intended to fulfill these and other goals.
The TCDP communities are part of the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) around and within the District—and the wildland is currently at high risk of catastrophic wildfire due to ongoing drought (despite this winter’s rains). The inholdings pre-exist CNF’s establishment; once working ranches, they became sites of homes built under codes that are now inadequate.
The TCDP is an example of what prompted CNPS’ new policy and what it will take to implement it:
—Built-in problems stemming from past land-use assumptions and the decisions that came from them, now requiring extensive, expensive, private retrofitting and continuing, expensive, public management.
—Changing the laws, policies and regulations that led to and enforced the decisions.
—Changing the assumptions that underlay the laws, policies and regulations.
Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair

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