Conservation Update, 2012 Jul | Saddle Crest, SoCal NF Mgmt Plan, Building in Fire Hazard Areas
SADDLEBACK CANYONS AREA: In 2005 OCCNPS was among the plaintiffs in a successful suit against a development proposal that would have destroyed hundreds of mature oaks and done massive grading along Santiago Canyon Road (Saddle Crest) and along Live Oak Canyon Road (Saddle Creek). Since then, the Saddle Creek site was purchased with M2 funds as mitigation for OC’s ongoing transportation projects.
This spring, the same developer proposed a “new” plan for the Saddle Crest site that is as flawed as the 2005 one. It calls for destroying 151 mature oaks and doing massive grading to form 65 suburb-style lots—all in violation of the governing Foothill/Trabuco Specific Plan. Extensive comments from the Saddleback Canyons Conservancy, the Rural Canyons Conservation Fund, their attorneys and consultants, and many OC enviro groups including OCCNPS have pointed out the plan’s inadequacies. See the plan itself at ocplanning.net/SaddleCrest_Project.aspx; for a critique, search for SaddleCrest on voiceofoc.org. It is expected that the OC Planning Commission will consider the proposed plan in July. ACTION NOW, especially if you live in or near the foothill canyons: Contact to be notified when the Planning Commission will hear the proposal and to find out how you can help keep the canyons rural. Donations to their war chest for possible legal action would be appreciated.
TRABUCO DISTRICT/SANTA ANA MTS: The new proposed Southern California National Forests Land Management Plan Amendment (for the four Southern California National Forests: Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, San Bernardino) was published on April 27. The amendment would revise land use zone allocations for select Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs) and amend Land Management Plan monitoring protocols. The Trabuco District (of the Cleveland NF) has three IRAs, which encompass large parts of Ladd, Coldwater and Trabuco Canyons. Background documents are at fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=35130; for a map, click on “CNF – Coldwater, Ladd & Trabuco IRAs Map”. The EIS is expected in late Oct, when there is likely to be further opportunity for public comment.
OCCNPS’ general position on the Trabuco District is that more sensible fuel-mod methods should be used. Current methods and practices, in our opinion, open all roadsides to invasion by non-native annual grasses and weeds, which dry out quickly in the summer and make corridors of fine flashy fuels leading throughout the mountains. For example, see fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=34142; the map shows the corridors and the documents explain what methods will be used. Similar fuel mod projects are in place for other roadsides throughout the District. OCCNPS has commented on those in the South Main Divide area.
ON FUEL MODIFICATION: An important study has been published: Housing Arrangement, Location Determine Likelihood of Structure Loss Due to Wildfire in Southern California (Syphard, Keeley, Massada, Brennan, and Radeloff); see at plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0033954. Results of the study suggest that not building houses in fire-hazard areas is a better method to reduce fire losses than is the usual method of thinning/removing “brush” for a hundred or more feet around the houses.
—Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair