Conservation Update 2019 Jan | Hobo Aliso Fuel Modification

OCCNPS is honored to receive the 2018 Green Vision Award, given by the Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks for conservation work in OC.



A new/revised Fuel Modification Project (Design Review 18I2323 and Mitigated Negative Declaration) has been proposed for Fuel Modification Zones 10 and 11, located on/around HoboIAliso Ridge. These two Zones are of particular interest because they encompass open-space portions of the Ridge’s San Onofre Breccia, which hosts:

  1. A distinct vegetation type, Southern Maritime Chaparral, which is otherwise found in the U.S. only in San Diego County.
  2. The only U.S. population of Big-Leaved Crownbeard (Verbesina dissita, CRPR 1B.1); the rest of its world population grows in northern Baja.

The Design Review Board discussion on these Zones can be seen on the City of Laguna Beach’s website under Meetings, Agendas and Minutes, item #6 in the video, starting at 2:51:44. OCCNPS’ comments on the proposed fuel modification practices are themselves commented on in the video.

We found the proposals to be generally reasonable for fuel modification in native Coastal Sage Scrub vegetation in the Wildland-Urban Interface. However, we had several big caveats:

  • The work should be done by crews trained to work in CSS.
  • The crews’ supervisors should be knowledgeable about CSS’ growth patterns and ecology.
  • The crews (and their supervisors) should be hired on the basis of their proven knowledge and training to work in CSS, rather than on their low bid.
  • Successful fuel modification by goat-grazing requires that the goatherd, and the entity that contracts with him/her, be very clear on the limits of the site and the plants in the site that the goats are to eat.

In the video discussion, the Laguna Beach Fire Dept. representative states that they already arrange with Laguna Canyon Foundation biologists to do training such as outlined above.

We also objected to the limbing up of large native shrubs, which is discussed as a Fuel Modification practice. The large native shrubs, including but not limited to Laurel sumac (Malosma laurina), toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), and lemonade berry (Rhus integrifolia), are essential members of CSS habitat. They should be pruned down, not limbed up.

They want to be large shrubs (branches and foliage from ground level to top), not small trees (distinct trunks with branching and foliage some feet above ground level). If limbed up, these species all will immediately throw out sprouts from the base and try to be shrubs again. Which means periodic, perhaps annual, removal of the basal sprouts in order to maintain the limbing-up. Which work should be done by trained and knowledgeable people— see caveats stated above.

In the video discussion, the Laguna Beach Fire Dept. representative states that they no longer do limbingIup (or, at least, not the heavy limbing-up done in the pastIIwhich is obvious in the old shrubs in longImaintained parts of the fuel mod zones). They plan to consult with Laguna Canyon Foundation biologists on incorporating pruning-down where appropriate.

SO: the video discussion sounds like OCCNPS’ comments and suggestions on this issue have been taken reasonably seriously by City personnel. Which is gratifying  Now, to see if the action matches the words.

Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair