From the EBCNPS Conservation Committee 05/30/13:

California residents continue to move into the urban-wildland interface, much like residents of other western states.  “Urban-wildland interface” came into media use in coverage of western states’ wildfires. Western wildfires, in turn, have claimed more media spotlight because of lives and homes lost by residents at the urban fringe.

Several years ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) solicited fire prevention grant proposals from managers of public lands in the East Bay, including City of Oakland, East Bay Regional Parks, and UC Berkeley.  Unfortunately, early efforts to present a coordinated, transparent grant proposal by all of the agencies did not materialize.  FEMA is now considering separate proposals and draft environmental impact statements (EIS) submitted by each of these agencies.

In March 2009, local chapters of the California Native Plant Society, Golden Gate Audubon and the Sierra Club jointly issued a Green Paper on Fuels Management in the East Bay Hills to reconcile ecological values of the East Bay hills with realistic fire management.  These environmental groups agreed in this policy statement that removal of exotic, invasive trees and understory plants can fulfill both the goals of reducing catastrophic fire risk and maintaining native habitat.

Groves of Eucalyptus globulus (blue gum trees) have had a century’s head start on fire control efforts.  Many residents moved into Claremont and Strawberry Canyons before local planning agencies grasped the fire/Eucalyptus connection.  Beginning in the 1930s, East Bay Regional Parks acquired some of the remaining open land in the East Bay hills, which continue to present a mosaic of native and exotic plant species.  Now, population density in these hills makes the use of prescribed burns almost impossible.

In Australia, land managers discovered that prescribed burns best manage healthy populations of Eucalyptus and Acacia, provided that nearby residents take proper care in home construction and maintenance.

For an Australian perspective on Eucalyptus and fire management, see current information available at www.csiro.au/en/Organisation-Structure/Divisions/Ecosystem-Sciences/BushfireInAustralia.aspx.

The East Bay Chapter of The California Native Plant Society cannot deny the pressure on land managers to choose tree removal over prescribed burns.  However, the proposals of different agencies present different methodology for removal. For that reason, the conservation committee recommends the tree removal program as presented by UC Berkeley for its lands in Strawberry and Claremont Canyons.

However, among the detailed comments that EBCNPS plans to submit to FEMA on its fuels management plan, we will be urging both FEMA and the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) to use the current survey standards of the Manual of California Vegetation, 2d edition, to update EBRPD’s fuel management plan vegetation surveys for all its “recommended treatment areas” (RTAs), including those RTAs subject to the FEMA fire management plan (and FEMA funding conditions).

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