Forest assessment study coming up on Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

Special to The CambrianMarch 6, 2014 

Recent rains have certainly changed the landscape on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Tender shoots of green grass are beginning to show through the dry thatch. The golden grasses lasted far too long this year to remain beautiful to most of us and they became aconstant reminder of this nasty drought that affects our lives in so many other ways.

Our beautiful Monterey pines are showing signs of stress. Drive down any road, walk any trail in the forest and look u— you will be shocked to see how many of the tree crowns are rust colored—an indication that all is not well in Cambria “Pines by the Sea.” In an article in The Trib, David Sneed quoted Rick Hawley of Greenspace, who observed that about a quarter of our native Monterey pines are dead or dying and he attributes this to drought, not bark beetles.

Cambrians have always been protective of their forest. Because the forest so defines what the Ranch is, FFRP will be starting a forest assessment on the Ranch this month. James P. Allen and Associates Consulting Arborists have been chosen to do a forest assessment on the Ranch.

We are presently defining the goals and objectives with the help of the Cambria Forest Committee and other stakeholders. A field inspection to assess current conditions will be completed in March with the help of local volunteers.

Management units will be defined and mapped with prioritized treatments recommended for each unit following a public meeting in April.

We look forward to hearing from all interested parties at this meeting, which will be announced in The Cambrian when the date is set.

At first, it seemed to be a great disadvantage to have the assessment done during drought conditions, but if these arid conditions continue, it will provide valuable information that will help us protect the forest into the future.

Because the Ranch is similar to other areas of town, perhaps the implementation of the Forest Management Plan on the preserve will pave the way for its use elsewhere.

Our drier weather may also have a bearing on our 10th annual Wildflower Show, usually held at the end of April. The Santa Margarita Wildflower Festival has already been cancelled due to lack of rain and, if we don’t get enough rain for a healthy crop of wildflowers, we may have to cancel as well.

While it would be interesting and educational to see the effect of drought on the variety of wildflowers compared to past shows, we feel it would be wrong to pick for display if it threatens their survival in the field. We wouldn’t want to jeopardize their future existence here on our coast.

The Wildflower Show Committee will make a decision in mid-March whether to go ahead with the show or cancel and we will announce it in The Cambrian.

Coming up

Please mark your calendars for our next docented walk on the Ranch, which should not be affected by the drought, but could be cancelled due to rain!

Our “Geology of the Ranch” walk will be held from 10 a.m. until noon Saturday, March 15. Geologist David H. Chipping from Cal Poly will lead the walk. He will help us understand the geologic past of the Ranch and the surrounding areas of Lodge and Park hills.

Reservations are required: Please email ffrpcambria@sbcglobal.net or call 927-2202 to reserve your place, as participation is limited to 25 people.

Jo Ellen Butler’s column is special to The Cambrian. RanchUpdate appears quarterly. Contact the executive director of Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve at http://ffrpcambria.org, 927-2856, or P.O. Box 1664, Cambria 93428.

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