Fiscalini Ranch Preserve draft pine forest study nears completion

ktanner@thetribunenews.comMay 1, 2014 

A prescription for protecting the Monterey pine forest on Fiscalini Ranch Preserve should be ready in draft form any time now, according to the consultant who is preparing the report. 

The public and various agencies and groups then will have the opportunity to comment on the study by consulting arborist James P. Allen of Santa Cruz.

Allen, who says he’s “been blessed” to walk through the entire preserve and observe the rest of Cambria’s rare native stand of the trees, introduced his seven-step forest-assessment concepts April 7. 

He estimates that 40 percent of trees in the in-town forest are at the end of their lifespan, but that 20 percent or less of the trees on the preserve are at that point. 

He told the group that once he releases the draft report, incorporates the comments and submits the final version, he wants to immediately begin implementing the action program that includes maintaining and monitoring the preserve’s seven distinct areas. 

Those areas have profound differences, he said. For instance, one area has very dense conditions. Another, “the southwest corner, is almost a model for us, with the presence of legacy trees.” Therefore, different treatments must be created for each of the seven zones.

Invasives — such as ginesta (broom) shrubs, ivy and pampas grass — are a problem, and many would be removed. Some stately eucalyptus trees could be spared as legacy trees, he said, but “what we don’t want is for them to continue to expand and take over more of our forest. My approach would be to remove all 12-inch or smaller (eucalyptus) and leave the large standing trees.”

Allen said he is deliberately “not using the word ‘plan.’ That doesn’t imply action … We want to turn in a plan that’s actually able to be implemented.”

The first step, he said, would be hiring a part-time forest manager/resource ecologist, who would then begin managing the pine forest on the 439-acre preserve. 

He’s already begun interviewing some prospects for the $40,000-to-$60,000-a-year, part-time position that he anticipates would require from 10 to 15 hours a week. 

Jo Ellen Butler, executive director of the Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, said funding for Allen’s study came from a $30,000 grant from the Fairbanks Foundation and about $10,000 from the Friends group.

Neither she nor Allen identified where the money would come from to hire the ecologist and fund the forest-management program. 

Both said they hope the Fiscalini Ranch program would be the first step in finally putting into action the community-driven Cambria Forest Management Plan, completed in 2002 but which has never been funded or implemented. 

Allen explained that the most important element now and in the future is “community support …The time to be productive is now. We need community support, investment and ownership.”

He called it “citizen science … the systematic collection and analysis of data by researchers on a primarily avocational basis … You have such a brain trust here in Cambria. We need to tap that resource … and we need to build partnerships, cooperation, building/rebuilding relationships” with agencies, nonprofits and individuals.

Allen said, “We know our Monterey pine forests are in decline in town,” at this point due primarily to age and the effects of severe, intermittent droughts, rather than pitch canker fungus. 

He said most of the forest’s trees have “shown or have resistance to pitch canker, which doesn’t necessarily cause mortality. Drought does … you can’t rehydrate a tree of that size.”

Allen predicted that, with the continuing drought, there soon will be many more fallen trees and logs on the ground. He added that, “my feeling is we’re not going to get any more rain (this season). We’ll have more mortality.”


Meeting Wednesday

The Cambria Forest Committee meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at Rabobank, 1070 Main St. The agenda includes a report on the Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve forest assessment report, PG&E tree trimming, forest sign locations and tree planting sites. For details, call 927-6240 or go to

Follow Kathe Tanner on Twitter at @CambriaReporter.

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