In July 31, 2015, Friends of Fiscalini Ranch submitted an application to obtain a Minor Use Permit from the County of San Luis Obispo.
The project application proposes reducing the risk of wildfire and improving the overall health of the Monterey pine forest on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria. The project area is accessed by the popular Forest Loop Trail.
The exceptional drought conditions have resulted in extensive dieback of Monterey pines in the forest on the preserve. The trees have been weakened further by disease and pests, such as pine pitch canker, dwarf mistletoe, western gall rust and pine bark beetles.
An estimated 20 to 40 percent of the trees are dead or dying. Many trees have already fallen, resulting in an unusually high volume of woody debris on the forest floor. Making matters worse, highly combustible alien plants, such as French broom and Blackwood acacia, have invaded the area as well. This combination of factors has greatly increased the risk of wildfire and created an urgent need to reduce fuel loads on the preserve.
The project proposes reducing the immediate fire danger by removing dead trees, woody debris and ladder fuels using hand crews. A number of dead trees and logs will be retained onsite for wildlife habitat. Some of the logs will be used to help repair a large gully near Warren Road. They will be used to build check dams to reduce erosion by capturing sediment during heavy rains. The remainder of the wood waste will be disposed of onsite through chipping, pile burns and lop-and-scatter techniques.
The project is also designed to improve the overall health and resilience of the forest over the long term. This goal will be achieved by thinning crowded stands of stunted trees to provide sufficient light, moisture and nutrients for the healthiest trees to thrive. Branches from young trees infested with mistletoe or gall rust will be removed. Invasive plants in the forest understory, such as broom and acacia, will be replaced with native shrubs that provide food and shelter for wildlife. Cones and seeds will be scattered to assist pine regeneration within the forest, and the forest perimeter will be expanded by planting pine seedlings on the forest edge.
The project schedule is somewhat tentative, pending permit approvals and securing funding for project activities.
FFRP will start conducting preproject monitoring and surveys for sensitive species in the fall of this year. Monarch butterflies are known to use the forest, so surveys will be conducted starting in October to ensure that they are not disturbed by project activities.
Additional surveys will be conducted for other sensitive plants and animals before fuel-reduction work begins. It is anticipated that forest enhancement activities will continue for several years.
An overview of the pro-ject will be presented at the Sept. 8 meeting of the Parks, Recreation and Open Space committee at the Cambria Veterans Memorial Building. Members of the community are encouraged to find out more about the project by attending the meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. Copies of the permit application can be downloaded from the FFRP website at www.ffrpcambria.org.
Coming up at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve
- Rummage Sale, Sept. 12 — Come find treasures at bargain prices from 8 a.m. until noon at Fog’s End, 2735 Main St. This is a fundraiser for the Ranch.
- Coastal Cleanup Day, Sept. 19 — Be a part of the largest volunteer event on the planet. Help us clean up trash on the Ranch coastline and in Santa Rosa Creek. Meet at the southern Windsor entrance at 9 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 19. Bring gloves and a trash bucket, if you have them. Otherwise, we’ll supply them. Help protect what you love. It feels good when the coast looks good.
- Special Ranch Workday, Oct. 17 — FFRP will offer our community an outreach opportunity to meet and work alongside members of the California Conservation Corps, followed by a barbecue. More details to be announced soon — please check our website, ffrpcambria.org.
- Make a Difference Day, Oct. 24 — Millions of volunteers across the nation will unite with a common mission — to improve the lives of others and their communities. In its 24th year, Make A Difference Day is the largest national day of community service. You can be a part of it. We’ll be hosting volunteers on the Ranch to help us with a citizen science project that involves gathering data about the health of our forest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you’re interested in helping out, please contact Holly at hslettel@ calpoly.edu or 239-3928.
For more information on Ranch activities, call 927-2856 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.