Completed Coal Creek Preserve Project Highlights Expanding Vegetation Management

This fall, vegetation management projects associated with Midpen’s new Wildland Fire Resiliency Program are beginning in earnest. We are proactively expanding our wildland fire prevention and preparation work six-fold over the next decade to assist ecosystems in becoming healthier and more resilient, reduce wildland fire risk and facilitate fire agency response.

Significant projects anticipated to begin this year include habitat enhancement for the rare Kings Mountain manzanita, a significant shaded fuel break through Thornewood Open Space Preserve and mitigating the effects of Sudden Oak Death through forest health activities at Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve.

As part of Midpen’s ecological approach to vegetation management, we are careful not to impact sensitive plants and wildlife. One way we do this is to avoid work during nesting bird season, which ended September 1. Two new vegetation management projects for forest health and wildland fire safety are beginning this month. At Rancho San Antonio Preserve, Midpen staff will be reducing vegetation along the Mora Trail and in Pulgas Ridge Preserve work will be done on a shaded fuel break.

Coal Creek Preserve Shaded Fuel Break

A recently completed 2.5-mile shaded fuel break in our Coal Creek Preserve along Skyline Boulevard with the California Conservation Corps illustrates the types of projects we implement to improve ecological health, wildland fire resilience and safety.

Before work begins on any Midpen project, biologists survey for, map and flag areas needing extra protection for sensitive plants and wildlife. At Coal Creek, this included wood rat nests and a population of rare popcorn flowers.

Using hand and mechanical work, and prioritizing non-native and invasive plants and trees, California Conservation Corps crews spent 14 weeks clearing dense brush from tree groves, removing low and hanging tree limbs and mowing along existing roads and trails in the preserve. The goal of the fuel break is to stop or slow potential fires, keep them on the ground and provide firefighters with a place to take a stand.

This project was a high priority in CalFire’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan and was supported by San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley, San Mateo Resource Conservation District, South Skyline FireSafe Council and a Proposition 68 grant.

Building Capacity

Our Wildland Fire Resiliency Program, several years in the making, guides us in prioritizing vegetation management projects using the best available science and input from our fire agency partners across the region, assisting firefighter response and reintroducing prescribed fire to our lands potentially starting in 2023 (pending further environmental review).

To date, we’ve secured nearly $2 million in grants to support Wildland Fire Resiliency Program projects starting this fall, and continue competing for additional funds. We hired additional staff to implement and manage the growing work and strengthened capacity-building partnerships, including a $750,000, 4-year contract with the San Jose Conservation Corps and Charter School.

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