wildflowers blooming in open grasslands

Our Wildland Fire Resiliency Work is Year-Round

Since Midpen’s new Wildland Fire Resiliency Program was approved last year, staff have been working nonstop on increasing our existing and ongoing ecologically sensitive vegetation management projects. At any given time of the year, multiple projects are in-progress throughout Midpen preserves aimed at restoring ecological health and creating landscapes that are resilient to fire, while reducing potential wildland fire severity and helping to protect public safety.

“Fire is a fact of life in California and native plant communities in the Santa Cruz Mountain region have evolved over millennia with fire,” Midpen Senior Resource Management Specialist Coty Sifuentes-Winter said. “A changing climate, a long history of intense logging resulting in dense regrowth, coupled with fire suppression, and the fact that people cause the majority of fires in California all contribute to a longer, more intense fire season. The Wildland Fire Resiliency program is aimed at helping Midpen meet these new challenges.”

two workers in protective gear carrying hedge trimmers and clearing brush
More than $2.5 million in grant funding is supporting this work, along with a new $750,000 multiyear partnership with the San Jose Conservation Corps.

The reintroduction of prescribed fire is the last aspect of the Wildland Fire Resiliency Program anticipated to be considered in 2023 as a part of Midpen’s land management toolbox. For thousands of years, local native people, who were the first stewards of these lands, practiced periodic burning to manage the landscape.

“Prescribed fire is an important tool statewide, however, land managers and fire ecologists must implement it tailored to specific locations to maximize benefits,” Sifuentes-Winter said. “Forest management, including decades of prescribed fires near Yosemite National Park are credited with reducing the severity of the recent Oak Fire, and protecting the giant sequoias of the Mariposa Groves.”

Staff are building out the details of Midpen’s prescribed fire program with the support of ecological and fire professionals. This work includes prioritizing areas within Midpen preserves where prescribed fire could be safely and successfully conducted to enhance ecological health and support regional wildland fire safety projects.

Public Meetings Coming this Fall on Prescribed Fire

Public engagement is a critical component of Midpen’s prescribed fire work. Staff held several in-person and virtual open house events in July 2022, and later this fall, will bring the developing prescribed fire program to public meetings with Midpen’s board of directors.

Sign-up to stay informed of upcoming public meetings on prescribed fire and learn about current and recently completed vegetation management projects at openspace.org/fire.

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