The Rancho Santa Fe Association and its project partners, the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, California Native Plant Society and Urban Corps of San Diego, have been awarded $53,500 in funding to continue their work to reduce wildfire risk by removing highly flammable invasive species along the San Dieguito River.
The funds, awarded as part of the local allocation of Prop 68 funds to local conservation corps, will be used to contract crew labor from the Urban Corps for the continuation of the Rancho Santa Fe Invasive Plant Eradication and Stream Enhancement Project.
“The Association is thrilled to continue our restoration and fuel management efforts in the lower San Dieguito River Valley, which is a key fire corridor in the area,” said Caitlin Kreutz, assistant park and recreation manager. “Fire safety is my main focus of 2019 and beyond.”
The Rancho Santa Fe restoration and enhancement efforts have been ongoing since 2015 on 181 acres of the river valley. After removals of substantial stands of invasives, the areas have been replanted with locally-occurring native plants and trees.
Last year the Association was awarded an $83,303 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for a three-year project with its partners on the Arroyo Preserve.
The work from this latest grant is slated to begin in fall 2019 on the Arroyo, along the streambed upriver from Artesian Road.
Recently the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy was granted $18,664 from the California Fire Safe Council’s Fire Prevention Grant Program to control invasive plants within Lusardi Creek County Preserve.
The Lusardi Creek County Preserve is just off Zumaque and Artesian Road in Rancho Santa Fe and contains a heavy infestation of Arundo donax (giant cane) that has not yet been cut or treated. The Arundo, which looks almost like giant bamboo, soaks up water and resources from other plants and then in the warmer months it can become so dry that it acts as a wick in a fire event—removing it can reduce the intensity of a fire and make it easier to control.
The work is expected to begin in fall 2019.
The Association has also been working on its own plan of action for fire safety through its Forest Health and Preservation Committee. A Covenant Forest Health Study found that over 224,000 of the estimated forest trees in Rancho Santa Fe’s forest are in fair or good condition, however, 42,000 trees are rated as poor or dead.
The situation must be addressed by Covenant members as 95 percent of the forest is located on private property that is outside of the Association and the fire district’s authority. The Association has encouraged its members to take an active role by removing dead and dying trees on their property and replacing them with resilient trees.