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Rancho Santa Fe ‘Celebrate our Forest’ event promotes fire safety, tree preservation

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An aerial view of Rancho Santa Fe’s urban forest.
(Gus Calderon, FireWatch)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Forest Health and Preservation Committee will host the “Celebrate our Forest” event on Sunday, Jan. 27. The event seeks to educate people on the value of protecting Rancho Santa Fe’s urban forest and motivate residents to work together and be actively involved in achieving a fire-safe community through tree abatement.

“It has to be us, it has to be now,” said Bill Beckman, chair of the Forest Health and Preservation Committee.

“Celebrate our Forest” will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club on Jan. 27. The family-friendly event will include a presentation about the recently completed Covenant Forest Health Study, food, activities for children and informational booths from groups like the San Dieguito River Park Conservancy, California Native Plant Society, Ecology Artisans, RSF Fire Protection District, Tree San Diego, FireWatch and the Rancho Environmental Tree Service.

The event is sponsored by the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.

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“The forest is a major contributor to our community character and its identity,” Beckman said. “It is a major contributor to the enjoyment of our community and the value of our properties. Without a healthy forest, our community would be very dry and desert-like.”

Beckman, a former president of the RSF Association board, has been chair of the Forest Health Committee since 2012. The group, previously known as the Committee on the Natural Environment or CONE, has been working on a plan of action for the future of the forest and commissioned the Covenant Forest Health Study, produced by the environmental consulting firm Dudek and Tree San Diego. The 300- page study was conducted between December 2016 and March 2018.

“The key finding is that overall our forest continues to be healthy but portions are in decline and face challenges as a result of drought, pests and diseases,” Beckman said.

While large portions of the Ranch are not affected yet the western-portion of the Covenant faces decline, particularly in eucalyptus and citrus groves.

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“A lot of the vegetation types we knew about but the study opened our eyes to some target areas,” said Conor Lenahan, a forester and fire prevention specialist for the RSF Fire Protection District about the extent of dead and dying trees.

Lenahan said that 95 percent of the dead and dying trees in the Covenant are on private property and outside of the fire department’s jurisdiction. The fire district’s enforcement is limited to 100 feet from homes and along evacuation routes.

Lenahan said he is excited to have the opportunity with “Celebrate our Forest” to get the word out about the community’s role in removing dead and dying trees as wildfire threat is year round and it can be preventable. He said they do not want to see what happened in Paradise last year with the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive fire in state history, to happen here.

“We need a structure in place to deal with current issues and challenges,” Beckman said, noting the next steps include not only the removal of dead and dying trees but replanting the right trees in the right places. “The community needs to be engaged in solutions.”


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