USFS begins work on Strategic Community Fuelbreak Project

SOLVANG, Calif.— Los Padres National Forest officials announced that initial work has begun on the Strategic Community Fuelbreak Improvement project on the Monterey Ranger District. The purpose of the project is to re-establish and maintain a series of fuelbreaks to enhance protection for at-risk communities and firefighters, preserve wilderness character, and reduce suppression costs. These historically used and effective strategic fuelbreaks extend in and out of the Ventana Wilderness.

The funding for this project comes from a Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration grant award, a collaborative partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to invest in restoration efforts to mitigate wildfire risk through thinning, hazardous fuels treatments, and fuelbreak implementation.

The first phase of project work is occurring along North Coast Ridge Road where 158 acres are being treated using hand tools and chainsaws to cut and pile dead and decadent vegetation. These piles will later be burned by fire crews during cold and wet winter months to reduce the fuel load on the forest floor.

This project resulted from collaborative engagement at the community level and is intended to improve effectiveness and efficiency in protecting communities from wildfire. The project will also minimize future impacts to wilderness by maintaining fuelbreaks prior to a wildfire when bulldozers are often deployed for emergency suppression. By proactively designing and establishing strategic fuelbreaks during a non-emergency environment, the Forest Service can reduce the reliance on mechanized equipment and subsequently reduce the adverse fire suppression impacts on the wilderness landscape.

“Fuelbreaks and thinning work are absolutely essential to better protecting our firefighters, communities and forest health in the face of a changing climate,” said Monterey District Ranger Tim Short.

As additional funding becomes available, other sections of the Strategic Community Fuelbreak Improvement project will be implemented on the Monterey Ranger District.

NASA studies landslides

Thee is a fascinating article that all of us who live or work along Highway One in Big Sur might be interested in reading. I quote from the “layperson’s” version below. The scientific version can be found here.

Water triggers landslides, and knowing how landslides react to record drought or extreme rainfall can help researchers better predict their future behavior, including whether any could collapse, or fail catastrophically. The big-picture goal is to develop a statewide inventory of landslide behavior that would inform a monitoring network. While slow-moving landslides don’t necessarily pose an immediate danger to people or infrastructure, over time they can damage things like roads and buildings. And in some instances, they can suddenly collapse, which is what occurred with the Mud Creek landslide near Big Sur in 2017.

Climate Change has a definite impact on landslides in California, but what that impact is and being able to predict when landslides might happen is one purpose of this study.

Getting a better handle on why landslides react the way they do to rainfall or drought could help researchers predict future events like the Mud Creek landslide. It collapsed during a very wet year for California in which similar landslides didn’t collapse. “We’re trying to understand why this happens,” Handwerger said.

Landslides are something we who live here have become used to, along with the inevitable wildfires and debris flows. These are all part of the Mother Nature we are trying to live with in harmony. Some of us have even welcomed the slowing down of the tourist traffic we have been enduring. Winters used to be our slow time; the time the residents and mother nature had to recover from the frenetic pace of our tourist season. Now, tourists travel here pretty much year round, so that hasn’t happened in a while. Landslide come a little less frequently than winter. And while they are an inconvenience for residents and businesses, they also provide a bit of a respite. Still, it would be nice to have an advance warning system.