Saturday, October 21. 2006
wildbird in Native/Non-native Issues
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We were driving down I5 during the fires of 2003, wondering if the house we were moving into would still be there. Our house shares our 2 acres with over an acre of native chaparral. Upon arriving and finding it intact, we set about learning how to protect ourselves from wildfire. Through this blog and its associated website we will try to communicate what we have learned.
Part of what we thought we had learned was how to thin and prune the brush and remove the dead wood to make it more fire resistant. Unfortunately, we subsequently learned that these activities caused some damage to the habitat. It's a good thing we only went out 100 feet from neighboring structures. So another focus of this blog and website will be to try and define how best to "manage" your chaparral, should you think it needs management.
After two years of hard work getting the lot all fire safe, we received a hazard abatement notice. This was quite a shock and caused all kinds of consternation. The letter is actually issued by a private company, Fire Protection Services, which contracts for free to the fire department, does inspections and if you don't obey they will come do the work and charge you. They are very aggressive in their approach to "brush" and to the people who own it. There is a very serious conflict of interest in this arrangment. Fortunately the fire marshal in our area is a great guy and very reasonable. He recognized the work we had done and the logic behind it and approved it after just cleaning up the last piles of brush that we had cut but not yet chipped. So another focus of this blog and website will be to describe our experiences with abatement and how to deal with it.
All of this led us to realize that something must be done to stop the war on chaparral which is taking place in southern California. Chaparral is the most widespread habitat in the same areas that are being blanketed by houses, roads, and shopping malls. In the chaparral is an abundance of plant and animal life which is very well adapted to our local climate of short, moist winters and long, dry summers. The native chaparral does not need to be watered and tended like a garden, a valuable attribute in a time when the population is growing but the water supply shrinking. Many of the species in chaparral are more fire-tolerant than many of the non-native plants that we use for our artificial landscaping. Chaparral holds the soil in place and prevents weeds from growing and spreading. And it has it's own intrinsic beauty, even if it doesn't tower over us like the sequoias.
So the main, overall objective of this blog and website will be to encourage people to do what they can to save the chaparral - southern California's old growth forest.
--Brian M. Godfrey
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