SLC Conducts Successful Prescribed Burn on San Francisquito Flats

SLC Conducts Successful Prescribed Burn on San Francisquito Flats

CCPBA participants lay flames down on thick stands of invasive Harding grass. Photo by Michael Troutman / DMT Imaging.

October 20, 2022

By Alix Soliman, Communications & Outreach Coordinator

On Sunday, October 16, the Santa Lucia Conservancy conducted a successful prescribed burn in Carmel Valley totaling approximately 65 acres with cooperation from the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association, the Santa Lucia Community Services District, Monterey County Regional Fire District, Spring Valley Volunteer Fire Department, and CAL FIRE BEU.

The San Francisquito Flats prescribed fire was conducted on a mixed grassland and historical wetland partially drained and seeded with invasive Harding grass for commercial grazing during the ranching period a century ago. Today, a majority of the remaining wet meadow contains water for only part of the year. By clearing vegetation to prepare the land for native seeding in the spring and cycling nutrients back into the soil to reinvigorate growth, this prescribed burn is a critical part of the Conservancy’s long-term efforts to restore the wet meadow. 

Restoration Manager Jackson Brooke presents the burn plan to participants. Photo by Michael Troutman / DMT Imaging.

“Building on the success of our burn last year, we are looking forward to seeing an expanded and regular use of prescribed fire in the region to protect local communities from excess fuels buildup in an ecologically conscious way,” said Jackson Brooke, restoration manager. “Just hours after the burn, I watched coyotes and deer forage in the burned area as valley oaks dropped their acorns in a pattern developed over millennia as a response to low-intensity fire.”

Many of California’s native plants rely on fire to provide nutrients and help seeds germinate. In the absence of periodic, low-intensity fires, fuels accumulate, habitats degrade, invasive plants proliferate and the risk of catastrophic wildfire increases.

Valley oak acorns drop into fertile ash in response to the heat from the fire. Photo by Andrew Evans.

“The Conservancy’s prescribed fire program is part of a larger strategy to both make our community a safer place to live and conserve the area’s high biodiversity,” said Executive Director Jamison Watts. “The goal is a fire-permeable landscape that allows lower-intensity fire to move through an area in a way that benefits native species without threatening life, property, or unique and valuable natural resources.” 

With over a decade of prescribed fire experience, the Conservancy is engaged in lowering the risk of catastrophic wildfire in Carmel Valley and helping restore fire-adapted ecosystems through various practices including conservation cattle grazing, goat grazing, invasive weed removal, shaded fuel breaks, maintaining strategic fuel breaks in partnership with CAL FIRE, and facilitating lot-specific fuel management plans that go above and beyond establishing defensible space around homes. 

Please reach out to Director of Ecological Management Dr. Rodrigo Sierra Corona at [email protected] or Restoration Manager Jackson Brooke at [email protected] for questions about prescribed fire and fuel management at the Conservancy.