The Openlands across The Preserve collectively make up  approximately 8,000 of our 20,000 acres. As protected land, a gentle touch is preferred when we consider improving the vegetation management of the Openlands. Manual hand removal of invasive weeds is permitted without approval, and the Weed Management Guidelines offer guidance on strategies at different growth stages. More robust, mechanical maintenance of the Openlands requires approval from the Conservancy in the form of an Openlands Stewardship Plan. This document ensures that activities conducted on the land will both meet the goals of the landowner and will also be conducted in a biodiversity-sensitive manner.

Caring for your Openlands

On The Preserve, we care for the Openlands because we care for our neighbors. Our wild neighbors forage and find shelter in our back yards and the collective commitment to preserve and care for the Openlands is one of the hallmarks of this community. Common and routine management in the Openlands is permitted with Conservancy guidance and approval. Below is a brief outline of common activities that require approval in the Openlands.

Tree Pruning

Spring is a risky time to prune oak trees, especially, since late rains and warmer days can accelerate the spread of the Sudden Oak Death and other tree pathogens. The BEST time to prune all trees, including oaks, is at the end of the growth season, from November to February. For more information about SOD and how it is changing our forests, click here.

The Preserve’s Fuel Management Standards (2018) include prescriptions for tree pruning. From 0 to 150 feet from structures, the following guidelines apply:

  • Remove all branches living or dead 3” or smaller in diameter and less than 8’ from the ground.
  • Remove dead branches less than 8’ in height.
  • Maintain vertical clearance between tree branches and understory vegetation. Shrubs and understory plants should have at least 8’ clearance to the tree canopy (or the equivalent of 3x shrub height, whichever is greater).
  • Avoid thinning or pruning of the tree canopy. The trees’ shade helps suppress understory shrub growth. Note: County permit is required for foliar pruning of more than 30% of live canopy.


If you plan to do some mowing or weed management in the Homeland you do not need to reach out to us, though we are always happy to share our favorite methods, tools and timing for tackling land management around the home. If, however, you would like to conduct mowing or other equipment-based vegetation management in your Openlands, an Openlands Stewardship Plan or Fuel Management Plan are required. These documents guide mowing with specific management goals and timing in mind. Examples of two common goals are: reducing wildlands fuels and managing weeds.

  • Mowing should be done when the ground is dry and firm. Otherwise, heavy mowing equipment can become stuck and leave deep tracks in wet soils.
  • Mow grass to a minimum height of 4 inches.
  • Timing of mowing for invasive weed management can be very important to maximize impact and minimize spreading the weeds.

Timing:  Spring (April- June), before the start of fire season, is the right time to mow. Mowing season does align with ground-nesting bird season, and there are some techniques to minimize the risk to birds. Feel free to contact the Conservancy for more guidance.

Mowing can be a very effective tool to achieve specific management goals, but timing and tools can make a huge difference. See below for guidance:

Invasive weed management: timing will depend on the species. An Openlands Plan will identify the area where mowing is permitted and will guide mowing activities. Often, targeted weed management includes “spot mowing” addressing specific weed areas.

Improve grassland health: April and May. Non-native perennial grasses produce seed earlier in the season. Mowing early will reduce seed dispersal of non-native grasses allocating more sunshine and water to our native species.

Aesthetics: April and May. For a tidy appearance in your Homeland grasslands, mow twice. First in April, and then again at the start of fire season.

Fuel Management: May and June. Later in the growth season, but just before the start of fire season. Mowing later than June increases ignition risk, please follow these guidelines strictly:

  • Mow before 10 am.
  • Stop mowing if humidity is 30% or less.
  • Use common sense. If you think it is too hot, stop mowing.

Fuel Management

Lot specific Fuel Management Plans, prepared by a Wildland Fire and Fuel Expert, guides fuel management activities. The Preserve Fuel Management Standards offer thoughtful guidance to reduce wildfire fuels in a way that is sensitive to biodiversity and ecological processes but maximizes protection to your home and family. We don’t clear land on The Preserve, instead we work from the house out and the ground up to maintain natural vegetation while reducing fire fuels and creating defensible space around structures.

Fuel Management Plans are lot-specific and good for 5 years.

The 2018 Santa Lucia Preserve Fuel Management Standards 

Openlands Stewardship Plans

Many Preserve residents have engaged the Conservancy for guidance on improving wildlife habitat and the success of native grasses and flowers by targeting invasive weeds in their Openlands. An Openlands Stewardship Plan is a complimentary, customized strategy to help landowners achieve their conservation goals in the Openlands in a way that is compliant with the Conservation Easements.

Other Openlands Uses

Explore your Openlands! There are incredible things hiding in the Openlands – ancient trees, native species, rippling creeks and more. There are a few basic rules to keep in mind:

  • Restoring native vegetation is okay, as long as it is part of an approved Openlands Stewardship Plan or guided by the Conservancy (such as screening vegetation)
  • Wildlife habitat management is allowed in the Openlands and may include installing owl or kestrel nest boxes or weed management.
  • Please remember:
    • No vehicles are permitted in the Openlands.
      • No parking.
      • No use of ATVs or other motor vehicles.
    • Dogs should be kept on leash.
    • No trails or footpaths may be established in the Openlands. If there is a feature you like to visit in your Openlands, avoid taking the same route every time.