Fall 2003 in the Canyon

It’s fire season, and most of us head into this part of the year with some fears about what the next two months might bring. We hope that Fate is kind and blows mostly cool sea breezes our way. Among the Conservancy missions, reducing the threat of wildfire looms particularly large in these dry hot months. Small fires are inevitable, but the Conservancy has been busy trying to shave the odds against catastrophic fire. Our challenges are complex: we need to protect the value of the homes in the Canyon as well as the intrinsic value of the vegetation that comprises the Canyon wildlife habitat, much of which lies within a public preserve. How do we achieve protection of these valuable assets, recognizing that both habitat and homes constitute major sources of fuel? 

We begin with two assumptions. First, that fire safety and preservation of the environment are everyone’s responsibility, public and private landowner alike. And second, that only through partnership and coordinated effort can we shape these responsibilities into wise and well-planned action. Accordingly, we have formed good working relationships with many agencies and individuals, each of whom holds an important piece of the overall puzzle.

This past year we have been busy sharing information (and the workload!) with these allies. In addition, we reach out to those who live on the Canyon’s edge to encourage and applaud their efforts to create defensible space in and around their homes where fire safety begins. In the next few pages we describe some of the year’s accomplishments. Much is going on as the Conservancy works toward better understanding and control of wildfire, preserving habitat for wildlife, and attracting responsible hikers, birders and naturalists to enjoy this wonderful Canyon.

Permission and cooperation are the key factors in getting projects actually done, as the Conservancy owns none of the land. We've been getting substantial cooperation from the two major landowners - UC Berkeley and the East Bay Regional Parks District, each owning over 200 acres in Claremont Canyon - and trust we will continue to build on this foundation of mutual good will.

Tom Klatt, Director of Emergency Planning for UC, has worked hard to reduce wildfire hazard and promote restoration projects. With his help, we now have a Memorandum of Understanding with UC that permits us to carry out approved stewardship projects on UC land in the Canyon.  

We have continued to keep a close working relationship with the EBRPD during their reorganization after the inestimable General Operations Manager, Jerry Kent, recently retired. Fire hazard mitigation in EBRPD lands now is the responsibility of Fire Chief Dennis Rein and Fire Captain Brian Cordeiro, while Claremont Canyon’s public access is the responsibility of Ed Leong.

We worked hard to encourage EBRPD to use CDC crews for clearing invasive exotics and creating effective buffer zones in the Canyon. This year the EBRPD made extensive use of these crews in thinning vegetation along Claremont Ave and around Gelston Road.

We have applied for three grants that would allow significant fuel hazard reduction to be done within the Canyon on EBRPD land, focusing on removing invasive exotic plants within a buffer zone adjacent to neighborhoods. Another more inclusive grant application we are working on will contribute to long-term stewardship in partnership with the large landowners.

Last year, we saw the completion of Phase II of UC’s program to remove eucalyptus trees near the intersection of Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Claremont Ave/Fish Ranch Road. UC is expanding the area of eucalyptus cutting this year, creating more opportunity for the Conservancy's stewardship in the follow-up vegetation management. Upon the Conservancy's urging, deadwood, weeds, and debris were removed from Garber Park by the City of Oakland. Since then, Conservancy volunteers have worked on more clearing and trail maintenance in the Park.

EBRPD cleared several acres of broom from the Stonewall Road trailhead up to Panoramic Hill after we appealed for better management there.

Roadside maintenance by the City of Oakland covered most of Claremont Avenue this year but not much or Grizzly Peak Boulevard. We took up the slack and mowed and weed-whipped portions of Grizzly Peak Boulevard. We met with City of Oakland fire officials to create a policy allowing private lands, under an approved vegetation management regime, to be exempted from City regulations that prescribe razing the grounds. The policy is under review