Liasons with Claremont Canyon's landowners, by L. Tim Wallace

When we formed our organization two and a half years ago, Claremont Canyon was being overlooked and ignored. Little had been done by the major stakeholders to control the spread of French broom, poison hemlock, yellow starthistle and the other invasive exotics. Damaged eucalyptus trees were re-sprouting. Roadsides were minimally managed and trails on parkland were virtually ignored. All this has changed. The Conservancy, through its executive committee, has made a difference. We have forged ties, created liaisons and provided a means for monitoring and follow through. We find ourselves working with committed agency personnel, some new, some transformed, some moving into new positions of authority.

A FEMA grant awarded to local public agencies in the aftermath of the 1991 firestorm finally became available after nearly 10 years of delay.

One of the executive committee’s first projects was at Four-Corners (the ridge top intersection of Grizzly Peak Blvd, Claremont Ave, and Fish Ranch Road). EBMUD’s Scott Hill removed over 100 tons of vegetation there on five acres, coordinating his efforts with the State Forestry Department to obtain crews for cutting, chipping, piling, burning and removal. They continue to maintain the area, suppressing the influx of invasive plants.

We are also working closely with Tom Klatt of UC in the university’s program of eucalyptus cutting in the upper part of the Canyon. That area is probably the most dangerous area in the Canyon for spreading fire under Diablo wind conditions. Some 3,000 trees have been felled so far and their stumps painted with Garlon to prevent resprouting. The Conservancy developed a memorandum of understanding with UC following a meeting with Chancellor Berdahl, which allows the Conservancy to undertake stewardship programs at specified sites along Claremont Avenue and Grizzly.

Agreements with the Park District have included trail maintenance work by Ed Leong and his crew, and broom removal under the supervision of Dennis Rein, Chief of the Park District’s fire fighting and prevention work. In February, the Park District used an “All-Terrain Brushing Machine” to remove brush and extend grasslands along the fire trail on Panoramic Ridge. These areas will be closely monitored by Conservancy.

Camille Rogers, supervisor of field inspectors for the Oakland Fire Department, has been key to getting proper roadside maintenance in the Canyon. This is extremely important since 80 to 90 percent of wildfire ignitions occur along roadsides. City officials have been amenable to cleaning up Oakland’s Garber Park for fire abatement and allowing our stewardship projects to go on there. Coordinated work with all the public agencies is our legacy and our future in Claremont Canyon.

We were notified of three grants awarded to the Conservancy by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to coordinate work with the agencies in Claremont Canyon. While the final contract has not yet been signed, we are apparently going to receive funds for three projects: Upper Gwin Canyon - $36,000; Mid-Canyon Area - $50,000; and for the Stonewall area - $40,000. Monies will be used to remove invasive exotic vegetation that present a fire hazard. The grant monies flow from Fish and Wildlife to the State Fire Safe Council, and from there to the Diablo Fire Safe Council and on to the Conservancy. Amber Bach, representing the Diablo Fire Safe Council, is our liaison person.

The Conservancy’s executive committee is busy meeting with our agency partners, mapping and structuring the three projects. Once geographically and developmentally defined, our work plan has to pass environmental approval so no endangered flora or fauna will be harmed. All this takes time but the projects are definitely in the pipeline for Claremont Canyon. Other grant applications are continually being prepared by the Conservancy to assure the future of the Canyon.