The Conservancy is busy on several fronts—living up to our commitment to be vigilant about wildfire safety while encouraging a healthy native environment in Claremont Canyon. Unfortunately, wildfire danger continues to be a major issue as fire season is becoming a year round concern. Public agencies are unable to devote the financial and human resources necessary to address it.
On June 6, 2016, at Hiller Highlands Country Club, the Conservancy hosted the premier screening of the film “Bring Back the Oaks: Managing vegetation to reduce fire risk in the East Bay Hills.” Inspired by the controversy surrounding the FEMA grants for wildfire hazard mitigation, and in an effort to address public concerns, the making of the film was co-sponsored by the Sierra Club and the Conservancy, with a grant from the Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Legal Defense Fund.
Bring Back the Oaks, a video focusing on the build-up of fire fuels in the East Bay hills, and a sensible way to deal with it, was released in spring 2016 with the hands-on participation and financial support from the Conservancy.
The Claremont Canyon landscape and its uses have changed dramatically over the last century. From the 1800's through the first few decades of the 20th century, the East Bay hills were primarily grasslands with trees and brush growing only in canyon draws. Much of Gwin Canyon, a tributary on the south side of Claremont Canyon, was planted with Monterey Pines (Pinus radiata), a widely established practice in the hills to beautify the land for housing developments in the early Twentieth Century. That these trees were fast-growing tinder in the landscape became evident after every subsequent hill wildfire.
Over 9,000 eucalyptus trees have been removed from Claremont Canyon since 2001 with thousands more due to come down in the next 2-4 years. Careful monitoring and follow-up of the logged areas this time around should assure that resprouts and new seedlings will not overwhelm the land, force out the native flora and fauna, and present an unacceptable wildfire hazard to the canyon and nearby homes.
Some people undoubtedly will miss the tall trees which have held their place in the canyon for nearly a century. Were they less flammable by nature and less aggressive in their growth, wildland managers might be able to deal with them differently. But such was not the case for Eucalyptus globulus, or blue gum, a species imported from Australia for commercial reasons over a hundred years ago.