Fuels Management & Fire Ecology

An important part of the Preserve's overall management includes wildfire risk reduction and control of the amount of flammable/dangerous vegetation, or "fuels", present. Reduction measures include prescribed burning, mastication and handwork, collectively known as fuels management.

Periodic fire has been a natural part of the foothill chaparral ecology in the Pine Hill area for thousands of years. These relatively frequent fires cleared out accumulated vegetation without threatening the health of the natural plant community. Native Americans living in the foothills were

Cameron Park fuels reduction (Click for larger image)
known to set fires purposely mimicking the natural fire patterns as a measure to improve game forage.

The rare plants of the Pine Hill Preserve have evolved with a fire regime and have adapted to periodic fires. The types of plants that live in the Preserve respond to fire by sprouting and by germination of seeds stimulated by the fire. Soon after burning, new sprouts grow from the root, dormant bulbs and root crowns of many plants. Then, fall and winter rains trigger prolific germination of non-woody plants, often resulting in a colorful array of wildflowers in the Spring.

Many of the rare plants in the Preserve require clearings in the vegetation to allow sufficient light to penetrate to their often low-lying leaves. Periodic fire also plays an important role in rare plant germination and tends to reduce competition from larger shrubs for scarce water and nutrients in the soil.

However, due to aggressive fire suppression efforts, the natural occurrence of fire has been largely absent for the last century, resulting in a dangerous buildup of fuels. If a wildfire were to occur today, it could pose a serious threat to nearby property as well as to the plants and animals living there. State regulations require landowners to provide "defensible space", specifics of which can be found at this CalFire link.

This is why the agencies managing the Preserve have developed a Fuels Management Plan. This plan determined the safest, most effective ways of protecting the area from catastrophic fire while also considering the biological needs of the rare plants.

Visit the BLM Fire and Aviation page for additional information.