Forest Management and Stewardship

Santa Cruz County is continually threatened by catastrophic wildfire, particularly in the wildland-urban interface. Local topography and fuels make the County subject to periodic wildfires. Combined with 100 years of effective fire suppression, these conditions have led to uncharacteristically high fuel loads.

The RCD engages in forest health activities that focus on restoration and reengaging natural forest ecosystem processes to ensure the future of resilient and sustained forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This includes mitigating climate change and protecting communities from catastrophic wildfire. By thoughtfully reducing uncharacteristic wildland fuels and removing infected or diseased vegetation the potential for severe wildland fire decreases. This lessens post-fire damage, minimized soil erosion and the impacts to water quality, enhanced wildlife habitat, and limits the spread of invasive species and diseases.

The RCD has a long history of collaborating with the local community and agency stakeholders to provide technical and cost-share assistance to improve forest ecosystems, reduce wildfire threat. We also work with Cal Fire and local FSCs to identify and implement high priority fire breaks as outlined in the Community Wildfire Protection Plan

More specially, the RCD offers planning and implementation of forest health projects for local landowners.

Planning services

Upon request, the RCD can tour your property and provide information about the general conditions of your land, discuss your goals for your land and recommend practices to reach those goals. We can also advise on permits or pathways that may be needed or of use when completing projects on your property.

In addition to site specific technical assistance, the RCD can discuss developing a Forest Management Plan (FMP) the most useful and essential tool. An FMP describes the current conditions of your property and acts as a manual to guide the vision and goals for managing your land. Working directly with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), in our shared local partnership office, we can also help you navigate NRCS cost-share programs such as Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), that may cover a portion of the planning and implementation cost of your FMP.

Project Implementation

Each year, working with both private and public landowners, the RCD utilizes available grant opportunities to fund the implementation of fuel load reduction, fire breaks and forest health projects. Our team may help to:

  • Develop treatment prescriptions
  • Prepare bids and hire contactors to complete the work
  • Manage on-the-ground projects to ensure prescriptions are adhered to
  • Helps perform necessary mitigations when needed

We prioritize projects that have multiple resource benefits, with a special emphasis on areas where the fire regime has departed from its natural trajectory and needs ecological restoration to regain ecosystem processes, conditions, and resiliency.

Contact the RCD for assistance.

Matt Abernathy from the RCD made specific on-site observations and produced a written report that explained clearly how homeowners and public land managers could be more effective in reducing wildfire risks that threaten public health and safety for all of us. Our Highland Firewise volunteer group will use Matt’s recommendations as we work with green space managers and private landowners to advocate stronger measures for wildfire safety. – Anne and Denny Highland Area

Conservation benefit: Healthy forest that are more resilient to wildfire, enhance wildlife habitat, protect critical water sources, and combat affects of climate change.

CalFire California State Parks
County of Santa Cruz
Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County
Natural Resource Conservation Service
San Mateo Resource Conservation District
Santa Cruz Mountain Stewardship Network

CalFire California Fire Safe Council
California State Coastal Conservancy
County of Santa Cruz
Natural Resource Conservation Service

Forest Health/ Fire Resources Library

RCD Contact: Matt Abernathy

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