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 BLM-California News.bytes
News.bytes Extra, issue 485

Prescribed fire to benefit species, reduce wildfire hazard

Two firefighters watch over prescribed fire burning among dry grasses
James Gannon, fuels specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, stands with Bill Weiser, CAL FIRE VMP Battalion Chief, on what is to be 130 burned acres at Lake Mathews-Estelle Mountain SKR Reserve (SKR Reserve), a grassland reserve set aside for Stephens’ kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stepjensi) in western Riverside County, California south of Riverside. Much of the site was used for citrus growing operations, and as a result the land is in various stages of ecological succession and recovery from human use.

BLM and CALFire firefighters recently completed prescribed fire to improve habitat for Stephens’ kangaroo rat (SKR), as well reduce hazardous fire fuels. The June 8, 2011 prescribed fire took place on 130 acres south of Lake Mathews.

The overall project, of which the public lands are one component, is a multi-year, interagency project located on the SKR Reserve -- comprised of BLM-managed lands; Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency (RCHCA) lands; private lands owned by Waste Management, Inc. which contain the El Sobrante Landfill; and the Metropolitan Water District lands which contain Lake Mathews, a source of drinking water.  Here circumstances have conspired to restore a healthy remnant of California native grasslands and sage scrub habitats.

The BLM and cooperators are bringing fire back into grasslands a few acres at a time, helping to improve the area's ecology. The preserve is home to at least 4 species listed as threatened, endangered or of special concern, including the federally-listed Stephens’ kangaroo rat and the coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica).

Prescribed burning was used to reduce the non-native grasses and encourage growth of native forbs and grasses. Burning is a natural way to create disturbance that would support the growth of native forbs such as dotseed or dwarf plantain (Plantago erecta), tidy tips (Layia platyglossa), and blue dicks (Dichelostoma capitatum), and of native grasses such as three-awn grass (Aristida sp.) and purple needlegrass (Nasella pulchra). Prescribed fires (and wildfires) in other areas have shown excellent results in supporting an increase in populations of Stephens kangaroo rat within recently-burned areas.

smoke rises over spot fires lit by firefighters
Firefighters light fires among the grasses, during the prescribed burn.

- Palm Springs South Coast Fuels Program, 6/14/11       

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Last updated: 06-17-2011