Nothing to “baa” about: BLM California and partners use BIL investments to reduce wildfire hazards at Fort Ord National Monument

Sunset over rolling, green hills
Sunset over Fort Ord National Monument (Jesse Pluim, BLM)

Thanks to investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Bureau of Land Management California and its partners were able to increase wildfire resiliency in 2023 by completing more fuels management work than ever before at the Fort Ord National Monument in Monterey County.

The BLM coordinates with Cal Fire, Presidio of Monterey Fire Department, and Monterey County Regional Fire to prioritize projects that will mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Collaboration between the BLM and fire management partners has leveraged resources to reduce heavy fuel loads to protect our communities and sensitive ecosystems.

an excavator cuts a line atop a brush covered hill.
BLM crews work along an important ridgeline fuel break that stretches from residential areas near the State Route 68 corridor to Laguna Seca Recreation Area (Eric Morgan, BLM)

“I’ve been managing the Monument since 1999, and this was the most we have ever accomplished on the BLM-managed lands within the Monument,” said Monument Manager Eric Morgan. “The Monument contains approximately 85 miles of fuel breaks that cross BLM and US Army lands, which are located along roads, through thick brush, and within coastal grasslands.”

“The BLM’s exceptional efforts in mitigating fire hazards this year have been commendable, and we take pride in the diligent maintenance of the major ridge line fuel break along State Route 68,” stated Monterey County Fire Chief, David Sargenti. “This strategic measure has been implemented to safeguard the residential areas, ensuring the safety and well-being of our community.”

Goats stand in a grassy field.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding was crucial in providing late season goat grazing adjacent to residential areas (Eric Morgan, BLM)

Typically, goat herds graze on the Monument land from December to April. However, due to the BIL funding, the BLM was able to extend goat grazing through June, treating brush and grassland fuels in the State Route 68 corridor where these dedicated goats completed more than 3,000 acres of grazing treatments.

“The goats have been effective in reversing the spread of wood brush into the Monument’s grassland areas and borders adjacent to residential areas, while making progress at reducing more flammable non-native grasses in favor of native, long-lived grasses,” said Bruce Delgado, BLM botanist and grazing coordinator. “The increased goat grazing is reducing fire hazards, while improving ecological health and resiliency to climate change at the Monument.”

an area cleared of fuels  next to a fence and house
Cal Fire provided equipment and operators to masticate brush in these interface areas to improve defensible space for residents living immediately adjacent to the Monument. The BLM followed up with summer goat grazing - a one two punch (Eric Morgan, BLM)

Maintaining defensible space around private dwellings adjacent to wildlands is vital to overall community protection. In July, the BLM and Monterey County Regional Fire organized a community cleanup day to remove debris within residential interface areas to make it safer for mastication equipment to enter and complete treatments.

Looking forward, with continued Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, 2024 should be a successful year for fuel break work at the Fort Ord National Monument. The BLM, alongside its partners, will continue to maintain fuel breaks aimed at fortifying the area against catastrophic wildland fires and expand fuels reduction treatments around infrastructure.

“The infrastructure focus provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, especially around hazardous fuels mitigation, is a great value to our community,” concluded Morgan.

Goats in a field
Goats at Fort Ord (Jesse Pluim, BLM)

Philip Oviatt, Central California District Public Affairs Officer

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