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Native Plants Critical to Fire Prevention in Santa Monica Mountains

Having more native plants in the mountains helps slow water evaporation and retain soil moisture, a key to helping slow wildfires, according to a nonprofit.

A small brush fire that was sparked when a vehicle Tuesday in Malibu is a fresh reminder that wildfires can start anytime.

While Tuesday's fire only spread to half an acre, one group is trying to fight against the next devastating fire by making sure plants native to the Santa Monica Mountains, such as oak trees and native grasses, stay healthy.

“The frequent fires we have now feed more fires, and the way to turn it around is to restore the native ecosystem,” said Cody Chappel, Wildland Restoration Manger with TreePeople, a nonprofit that brings together trees, people and technology to grow a sustainable future for the Los Angeles area.

Having more native plants in the mountains helps slow water evaporation and retain soil moisture, according to TreePeople.

Also, native trees and plants transpire, and increase atmospheric moisture, a natural help in the dry fire season.

“Even though we think of the chaparral and coastal sage as being a 'fire ecology,' without human impacts these ecosystems can go 100 years or more without burning,” Chappel said.

TreePeople has a number of restoration events in the coming weeks, including one at Malibu Creek State Park on Aug. 18. The event is set from 8:45 a.m. to noon.

For more information or to register to help visit TreePeople.com.

Elena Corral July 26, 2012 at 02:02 PM
For those wanting more ground water for their domestic wells, look no further than native grasses. Their roots can dig in over 30 feet deep and thus transport surface water to underground conveyances like rock, gravel, and sand strata. Several gains result from this simple system. Damaging runoff is reduced in heavy rainfall events, ground water recharge is enhanced, and proper moisture is created to support oak tree growth and development. Old timers say the creeks would run year round when the native grasses were more abundant, so the whole ecosystem was functioning properly. The addition of controlled sheep and goat grazing might be employed to both reduce fire danger and stimulate native grass development. This has been done successfully in many areas and the results are demonstrable. This may raise the water table and bring back some of the wells that have 'dusted up' over the years. Anyone know a sheep or goat man in the area....let's work with the various conservancy groups and get a program started. Maybe they have already do so, I'm new in the area.
M Stanley July 26, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Hire a Herd in Topanga is the local source, found their contact info on the LA County Fire Dept website, hire local and get added benefit of knowing that they are recommended by Fire Dept too. Hire a Herd Karen Simer P.O. Box 172 Topanga, CA 90290 (310) 455-0755 full list of available contractors linked below: Forestry Division - Goat Contractors 2012 http://fire.lacounty.gov/forestry/VegetationMgmt_GoatContractors.asp
Linda Gibbs August 02, 2012 at 10:07 AM
Thanks for the heads up on the benefits of native grasses. Anyone know what native grasses are best and where to get the seeds?
Cece Stein August 02, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Great article with important information. Steve Woods has lived in Corral Canyon for 14 years and can give you quite a lesson in the grassy firebreaks up here that have been infested with castor bean plants which are extremely flammable. Steve and others in Corral Canyon have spent thousands of hours hacking down these extremely aggressive non natives. Not only are they not pleasing to look at but they are extremely poisonous to humans and animals if ingested. Ricin gas ( terrorists have used this chemical in terrorist attacks ) is produced from the seeds. We want to bring attention to eradicating this out of control species before Malibu is completely invaded by these dangerous plants. Jefferson Wagner ( Zuma J ) is doing his best to eradicate castor beans in Latigo Canyon. Steve and I plea to all property owners who have castors growing. PLEASE cut and bag the seeds and cut the stalk just below ground level with a machete or branch cutters. It is vitally important to bag the seeds before tractors disc the seeds into the ground. We would love to see the the City of Malibu develop a program to address these non natives along our road ways and disturbed areas.
Cece Stein August 02, 2012 at 03:42 PM
If anyone needs help removing castors, Steve and I would be to help.
Cece Stein August 03, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Mari is right. Goats are great for clearing firebreaks. Does any one know if goats are smart enough to not eat castor bean plants ? One ingested seed can kill a dog !

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