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Shaded fuel break being built in Sonoma Valley Regional Park

Sonoma County Regional Parks is currently constructing a shaded fuel break in Sonoma Valley Regional Park in Glen Ellen in an effort to improve forest health, promote park resiliency, and modulate the severity of future wildfires.

Unlike a fire break, where all vegetation is removed leaving only bare soil, a shaded fuel break retains larger trees to provide shade and wildlife habitat. Flammable vegetation near the ground and smaller trees that can provide ladder fuel are reduced, thereby slowing the potential spread of a wildfire.

In partnership with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit and Ukiah Division of the California Conservation Corps, Regional Parks will create the shaded fuel break by reducing the density of ground-level vegetation along the northwest boundary of the park, near the Carmel Avenue entrance in Glen Ellen.

The half-mile long break will be located mostly in a remote area not accessible to the public, but neighbors and park users have probably been hearing chainsaws and other gas-powered equipment. The project is scheduled to end on Nov. 18. The park has been open during this time.

For this project, mature trees larger than six inches in diameter (at breast height) remain untouched, and, to allow for secondgeneration growth and succession, a number of trees smaller than six inches. This project is being carried out prior to the start of the February 2021 nesting bird season.

Shaded fuel breaks are typically located in strategic areas to reduce the rate of spread and intensity of wildfires and to improve firefighter access. Regional Parks and Cal Fire identified the project area in Sonoma Valley Regional Park because it parallels a dozer line Cal Fire created during the 2017 fires to successfully defend nearby neighborhoods.

This project is one of several being implemented this year by The Sonoma Valley Wildlands Collaborative, a group of six private organizations and public agencies that own and manage land in the Sonoma Valley, of which Sonoma County Regional Parks is a member. The Collaborative is working with Cal Fire on strategic fuel reduction and vegetation management projects across Sonoma Valley to protect communities and improve ecosystem health. The work is funded through a grant from CAL FIRE’s Fire Prevention Grant Program and is part of the statewide California Climate Investments Program.

Updates on all Sonoma Valley projects will be posted on the Collaborative’s website at www. svwildlandscollaborative.com. For more about Sonoma County Regional Parks’ role in wildfire prevention and fuels management, visit parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/ Learn/Natural-Resources.

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