Forest health at the heart of the priorities of the RSF association committee

The Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Forest Preservation and Health Committee continues its work to protect and maintain what it considers to be the most valuable part of Rancho Santa Fe’s history and identity: its trees .

At the Association’s March 4 board meeting, committee chair Bill Beckman said that the coming year they plan to update the Forest Health Study as well as the creation of a forest master plan, to ensure that Rancho Santa Fe always moves towards a balance between a vibrant forest and a fire-safe community.

“Our amazing forest was created by former residents of our community and we appreciate it because they did what they needed to do to create and maintain it,” Beckman said. “Now we have to do it for future generations of Rancho Santa Fe residents. It is up to us to decide whether we will have a healthy forest years from now.

Beckman, former Chairman of the Association’s Board of Directors, has chaired the Forest Health and Preservation Committee since 2012. Previously an ad hoc group known as the Natural Environment Committee or CONE, he is became a standing committee of the Association in 2016.

Beckman said the forest is overall healthy although it is in decline in some areas due to drought, insect infestations and climate change. What will make the difference is planting resistant trees in the right places, he said.

To help choose the right trees, the Association has established an arboretum to provide a living display of the types of trees that grow best on the ranch. At the start of last year, around 50 different types of trees were planted along the Via De Fortuna and Via De Cumbre golf course on both sides of the trail. A grand opening of the arboretum in March 2020 has been postponed due to rain and then indefinitely due to the pandemic, but residents are still encouraged to check out the growing oaks, acacias and willows and see how they could improve their landscapes.

According to the 2018 Covenant Forest Health Study, produced by environmental consulting firm Dudek and Tree San Diego, there are approximately 266,000 trees in the Rancho Santa Fe forest.

The 300-page study examined the composition and health of forests, best practices for maintaining a healthy forest, and the many benefits it provides to the community. As Beckman noted, a healthy and substantial forest has a huge impact on the value and perception of properties in the Pact, increasing the value of properties by 10-20%.

Beckman said the Forest Health Study should be updated every three to five years.

“Our forest is not static, it is constantly changing and we must monitor its evolution so that we can take timely measures to ensure its continued health,” he said.

Since 95% of the forest is located on private property that is outside the authority of the Association and the Fire District, it is up to residents to cut down dead and dying trees that pose a significant risk of fire. Forest fire. Beckman applauded the work of Association Fire Preparedness Administrator Caitlin Kreutz, which he says is making a huge difference in ranch fire safety.

Kreutz worked to secure grants to help remove flammable invasive species from the ranch’s main fire corridors and helped establish the Association’s partnership with FireWatch, a service that helps communities identify areas with high risk through aerial imagery. Last October, the Association committed additional funding for the next phase, creating defensible space maps for each owner of the Convention.

The active and dedicated volunteers of the Forest Health and Preservation Committee continued to meet virtually monthly throughout the pandemic, Beckman said, adding that they always needed more volunteers.

In the fall, the committee worked with Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club over concerns about the removal of approximately 12 trees along the course in 2020 and reviewed the extent of proposed tree removals under of the upcoming $ 5.9 million course renovation scheduled to begin next month.

The golf club’s plan calls for the removal of six trees and the replanting of 16 trees. The selected replacement trees are cork oaks and holm oaks, low water and drought resistant species.

In addition to a new forest master plan, Beckman said the committee would also like to develop a eucalyptus management plan to ensure the continued health of eucalyptus trees. Almost a fifth of the community is planted with around 56,000 eucalyptus trees.

“They are iconic and in many ways the foundation of what has become Rancho Santa Fe,” Beckman said.

Andrew B. Reiter