Land Trust of Napa County Stewardship Program Manager Mike Palladini recently co-led a tour of the Linda Falls Preserve for Napa Fire Safe Council leaders, Napa Communities Firewise Foundation (NCFF) staff, CAL FIRE officials and local community members for a firsthand look at our 120-acre forest thinning project.
Fire Safe Councils are located in many of Napa County’s rural areas, working with homeowners and local fire officials to create and implement projects that reduce wildfire risks in their communities. NCFF is a county-wide nonprofit whose mission is to reduce the risk and impacts of wildfires.
In 2022, the Land Trust undertook a major fuels reduction and forest resilience project on the Linda Falls Preserve aimed at thinning dense forest across 120 acres. The goal was to protect nearby neighborhoods as well as the forest from high-severity wildfire while maintaining the Preserve’s ecological values.
The project entailed thinning dense thickets of small Douglas fir and California bay laurel, limbing remaining trees, and piling heavy accumulations of woody debris in openings created by the thinning. Besides protecting residential neighborhoods in the vicinity, the objectives of these activities were to decrease fire severity and tree mortality in the event of wildfire, to increase the health and growth of remaining trees by reducing resource competition, and to increase habitat diversity by allowing for the persistence of trees other than the dominant fir and bay, including oaks, ponderosa pines and madrones.
Piles were largely comprised of woody material generated from the thinning, and were constructed in openings so they could be safely burned. Woody debris built up at the base of mature trees was also moved away from those trees and incorporated into the piles in order to reduce the chances the trees would be killed in the event of a wildfire. A subset of the piles, constructed using Natural Resources Conservation Service specifications, were retained to provide needed cover for birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
The Land Trust followed CAL FIRE, Napa County and Bay Area Air Quality Management District regulations and guidelines for open burning, as well as its own enhanced safety measures to help ensure piles were burned safely and efficiently. Fortunately, recent heavy rain events and weather patterns created good conditions for completing this work with minimal risk and smoke impact.