Prescribed Burning for Wildfire Prevention and Regeneration

By: Mark Biaggi and Chelsea Carey of Point Blue Conservation Science
At TomKat Ranch, we have long been aware of the importance of fire in caring for our Mediterranean-type ecosystems. Within this context, prescribed burns have multiple potential benefits, including reducing catastrophic wildfire risk (and the associated large scale carbon loss) by managing fuel build-up, improving habitat for wildlife and plants that depend on fire disturbance (including fire-dependent rare/endangered species), and providing non-chemical alternatives for managing invasive or noxious weeds.  Prescribed burns can also improve grasslands for livestock and wildlife by improving near-term nutrient cycling and reducing woody species encroachment and creating open, contiguous grassland habitat for grassland obligate species such as Grasshopper Sparrows, badgers, and Burrowing Owls.  

As the Bay Area has grown more populated, burning has been restricted. To carefully explore how best to recapture these benefits, TomKat Ranch is launching a collaboration with CalFIRE and Point Blue Conservation Science to create a dynamic fire management plan on the ranch and look into the feasibility and safety of bringing prescribed burning back to our land as it has been practiced by indigenous people for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.  It is our hope that in addition to expanding the regenerative toolbox at TomKat Ranch, this project can also provide a rigorous and effective framework for others to do the same.

To learn more about this collaboration, please read our new memorandum Fire Management and Prescribed Burns at TomKat Ranch.