Marin CNPS has joined with Marin Audubon Society and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin to form FERN, the Fire and Environment Resilience Network. Through FERN we are working together to protect Marin’s natural resources as the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) and its seventeen member agencies ramp up their vegetation removal, education, and other work to reduce fire risk. MWPA was created and funded last March by the passage of Measure C. FERN is meant to complement MWPA’s Ecologically Sound Practices (ESP) Partnership committees which are working on the development of best practices for MWPA’s vegetation management and defensible space projects.
- FERN members meet regularly and attend and participate in Board of Directors and various committee meetings of the MWPA.
- FERN’s early input intends to influence MWPA’s new organizational structure, goals, and norms. This could help MWPA effectively and legally accomplish its mission to: “develop and implement a comprehensive wildfire prevention and emergency preparedness plan” consistent with protection of Marin’s rich and diverse native plant communities.
- FERN encourages agency staff to follow the legally binding provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and advocates for adequate environmental review of individual projects including consideration of their cumulative impacts.
- FERN will research and present relevant information that protects plant communities and the wildlife that depend on them to enlighten fire agencies’ project planning and implementation.
- FERN will review wildfire prevention projects and CEQA environmental review documents of the MWPA and its participating agencies. The result will be critical and constructive recommendations based on identified best management practices and requirements for CEQA review and mitigation.
As an example, this past summer, FERN wrote to the Southern Marin Fire Department, objecting to the mowing of over an acre within threatened plant habitat on Marin County’s Ring Mountain Preserve. Approximately 1,000 feet was mowed beyond what was needed to create defensible space for residences. Ring Mountain is renowned for its rare serpentine soil and sensitive plants. According to the California Center for Natural History (2018), “Ring Mountain is a geological, botanical, and conservation wonder.” ** Two extremely rare plants, the threatened Marin dwarf flax (Hesperolinon congestum) and the rare Tiburon buckwheat (Eriogonum luteolum var. caninum), both annual species, were along the roadside growing with the flammable grassland and flowering and/or in fruit/seed at the time. Continued destruction of these reproductive structures threatens population densities and the viability of local populations. This mowing also opened up the area, leaving it vulnerable to invasion by non-native species.
Marin CNPS will continue to collaborate with its FERN partners to ensure that natural resources are protected as the MWPA, its participating agencies, and FIRESafe Marin work to reduce fire risk in Marin’s Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).