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Dying eucalyptus trees are a fire risk for Goleta neighborhoods

A $1.7 million CAL FIRE grant aims to make the communities fire safe
GOLETA Ellwood Mesa_Fire Risk 10-7-22.jpg
Posted at 1:19 PM, Oct 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-07 16:21:44-04

California's drought has shrunken lakes and reservoirs up and down the state. It has also caused a buildup of dead eucalyptus trees in Ellwood Mesa in Goleta.

The roughly 650-acre open space between Sandpiper Golf Course and Girsh Park is home to trails, undeveloped coastline and a monarch butterfly eucalyptus grove.

The ongoing drought has killed many eucalyptus trees and led to piles of dead and dying branches. This is a fire risk for the area and the neighborhoods that surround it, city officials say.

The city has been granted $1.7 million from CAL FIRE's Wildfire Prevention Grants Program, which aims to reduce fire risk, boost fire education and protect the monarch butterflies from a potential fire.

The funds will pay for the Ellwood Mesa Neighborhoods Hazard Fuel Reduction Project. Once complete, the project will create a defensible space buffer between homes and the mesa, which could protect up to 3,500 homes from wildfire.

"This is great news for Goleta. Our community [has] experienced devastating wildfires in the recent past and this grant award helps us be proactive in addressing the fire risk at Ellwood Mesa and the surrounding neighborhoods," George Thomson, Parks and Open Space Manager for the City of Goleta, said in a release.

The plan will focus on removing trees, branches and vegetation on the forest flood that could threaten to burn into the larger trees. It will not remove larger, living eucalyptus trees from the grove, which project planners say are not the primary fire threat.

Scientists involved in the project say removing the hazardous bark and dead wood will help the monarch butterfly population by protecting their habitat from fire. The eucalyptus trees are also home to migrating birds and other wildlife species.

The project is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while strengthening the economy and improving public health. The program creates a financial incentive for businesses to turn to clean technologies and helps fund affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, environmental restoration and recycling, among other things.