The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) has won a grant for $552,097 to reduce weeds and prevent fires in the heart of the Escondido Creek watershed. The funding was awarded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Proposition 1 Watershed Restoration Grant Program and was the only implementation grant funded south of Ventura County. The work is set to begin this fall along Escondido Creek between Harmony Grove and Olivenhain.
“Dry, invasive weeds create a tinderbox throughout our open spaces and surrounding communities. We are grateful for The Escondido Creek Conservancy’s support in helping reduce the threat of fire,” said Fred Cox, fire chief for the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District.
One of the greatest threats to California’s unique native landscapes is infestation from non-native invasive plants, often referred to as weeds. These weeds, such as highly flammable non-native grasses, put our neighborhoods and wild areas at risk of devastation due to catastrophic wildfires. The funding from this grant will support fire prevention as part of a watershed-wide invasive plant management strategy. The Conservancy will hire arborists and restoration contractors, including youth from the San Diego Urban Corps, putting people to work in these difficult economic times.
“We love helping our wildlife in the Escondido Creek watershed, but it’s wonderful to be part of a project that also protects people—in this case it’s from the risk of wildfire,” said Hannah Walchak, conservation land manager for the Conservancy.
A conservancy spokesman told The Times-Advocate: “In addition to reducing risk of wildfire, we’re also restoring San Diego County’s renowned biodiversity. The combination of great biodiversity with a large and growing human population results in San Diego County having among the largest numbers of rare and endangered species (San Diego County Mammal Atlas, 2017). With more than 95% of our region’s riparian habitat lost, it is critical to celebrate functioning patches of precious oak riparian woodlands, reduce wildfire risk, and provide safe access for residents to enjoy these special places that were once common (Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, 2001).”
Vicki Lake, Program Manager, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grant Programs, stated, “Controlling invasive plants and reducing fuel loads in riparian areas is critical to making our watersheds more resilient. The investments we make today in the work being done by our grantees like The Escondido Creek Conservancy will ensure that habitat for native plants, fish and wildlife continue to be a part of California’s future,”
The project spans about 8-miles of the Escondido Creek, from Harmony Grove to Olivenhain. The project aims to treat at least 70 acres of public and private lands along Escondido Creek, including three Conservancy-owned preserves and about 3,000 linear feet of creek frontage on at least four private neighboring sites that border and intercede conserved lands.