Dead trees near Ellwood Mesa threaten monarch butterfly habitat.

Dead trees near Ellwood Mesa threaten monarch butterfly habitat.
  (Courtesy photo)

The city of Goleta is receiving a $1.7 million grant from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Wildfire Prevention Grants Program to reduce the risk of wildfire at Ellwood Mesa and surrounding neighborhoods.

The Ellwood Mesa Neighborhoods Hazard Fuel Reduction Project will create a defensible space buffer on public lands around residences, protect some 3,500 homes from uncontrollable wildfire, conduct a community firesafe education campaign, and protect sensitive wildlife species from wildfire.

The work funded by the grant will also address the excessive buildup of dead eucalyptus trees killed by the on-going drought while ensuring monarch butterflies and other wildlife are not harmed.

“This is great news for Goleta. Our community experienced devasting 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,” said George Thomson, Goleta’s Parks and Open Space manager.

“Santa Barbara County Fire Department fully supports the project and looks forward to working with the city of Goleta, its residents, and project partners to reduce the likelihood of wildfire at Ellwood Mesa,” said Fire Marshal Rob Hazard.

The work proposed under the grant agreement is identified in the city’s adopted Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) and the Ellwood Mesa Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan (MBHMP).

The eucalyptus groves and windrows, composed primarily of Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), are fire-prone and present a threat to residential communities adjacent to the butterfly habitats.

The Monarch Butterfly Aggregation Area Treatment Strategy section of the CWPP states that vegetative fuel treatments in areas near human developments are critical measures in the wildfire protection strategy for both residences and butterfly aggregations and habitat.

Larger trees are not the primary fuel of concern in the spread of wildfire; rather, the greater hazard and threat are understory vegetation, dead/downed trees, and fuels that can spread fire into the forest canopy.

The grant funded work to reduce wildfires at Ellwood compliments other work the city of Goleta is undertaking to enhance habitat for monarch butterflies, migratory birds, and other species that call Ellwood home.

Scientists guiding work to improve monarch butterfly habitat at Ellwood Mesa concluded the removal of dead downed wood and dead standing trees benefits monarch butterfly habitat and the forest. Specifically, the accumulation of bark and dead wood on the ground creates a major fire hazard to monarch habitats.

Ignition from human sources can feed on ground debris and quickly escalate into a catastrophic fire event. This risk can be managed by reducing fuel load through the removal of dead branches, trunks, and highly flammable vegetation that can create fire ladders into the forest crown.

The project will help to protect life, property, and natural resources including monarch butterfly habitat.

The Ellwood Mesa Neighborhoods Hazard Fuel Reduction Project is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities.

The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, and recycling.

At least 35 percent of these investments are located within and benefiting residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, and low-income households across California. For more, visit the California Climate Investments website.

CAL FIRE’s Wildfire Prevention Grants enable local organizations to implement activities that address the hazards of wildfire and reduce wildfire risk to communities. Funded activities include hazardous fuel reduction, wildfire prevention planning, and wildfire prevention education

The projects all meet the goals and objectives of California’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan, as well as the Strategic Fire Plan for California.

Direct questions or comments about the project to George Thomson at or 805-961-7578.

Photo caption: A $1.7 million grant from CAL FIRE will help the City of Goleta address high wildfire risk associated with dead trees while also helping protect monarch butterfly