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CA Project Repairs Damage from Decades-Old Fire; Plans for Future

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Monday, September 24, 2018   

LOS ANGELES — It's been 16 years since the Copper Fire of 2002 ravaged parts of the Angles National Forest north of Santa Clarita, but damage remains. But a number of groups are working together to repair it.

Fires affected the stream infrastructure and specific breeds of fish and frogs, but using innovative channel designs and restoring passage barrier sites should help the wildlife. It's a joint project between Resource Institute, SWCA Environmental Consultants, and funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and U.S. Forest Service.

Nathan Sill is a forest biologist for the Forest Service.

"We're oftentimes tasked with trying to just deal with the emergency when it's happening, and then the aftermath doesn't get nearly as much attention,” Sill said. “We forget to have the conversation about well, what is the land doing and what are the natural resources that use that land doing?"

The historic Saint Francis Dam site will also benefit from the project. The dam was built to supply water to Los Angeles. Thirty volunteers also will work on the ground to repair fire damage and collaborate with technical experts on a long-term plan to prevent the extent of damage in the event of another fire.

Chelsey Murphy is senior natural resources project manager with the environmental consulting firm working on the project. She said the value having multiple experts involved has been priceless.

"It's been really interesting to get all these different experts into a room - and Resource Institute, who has an excellent national perspective on how to design sustainable, successful channels,” Murphy said.

Jim Bond is the Southern California Forest Programs Manager for the federal government's National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. He said some of the problems addressed by the Copper Fire project are a combination of geology, past land-management practices and post-fire effects.

"It's really dry, it's really erosive,” Bond said. “And so there's a lot of sediment impacts that occur in streams, especially after fires, and in certain cases, enhances the problems where these aquatic organism passage barriers exist."

Bond added that much of the work involves repairing damage done by past fires to create more resilient landscapes going forward.



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