1994 Vegetation Management Plan

Note: The 1994 plan is being replaced. Please see the Biodiversity, Fire, and Fuels Integrated Plan page.

The Mt. Tamalpais Area Vegetation Plan, begun in 1995, represents MMWD's most comprehensive natural resources management effort ever. The chief goals of the plan are fire hazard reduction and maintaining the watershed’s biological diversity.

Wildfire – It’s Only a Matter of Time

Reducing fire hazards on Mt. Tamalpais is a centerpiece of the Vegetation Management Plan. Since record keeping began in 1859, major fires have raged through Marin County periodically. An 1882 fire burned an estimated 65,000 acres. A 1923 fire swept south over 40,000 acres from Novato to Alpine Lake. In 1945 the last major fire on the mountain consumed vegetation on approximately 20,000 acres of watershed land.

Fuels have been accumulating since then. Some areas of chaparral and evergreen forest haven't burned in almost 80 years. Hazardous fuel conditions, combined with the steep slopes, dense housing, narrow, windy streets, and the extreme fire weather conditions that occur every year, provide all the ingredients for a catastrophe similar to the Oakland Hills conflagration in 1991.

We are trying to create a strong defense against wildfires by building a network of fuel breaks to help fire fighters contain wildfires. We create them by thinning heavy vegetation along fire protection roads in strategic ridge top areas near Marin’s neighborhoods to provide access for fire fighters and create a zone where they have a better chance of containing fires.

We also conduct carefully managed burns on up to 200 acres per year. These prescribed fires serve to reduce fuels, maintain natural habitats, and control non-native plants. Left unchecked, invasive plants create a heavy fuel load and reduce biodiversity on Mt. Tamalpais by pushing out native species. We work in cooperation with local fire departments to plan prescribed burn projects, manage vegetation, and conduct the burns safely.

Protecting Our Biological Legacy

To maintain the ecological health of the watershed, the Vegetation Management Plan also calls for:
  • Controlling the spread of invasive pest plants, which displace native plants and eliminate habitat for native animals
  • Restoration of meadow and oak woodlands, plant communities which are most vulnerable to ecological changes
  • The protection of rare plant species, many endemic to Mt. Tamalpais
French broom is the worst offender among the invasive non-native plants on the watershed. It takes hard, sustained physical effort to battle this persistent menace. We employ tools such as:
  • Pulling out the shrub by its roots
  • Mowing
  • Goat grazing
  • Judicial use of herbicide
  • Prescribed fire
We're committed to keeping French Broom from spreading further, and over time, permanently reducing its extent.
In addition to providing the district with direction on how to reduce fire hazards and maintain or enhance biodiversity, the Vegetation Management Plan also discusses improvements to the road, water delivery, planning, and other systems to help the district meet its goals, and includes sections on plan implementation and monitoring.

1994 Vegetation Management Plan