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The Watershed Alliance of Marin comments on the Mill Valley Vegetation Management Ordinance

The following letter was sent to the Mill Valley City Council and Fire Chief Welsh, for their consideration at the September 5, 2019 public hearing, regarding proposed Ordinance Amending Titles 15 of the Mill Valley Municipal Code; Fire Hazard Reduction Vegetation Management Ordinance.

To Mayor Wickham, City Council of Mill Valley and Fire Chief Welch;

While we appreciate the sincere intent of Mill Valley Council, and understand the pressures to “do something” quickly, the Watershed Alliance of Marin (WAM) is concerned that rapidly adopted short-term measures may undercut the long term solutions needed to improve our resilience. Our concerns range from cultural and scientific, to legal, with respect to CEQA.

The Watershed Alliance respectfully asks that Council hold off on final passage of the proposed Ordinance until more scientific data can be included in the development of such far reaching policy.

Please note: Given the likelihood of CEQA challenges, we will include more detail in our letter so that key elements are on record.

As such, we endorse Attorney, Robert Goodman’s letters who represents Mill Valley Residents for Protection of Wildlife.

— The Watershed Alliance opposes the unnecessary destruction of California’s native plant heritage, diminishment of water quality, loss of cultural resources and habitat for wildlife and loss of hillside stability for the purpose of wildfire vegetation management.

What is missing from the current draft version of the ordinance is reference to the science that shows that California’s superbly diverse native plants are its most valuable resource for erosion control, wildlife and water conservation, and are vital to the long-term health of California.

—The Watershed Alliance of Marin supports protecting human lives, cultural resources, property, biodiversity, water quality and California’s native plant communities.

— We also support the need for respectful consideration of historic cultural matters. The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have a stake (Tribal Notification required) re: what happens to the plants that are culturally significant (Manzanita, Tan Oak, Coastal Sagebrush)[1]and many are apparently threatened in the City’s latest policy iteration. That is just one of innumerable reasons why extensive CEQA review is necessary.

We must balance the unpredictable threats from climate change and current land use patterns by creating policies that do not exacerbate other natural disasters resulting from excessive vegetation removal, such as loss of carbon sinks, extinction, flooding and landslides.

Protecting our existing natural resources besides our homes and businesses must be a part of these policies if we are to maintain resilience of our communities, keep informed and engaged through adaptive management and education while restoring and maintaining the ecosystem functions we are all dependent upon. To do this thoroughly we must have fire ecologists involved who are familiar with the latest science.

Since the recent catastrophic fires in the state, we are challenged with rethinking our fire mitigation programs and public information literature such at Contra Costa County’s.[2]

Contra Costa County Prepared by Diablo Fire Safe Council In conjunction with the Contra Costa County Fire Chiefs Association Hills Emergency Forum Stakeholder Committee Members.

Upfront, they acknowledge the different and diverse ecotones as well as their federally designated critical habitat for nine species:

[3]Vegetation and Wildlife Habitat The vegetation and wildlife habitats of Contra Costa County [and Mill Valley] consist of many ecological communities including:

In 2010 when the Wildland Urban Interface Code 4291 State law was in its comment period under consideration the California Native Plant Society and State Water Board weighed in.[4] We are in agreement with their policy recommendations as they apply to vegetation management and water quality protection in Mill Valley.

Natural resources such as water quality, hydrology and hydrogeology, native vegetation, wildlife habitats, and the integrity of our hilly domain must be considered in addition to building materials and design, landscaping and land use zoning while developing fire mitigation plans. Because fire is inevitable, rebuilding and re-vegetation policy guidelines that reduce future threats must be considered for post-fire implementation. [5]

The status quo of today’s land use paradigms must be rethought on a basic level if we are to build resilience into built and natural systems. The City of Mill Valley and Planning Departments must institute strong slope ordinances, limit the size of homes and protect the existing population before further densification of the town occurs. Vilifying certain species of trees and plants without understanding their contribution to rare habitats and biomes, such as Cupressus Sargentii, is to serpentine habitat is unscientific and destructive.

Pictures of entire blocks show only homes burned and tall, perhaps, Eucalyptus surrounding them unscathed. Reexamining the plant lists as suggested by Steven Swain, Environmental Horticulture Advisor UCCE Marin and Sonoma Counties is advised before codifying a plant list that appears to be wholly deficient and devoid of science, contradictory, lacking data sources and inherently dangerous to wildlife, cultural resources, ecosystem function, hydrologic function and biodiversity.


The most flammable things in the neighborhood are the homes not the trees.

The California and U.S. natural resource codes have provisions for riparian and wetland protections that are not mentioned or distributed in the public literature for fire clearance standards. The existing literature which is over-simplified and that fails to address geomorphology, topography, streams and wetlands, critical habitat has the potential to be misleading and have serious consequences related to public safety,watershed function, water quality, soil stability, biodiversity, flooding, erosion and critical wildlife habitat. “Compliance with specific riparian and hydrologic regulations is required and federal land management activities must improve or maintain channel shade as well as sustain sediment levels and stream channel temperature.” [6] (Fire Science Brief, March 2010, Page 3.)

There are County provisions and protections through watercourse and stormwater run off ordinances limiting vegetation removal in stream conservation areas that extend anywhere from the creek banks out to 150 feet from a creek. The City has a 30 foot Creek Setback ordinance. Additionally, under the Clean Water Act,there are state and federal regulations to this end.[7] Some vegetation removal in these zones require permitting.

Mill Valley’s recognition of only extremely mature trees nullifies any potential of generational succession and protection of plant communities.Of the many inconsistent municipal tree ordinances throughout Marin, thirty-six species of native trees (many that are riparian) are protected by the County on undeveloped parcels and only three of those trees may be removed from a developed property in a given year. Larger heritage trees would require permitting for removal.Oak woodlands have even more specific treatment allowances. Smaller native trees are the hope for future regeneration and habitat and important for natural succession and restoration.

Large snags (dead trees) provide significant habitat to multiple animals and birds and should not automatically be cut down without a biological recommendation – worth as much dead as alive.Dusky footed wood rats with their huge stick mound nests provide primary food for endangered Northern Spotted Owls. There are ambiguities that require careful consideration with expert biological assessments for reconciling ecological balance before outreach and education material is disseminated.

As such, we hope the city council and fire department take the opportunity to inform all within the city jurisdiction, officials, the public and fire fighters that we must simultaneously:

Deforestation from development patterns, canopy tree and riparian vegetation removal has occurred in Mill Valley. Intense land development along bay draining creeks have lost species of fish once plentiful: Coho salmon (extirpated) and Steelhead trout (hanging on by a thread), as a result of stream augmentation. Flooding has increased exponentially since the 1940’s and linked to development, hardscaping, resulting in loss of tree canopy, increased stormwater runoff, lost groundwater recharge and channelized streams. The planting of native non-pyrophytic and habitat enhancing trees such as redwoods and their plant communities would be an encouraging start.

According to the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board, “Primer on Stream and River Protection for the Regulator and Program Manager,” extracted from Table 2 Pages 56 and 57: Potential Effects of Major Land Use Activities and increased vegetation removal, Soil Exposure or Compaction, Hard Surfacing in riparian zones results in:

Table 2 Potential Effects of Major Land Use Activities, And other Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts that has the potential for indirect consequences of in riparian zones from increased Vegetation Removal, Soil Exposure or Compaction, Hard Surfacing in riparian zones results:

In addition, the excess removal of vegetation on steep slopes can cause slope failure and landslides, mudslides and increased flooding potential downstream.Reduction of vegetation also causes soils to dry faster and creates decreased fuel moisture content of existing vegetation and thus increases flammability. It raises water temperature negatively impacting endangered and threatened salmonids and other species. Depletion of surface water and groundwater that is dependent upon infiltration and shade loss leading to water temperature increases will also adversely impact animal species and protected critical habitat for salmonids. Dispersion of rain by trees protects steep hillsides from erosion and assists in year round creek flows.

Many, many magnificent native trees have been either cut down or limbed up over 60 feet, entire hillsides above creeks stripped bare of any vegetation, creeks have become clogged with sediment, in ill-informed responses to the dictates of the fire clearance code. Though this may not be the fire department’s intent, it is happening on a large scale throughout the area. There are many examples of these destructive activities throughout the town.

Other concerns include:

Maintain a diversity of vegetation types and wildlife habitats on the remaining open space lands, keeping the grasslands free of brush encroachment and protecting woodlands and chaparral, thereby limiting the increased threat of fire in the wildland urban interface (WUI) zone while preserving and enhancing the biodiversity and protection of our natural resources. p. 116. Natural Environment” MV 2040

The typically complex structure of riparian communities, as well as their proximity to water, makes them important habitat features for wildlife. Riparian corridors are commonly used by wildlife as contiguous features that allow movement and access amongst otherwise fragmented habitat. Movement corridors also provide cover from predators, allowing birds, bats, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles to move or migrate throughout the region. Native wildlife species that may be observed in riparian habitat in Mill Valley include red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), California quail (Callipepla californica), tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), barn owl (Tyto alba), Pacific chorusfrog, common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), California myotis (Myotis californicus), dusky-footed woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes), and Columbian blacktail deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbian). The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) has also returned to Mill Valley’s watersheds. Native wildlife species recently extirpated from Mill Valley’s watersheds include Pacific pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata), California redlegged frog (Rana draytonii), foothill yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii), Coho salmon (oncorhynchus kisutch), California freshwater shrimp (Syncaris pacifica), and sooty crayfish (Pacifastacus nigrescens)


Click on image to enlarge

Efforts to provide more holistic education material that addresses vital issues related to fire threat mitigation are imperative. Some of these additional recommendations should include: to cover all openings, vents, fireplaces and gutters on homes with wire mesh, enclose exposed eaves, remove and replace synthetic upholstery fabrics and certain synthetic window treatments that have low melt and ignition temperatures with fibers that have higher ignition points.[15]

Given the lessons learned from recent California fire catastrophes, our fire departments along with fire ecologists and local government must develop more comprehensive educational literature that reflects our terrain, streams and diversity of biomes and ecotones, geology, wildlife and plant communities.


Laura Chariton, M.A. Riparian Policy, President Watershed Alliance of Marin

CC:Supervisor Damon Connolly, Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, Supervisor Kate Sears

[1] Lines 135-144: Vegetation Ordinance

[2] CWPP UPDATE Community Wildfire Protection Plan Contra Costa County County Prepared by Diablo Fire Safe Council In conjunction with the Contra Costa County Fire Chiefs Association Hills Emergency Forum Stakeholder Committee Members

[3] Section 1: County Information – 1.4, 1.5

[4] Primer in Stream and River Protection for the Regulator and Program Manager Technical Reference Circular W.D. 02-#1, San Francisco Bay Region California Regional Water Quality Control Board April 2003. Pages 56 and 57

[5] California Native Plant Society magazine Fremontia

[6] 2010 Page 3.

[7] Marin County Tree Ordinances, Page 3.



MV 2040 General Plan, Page 153. “Climate change is caused by an increase in the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Potential climate change impacts in Northern California include declining water supplies, spread of disease, diminished agricultural productivity, sea level rise, and increased incidence of wildfire, flooding, and landslides. Like many communities, Mill Valley is addressing these potential impacts by thinking differently about its resources, taking actions to reduce the community’s contribution to greenhouse gas production, and identifying strategies to allow the community to adapt to potential foreseen changes.”

[10] P. 56


Bingham, Marcus & Simard, Suzanne. (2011). Do mycorrhizal network benefits to survival and growth of interior Douglas-fir seedlings increase with soil moisture stress?. Ecology and evolution. 1. 306-16. 10.1002/ece3.24.

“We conclude that Douglas-fir seedling establishment in laboratory conditions is facilitated by [mycorrhizal network] MN potential where Douglas-fir seedlings have consistent access to water. Moreover, this facilitation appears to increase as water stress potential increases and water transfer via networks may play a role in this. These results suggest that conservation of MN potential may be important to forest regeneration where drought stress increases with climate change.”

[12] 56 Map of endangered and threatened plant species MV2040 General Plan Page 125.

Figure 5.7 Map of Critical Wildlife Habitat Page 126.





California Native Plant Society

2707 K Street, Ste. 1 Sacramento, CA 95816-5113 (916)447-2677 FAX (916)447-2727

NATIVE PLANTS AND FIRE SAFETY POLICYAdopted by CNPS Chapter Council March 13, 2010,

The Policy Statement:

The California Native Plant Society opposes the unnecessary destruction of California’s native plant heritage for the purpose of wildfire fuel management. The California Native Plant Society supports protecting human lives, property and California’s native plants from poor fuel management practices. California’s superbly diverse native plants are its most valuable resource for erosion control and water conservation, and are vital to the long-term health of California.


To provide an authoritative policy that California Native Plant Society and others can use to persuade legislators and regulators to approve fire-safe practices that maximize conservation of native plants and native plant ecosystems, while protecting citizens, firefighters and property.

Supporting Materials Rationale:

Siting development in or adjacent to native plant communities increases the risk to structures from wildfire, the potential for additional human-caused ignitions, and the need for more fuel management. The best land-use planning practices minimize placing development in locations that increase the risk of property exposure or of ignitions. The best fire-safe building codes reduce the risk of the structure being ignited, or spreading fire, in a wildfire.

Fuel management practices to protect urban development generally have been ineffective and/or counterproductive, severely impacting that native vegetation. Public ordinances and bureaucratic regulations often require fuel-removal practices in excess of 2006 California Public Resource Code 4291, causing severe damage to native plant ecosystems without reducing wildfire risk. These requirements should be replaced with proven fuel management practices that minimize the wildfire threat and do not devastate native plant ecosystems.

California is large and diverse, and different fuel systems require different solutions for minimizing the impacts of fuel management and fire control practices on native vegetation. That diversity, as exemplified in two cases noted here, require the development of implementation guidelines that fit the affected area.


• In some areas, especially shrub lands, shortened fire-return cycles have converted native plant communities into non-native grasslands. These faster-burning invasive non-native plant species in turn fuel early-season wildfires, preventing regrowth of native vegetation and diminishing resource value.

• In certain forested areas, wildfire-suppression has caused a lengthened fire-return cycle, which can allow an accumulation of dead material and an increased likelihood of high-intensity wildfires. This modification of natural cycles has led to losses in native forest species diversity, erosion, increased wildfire management costs, and greater risks to property and people.


The California Native Plant Society supports:

• Fuel management plans that minimize the risk to human life and property while maximizing protection of native plants and their habitats. These plans should be locally-adapted and account for all combustible materials, including building materials, ornamental vegetation, other landscaping materials, and adjacent native plant ecosystems.

• Building codes and ordinances that require structures and landscaping in high fire risk areas to be situated, constructed, retrofitted and maintained using materials and practices that minimize the ignition and spread of wildfires.

• The creation of laws, regulations and land use policies that discourage new development in areas of high fire danger.

There are many different fire environments and property-development settings throughout the state. The California Native Plant Society will develop specific guidelines for implementation, supported by current applicable fire science and botanical knowledge, to fit the particular wildfire environment and property-development patterns of a given area. These detailed guidelines will be supplemental to this policy, and can be created, modified, or removed by approval of the California Native Plant Society Chapter Council.

Definitions codified in State law or local ordinances:

Brush – All native vegetation (especially shrubs), all vegetation in undeveloped lands. Sources: California FAIR Plan 2010; Los Angeles City Fire Department 2010.

Brush areas – Wildlands, undeveloped lands. Synonyms: Brush hazard areas, brush/wildfire areas. Source: California FAIR Plan 2010.

Brush clearance – Treatments or thinning of vegetation to reduce fire hazards. Synonyms: Fire clearance, fuel clearance. Source: Los Angeles City Fire Department 2000.

California FAIR Plan – “The California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (‘FAIR’) Plan was created by state legislation in July, 1968 following the 1960’s brush fires and riots. It is an insurance pool established to assure the availability of basic property insurance to people who own insurable property in the State of California and who, beyond their control, have been unable to obtain insurance in the voluntary insurance market. The FAIR Plan is a private association based in Los Angeles comprised of all insurers licensed to write property insurance in California. The FAIR Plan is not a state agency.” Source: California FAIR Plan 2010.

Defensible space – An area extending 100 feet from a structure in which “Fuels shall be maintained in a condition so that a wildfire burning under average weather conditions would be unlikely to ignite the structure.” (PRC 4291).

The defensible space zone consists of an innermost 30 feet in which the fuels are maintained as “lean and green”, and an outermost 70 feet as the “reduced fuel zone” in which fuels are reduced, limbed up, and thinned. Sources: Cal Fire 2010a.

Public Resource Code 4291, Excerpt from General Guidelines (pages 5-6) –“C. Fuel Treatment Guidelines

The following fuel treatment guidelines comply with the requirements of 14 CCR 1299 and PRC 4291. All persons using these guidelines to comply with CCR 1299 and PRC 4291 shall implement General Guidelines 1., 2., 3., and either 4a or 4b., as described below.

General Guidelines:

1. Maintain a firebreak by removing and clearing away all flammable vegetation and other combustible growth within 30 feet of each building or structure, with certain exceptions pursuant to PRC §4291(a). Single specimens of trees or other vegetation may be retained provided they are well spaced, well pruned, and create a condition that avoids spread of fire to other vegetation or to a building or structure.

2. Dead and dying woody surface fuels and aerial fuels within the Reduced Fuel Zone shall be removed. Loose surface litter, normally consisting of fallen leaves or needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches, shall be permitted to a depth of 3 inches. This guideline is primarily intended to eliminate trees, bushes, shrubs and surface debris that are completely dead or with substantial amounts of dead branches or leaves/needles that would readily burn.

3. Down logs or stumps anywhere within 100 feet from the building or structure, when embedded in the soil, may be retained when isolated from other vegetation. Occasional (approximately one per acre) standing dead trees (snags) that are well-space from other vegetation and which will not fall on buildings or structures or on roadways/driveways may be retained.

4. Within the Reduced Fuel Zone, one of the following fuel treatments (4a. or 4b.) shall be implemented. Properties with greater fire hazards will require greater clearing treatments. Combinations of the methods may be acceptable under §1299(c) as long as the intent of these guidelines is met.

4a. Reduced Fuel Zone: Fuel Separation

In conjunction with General Guidelines 1., 2., and 3., above, minimum clearance between fuels

surrounding each building or structure will range from 4 feet to 40 feet in all directions, both horizontally and vertically. Clearance distances between vegetation will depend on the slope, vegetation size, vegetation type (brush, grass, trees), and other fuel characteristics (fuel compaction, chemical content, etc.). Properties with greater fire hazards will require greater separation between fuels. For example, properties on steep slopes having large sized vegetation will require greater spacing between individual trees and bushes. Groups of vegetation (numerous plants growing together less than 10 feet in total foliage width) may be treated as a single plant. For example, three individual manzanita plants growing together with a total foliage width of eight feet can be ‘grouped’ and considered as one plant and spaced according to the Plant Spacing Guidelines in this document.

4b. Reduced Fuel Zone: Defensible Space with Continuous Tree Canopy

To achieve defensible space while retaining a stand of larger trees with a continuous tree canopy apply the following treatments:

• Generally, remove all surface fuels greater than 4 inches in height. Single specimens of trees or other vegetation may be retained provided they are well-spaced, well-pruned, and create a condition that avoids spread of fire to other vegetation or to a building or structure.

• Remove lower limbs of trees (‘prune’) to at least 6 feet up to 15 feet (or the lower 1/3 branches for small trees). Properties with greater fire hazards, such as steeper slopes or more severe fire danger, will require pruning heights in the upper end of this range.” Source: Cal Fire. 2006

Glossary of terms:

Community – Any ecologically integrated group of species of microorganisms, plants, and animals inhabiting a given area. Source: Purves, Orians, Heller, Sadava. (1998)

Ecosystem – The organisms of a particular habitat, together with the physical environment in which they live.

Source: Purves, Orians, Heller, Sadava. (1998)

Environment – An organism’s surroundings, both living and nonliving; includes temperature, light intensity, and all other species that influence the focal organism. Source: Purves, Orians, Heller, Sadava. (1998)

Fire management – Strategies for controlling and extinguishing fires/wildfires. Source: Carle (2008).

Fire-safe landscaping – Designing a defensible space by using well-spaced fire-resistant plants and hardscape elements such as brick or stone walls to prevent heat and flames from reaching the structure. Source: SAFE Landscapes (2009).

Fuel – Any combustible material, both man-made – such as wood fences, lumber, furniture, plastic, awnings, and cloth – and vegetative – such as grass, leaves, ground litter, plants, shrubs, and trees – that feed a fire. Sources: for vegetation: Carle (2008); for man-made materials as fuel: Los Angeles City Fire Department (2000).

Fuel management – Manipulating fuels to reduce the likelihood of ignition, reduce fire behavior, and/or lessen potential damage and resistance to control. Synonyms: fuel modification, fuel reduction, wildfire fuel management. Source: Carle (2008).

Habitat – The environment in which an organism lives. Source: Purves, Orians, Heller, Sadava. (1998)

Native – Occurring naturally in an area, not as either a direct or indirect consequence of human activity; indigenous; not alien. Source: Hickman (1993). Note: Plants documented or assumed to have been in California at the advent of European exploration of the west coast of North America – around 1500 A.D. – are generally considered to be “native plants”.

Plant community – An assemblage of individuals of one to many plant species distinct in structure and composition from other adjacent such groupings. Source: Sawyer, Keeler-Wolf, and Evens (2009).

Vegetation – All the plant species in a region and the way they are arranged. Source: Sawyer, Keeler-Wolf, and Evens (2009).

Vegetation management – Manipulation of plant species by humans to attain a goal or goals such as esthetics, economics, maintenance, restoration, pest/weed eradication, and/or fuel modification. Sources: Carle (2008); Sawyer, Keeler-Wolf, and Evens (2009).

Wildland-urban interface (WUI) – The area where structures and other human development meet undeveloped wildlands and their fuels. Source: Carle (2008). Note: WUI is easy to define qualitatively but it is so site-specific that WUI cannot be used to create qualitative regulations defining the width of fuel clearance zones in general.

Source references for legal definitions and glossary of terms:

Cal Fire 2010a. Why 100 Feet? (accessed January, 2010)

California FAIR Plan. 2010. California FAIR plan website. (accessed January, 2010)

Carle, David 2008. An Introduction to Fire in California. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Hickman, James C. (ed.) 1993. The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Los Angeles City Fire Department, 2000. Los Angeles Fire Department Fire Hazard Reduction and Safety Guidelines. LAFD Bureau of Fire Prevention and Public Safety, Brush Clearance Unit. Van Nuys, CA.

Purves, W. K., G.H. Orians, H.C. Heller, and D. Sadava. 1998. Life: The Science of Biology, 5th Edition. Sinauer Associates, Inc. 23 Plumtree Road, Sunderland, MA. W.H. Freeman and Company, Salt Lake City, UT.

SAFE Landscapes. 2010. SAFE Landscapes, Sustainable and Fire Safe Website. (accessed February, 2010).

Sawyer, J.O., T. Keeler-Wolf, and J.M. Evens. 2009. A Manual of California Vegetation, Second Edition. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento CA.

Cal Fire 2006. Cal Fire Clearance Code: General Guidelines for Creating Defensible Space, February 8, 2006. guidelines2_23_06.pdf (accessed January, 2010)

Cal Fire 2010a. Why 100 Feet? (accessed January, 2010)

General references:

Cal Fire 2010b. The Wildland Urban Interface Building Code Information. (accessed February, 2010).

California Codes, Public Resources Code (PRC) section 4291. 05000&file4291-4299 (accessed March, 2010)

California Fire Safe Council. 2010 Homeowner’s Guide to Firewise Landscaping. (accessed February, 2010)

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Office of the State Fire Marshal. 2010. Wildland Urban Interface Products. (accessed February, 2010)

Halsey, Richard W. 2008. Fire, Chaparral and Survival in Southern California, Revised and Updated, Second Edition. Sunbelt Publications, Inc. San Diego, CA.

Keeley, J.E. 1981. Reproductive cycles and fire regimes, pp. 231-277 In H.A. Mooney, T.M. Bonnicksen, N.L. Christensen, J.E. Lotan, and W.A. Reiners (eds), Proceedings of the Conference on Fire Regimes and Ecosystem Properties. USDA Forest Service, General Technical Report WO-26.

Keeley, J.E. 1991. Resilience to fire does not imply adaptation to fire: an example from the California chaparral. Proceedings of the Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference 17:113-120.

Keeley, J.E., P.H. Zedler, C.A. Zammit, and T.J. Stohlgren. 1989. Fire and demography. Pp. 151-153 in S. C.

Keeley (ed.) The California chaparral: paradigms reexamined. Science Series No. 34. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA.

Los Angeles City Fire Department, 2000. Los Angeles Fire Department Fire Hazard Reduction and Safety Guidelines. LAFD Bureau of Fire Prevention and Public Safety, Brush Clearance Unit. Van Nuys, CA.

SAFE Landscapes. 2010. SAFE Landscapes, Sustainable and Fire Safe Website. (accessed February, 2010).

Taylor, Alan H., and C.N. Skinner. 1995. Fire regimes and management of old-growth Douglas fir forests in the Klamath Mountains of northwestern California. Pp.203-208 in J. M. Greenlee (ed.) Proceedings – Fire Effects on Rare and Endangered Species and Habitats Conference, Nov. 13-16, 1995. International Association of Wildland Fire, Fairfield, WA.

Nesting Bird Ordinances

Mill Valley Ordinances

6.16.010 Destroy or Injure any Wild Animal

It shall be unlawful to for anyone to shoot, trap or in any way intentionally destroy or injure any wild birds and/or animals, with the exception of mice, rats, gophers, and moles, within the limits of the City of Mill Valley (Ord. 987; February 16, 1982).

6.16.020 Birds Nests-Robbing Prohibited

It shall be unlawful for anyone to intentionally destroy, rob or in any way disturb any bird’s nests in the trees, brush or grass on properties within the limits of the City of Mill Valley (Ord. 987; February 16, 1982).

6.16.030 Penalties for Violations.

Any person violating any of the provisions of this Chapter shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $500.00, or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period of six (6) months or by both such fine and imprisonment. (Ord. 987; February 16, 1982)

California State Fish and Game Code

3503 It is unlawful to take, possess or needlessly destroy the nest or eggs of any bird except as otherwise provided by this code or any regulation made pursuant thereto.

3503.5 It is unlawful to take possess, or destroy any birds in the orders of Falconiformes or Strigiformes (birds of prey) or to take, possess or destroy the nest or eggs of any such bird except as otherwise provided by this code or any regulation adopted pursuant thereto.

Title 14 Chapter 1, Section 251.1. Harassment of Animals

Except as otherwise authorized in these regulations or in the Fish and Game Code, no person shall harass, herd or drive any game or non game bird or mammal or fur bearing mammal. For the purposes of this section, harass is defined as an intentional act which disrupts an animal’s normal behavior patterns, which includes but is not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering. This section does not apply to a landowner or tenant who drives or herds birds or mammals for the purpose of preventing damage to private or public property, including aquaculture and agriculture crops.

703 Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act

It shall be unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture, or kill, possess, offer or sale, sell, offer to barter, barter, offer to purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, export, import, cause to be shipped, exported, or imported, deliver for transportation, transport or cause to be transported, carry or cause to be carried, or receive for shipment, transportation, carriage, or export, any migratory bird, any part, nest, or eggs of any such bird, or any product, whether or not manufactured, which consists, or is composed in whole or part, of any such bird or any part, nest, or egg thereof.

Below is a progression of the same property that has been completely cleared of vegetation in five years.


2005 Approximately – There are two parcels that are represented here.




Current Status

There are no existing trees or shrubs left on the property. No plants have been planted and the slope is around 40% grade with a creek on the far side of the property and wetland below.Since then, the creek below has silted up for several hundred feet and head cut (a form of erosion).The creek is a headwaters creek that flows through Mill Valley where is already an impacted water quality and there are Federally and State listed threatened species.There is no longer water retention, habitat or aesthetic value and it is impacting downstream riparian and wetland zones.


Several properties in this vicinity of Mill Valley have limbed up their trees like this.According to Mr. Ray Moritz, Certified Arborist and Consultant, this activity weakens the trees and destroys their biomechanics.These trees contain habitat to endangered species, when healthy, function as a forest providing unique ecosystem services and are known to sequester carbon at a very high rate, besides anchoring hillsides, slowing wind and rain and providing habitat.The excuse given by the homeowner of these properties is fire clearance.


Click on image to enlarge