Priorities in Marin's Open Space Land
The below article was written by Jim Irving, Fire Chief of the Southern Marin Fire Protection District and president of the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association and it was published in the Marin Independent Journal on November 16, 2013 on the Opinion page, Marin Voice section.
Combining Critical Priorities in Marin's Open Space Land
THE REASON many of us live in Marin County is the beauty and natural landscape that exists right outside our doors.
We shouldn't forget, though, that much of our surrounding beauty is fuel for a potentially devastating wildfire, one of the largest single risks we face of life and property loss. The fire service professionals in the county are challenged with protecting life, property and the environment, a job we take very seriously.
We appreciate the Marin County Board of Supervisors for its commitment to public safety and supporting collaborative efforts with local fire chiefs and county open space staff to review the "Draft Vegetation and Biodiversity Management Plan," a new resource to help decision makers address invasive plant infestation, fuel-break maintenance and construction and habitat preservation.
Frankly, when the preliminary draft was released in July, the fire chiefs had concerns regarding the plan's content.
We voiced those concerns and the Board of Supervisors listened.
A fire chief's committee spent countless hours working with the open space district staff to review the draft plan. There were no simple solutions, so it took time, patience and compromise. It's tough to balance fire fuel management and wildfire protection with the preservation of our natural environment.
As a result, the plan that was presented to the open space district board on Oct. 29 recognizes the importance of community wildfire protection while delivering a weighted balance for managing the natural ecosystems.
The fire chiefs appreciate the ability to partner in the review of this plan with the open space district.
It has helped both groups to develop a strong relationship and better understanding of each other's challenges.
The final draft is a document that reflects the input of the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association and the agreement that the number one priority is community wildfire protection while protecting natural resources. The implementation of the plan, as well as a regional collaborative approach to vegetation management, recognizes that there is no "either or" solution. Rather, the approach lies in a collaborative and multipronged approach that includes strategic fuel breaks, defensible space, improved cooperation and collaboration on land development near wildland urban interface zones and continued education.
It will require the continued effort of everyone involved. Strategic and tactical approaches will be developed as a team.
The Marin County Fire Chiefs Association looks forward to continuing its work with all stakeholders addressing community wildfire protection and welcomes the strong collaborative relationship.
Together we'll focus our energy and resources to create sustainable fire-safe communities nestled among all the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounds us.