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Tree Health Covenant
Dolores Davies Jamison | Crest Road

In December 2016, prompted by concerns about the state of its community forest and the threat of wildfires, the Rancho Santa Fe Association (RSFA), noting the importance of trees to an increase in property values and residents’ health, initiated a comprehensive study to gauge the health of the 260,000-plus trees in the RSFA’s Covenant. Continuing drought and an increase in hot, dry temperatures had led to an uptick in insects and diseases, resulting in the loss of thousands of trees—Eucalyptus, citrus, and other varieties. Recognizing the importance of the community’s forest to the Covenant’s identity along with environmental and health benefits, the RSFA needed a clear assessment of the situation and an aggressive roadmap for preserving the forest, reducing wildfire risks, and educating residents about tree “best practices.”

The Covenant Forest Health Study, completed last January, included the work of two consultants—Encinitas-based environmental planning and engineering firm, Dudek, and Tree San Diego. Del Mar’s Sustainability Advisory Board (on which this writer sits) invited the RSFA to share the results of its study. While the study found that a high percentage of the Covenant trees—more than 224,000–were in fair to good condition, 42,000 trees were judged to be in poor health or dead. Given the fact that 95% of trees in the Covenant are on private property, the RSFA has been working closely with the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District to encourage residents to remove dead trees on their property. The RSFA received grant funding to focus on removing dead trees in the southwest border of the covenant near the San Dieguito River Valley, an area that burned during the 2007 Witch Fire.

The study also emphasized the importance of tree age and species diversification in preserving forest health and the need to plant “the right trees in the right places.” In addition to enhancing Eucalyptus tree management and fire safety measures, the report recommended that the RSFA form a Covenant volunteer corps—individuals could serve as “tree stewards” to encourage and guide property owners in maintaining the health of the forest. The 300-page study, a “Call for Action,” urges Covenant property owners and the community at large to implement the recommendations to ensure that future generations benefit from the health, economic, energy and environmental benefits the trees provide. Del Mar would be wise to follow.


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