Restoration of local land to take years

Restoration of local land to take years

13 January 2009

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USA — Almost a year since the Arroyo Pescadero two-mile loop reopened last February after trees were cut down as part of a fire safety program, stumps still line the trail.

The 3,000 eucalyptus trees were chopped down last January and February as part of the Whittier Fuel Reduction Project, which promotes fire safety.

The project, completed and paid for by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, was done because the trees are considered flammable, said Tom Bristow, deputy forester for the county Fire Department.

“Our goal is to restore this area back to coastal sage scrub – the native habitat – a plant community that will help the wildlife thrive,” said Andrea Gullo, director of the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority. “This will happen, but it’ll take a few years.”

Native Habitat Preservation Authority executive director Andrea Gullo talks about the ongoing restoration project at Arroyo Pescadero Park on both sides of Colima Road in Whittier on Tuesday, January 13, 2009. Areas on both sides of Colima Road have had non-native trees removed and will be re-seeded with native seed. Native brush and trees will include Mexican Eldeberry, Coyote brush, Buckwheat, Lemon berry, California bush sunflower and a variety of sage including California sage brush. (Photo by Raul Roa/SWCity)The area, owned by the city of Whittier and overseen by the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority, is part of nature preservation in the Whittier Hills between Whittier and Hacienda Heights.

Whittier resident Don Molter said a recent visit to the site was disappointing.

“(I was) appalled by the moonscape-like appearance of the areas where trees were cleared as part of the Whittier Hills Fuel Reduction Project with hundreds of blackened stumps protruding from the soil and debris scattered everywhere,” he said.

Gullo said the authority had planned to start the restoration project Jan. 5, but “hiccups” in the planning have delayed it.

They include obtaining the money – more than $100,000 – and taking into consideration the plans for oil drilling in the Whittier Hills.

“We plan to restore the area as soon as possible,” she said. “If we get the various approvals needed, we hope to begin restoration of the southeast side of Colima in late spring for planting in the fall.”

Although the stumps will remain to control weed growth and erosion, native plants and trees, such as walnut and oak trees and California sage, will cover them.

The trees were removed on both sides of Colima Road, to the north of homes and the Friendly Hills Country Club and Murphy Ranch Little League.

Embers from eucalyptus trees in a fire could float as far south as Whittier Boulevard, county fire officials said.

The Fire Department used a $200,000 grant from the state to cut the trees down.

Molter said he is satisfied that the authority will cover the stumps.

“I’m content with (Gullo’s) explanation,” he said. “I’m willing to take a wait-and-see stance on this issue for now.”

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