Wednesday, Dec. 26—
Helicopters were used to lift logs scorched in the 2007 Witch Creek Fire and other debris from the San Dieguito River during the final leg of a multi-year effort to restore the area, a federal conservation agency reported.
Sections of the San Dieguito River riparian corridor, which stretches from Julian, Santa Ysabel and portions of Ramona to the coast, were damaged in the massive blaze.
“Driving past the wildfire damage in 2008 gave me great inspiration to restore this area back to a healthy and productive state,” said Shea O’Keefe, a biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service. “Over the next year, we worked together with a number of partners to create a restoration plan and raise funds to complete the necessary work.”
The NRCS approached the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy organization to come up with five restoration projects spread over 500 acres.
Other agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Fish and Game and Transportation departments, San Diego Gas & Electric and San Diego Joint Power Authority provided technical and financial assistance.
The agencies teamed up to invest nearly $4 million to restore burned areas, remove invasive plants and improve endangered species’ habitats, according to the NRCS. The helicopters, which had been removing debris since
September, were used so a nearby Native American archaeological site would not be damaged.
The NRCS used $650,000 in Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program funding, provided through the 2002 Farm Bill, to remove invasive arundo plants and scorched eucalyptus trees and to re-vegetate the areas with native plant species.
The work led to an improved habitat for wildlife, including the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and the Arroyo Toad, according to the NRCS.