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Black Mountain: After the Fire

January 2019

In August 2018, plumes of smoke rose in the skies above the rolling hills of West Marin. Iconic Black Mountain was on fire. Fortunately the wildfire on this MALT-protected property was quickly put out by our local fire response agencies and now, nearly half a year later, we are witnessing the amazing resilience of the land.

Cattle on Black Mountain

 

The Bridge Fire

Fires are a historic part of California’s natural landscapes. But, as the fire on Black Mountain broke out, we were all worried. Worried the winds might pick up, worried it might grow to the scale of some of the fires our state has faced these past few years – the Mendocino Complex Fire or the Santa Rosa and Sonoma County fires.

In total, 45 acres of Black Mountain burned in what is being called the Bridge Fire. Thanks to a quick response and strategic allocation of resources from our local Fire agencies, residences and property on the backside of the mountain were saved.

As you might know, Black Mountain Ranch is leased for cattle grazing to Stemple Creek Ranch as well as for vegetable farming to Little Wing Farm and Table Top Farm and all contribute to our local foodshed.

The area of the Bridge fire was a steep hillside, very lightly grazed, and rarely accessed. The fire moved at a rapid rate upslope but remained on the surface (grass) rather than climbing up into the canopies of the Coast Live Oak trees.

The Recovery

For months afterwards, we saw the blackened hillside. Now, in the new year, we’re seeing first-hand how the resilient landscapes we love recover from a natural process.

With timely rainfall in our favor, we’ve begun to see the greening of the hills with purple needle grass (Nassella pulchra), other annual grasses and forbs (broad-leaved, herbaceous and flowering plants). Native grasses are typically perennial bunch grasses with deep root systems (10 to 20 feet deep) that help prevent erosion and potential mud slides. Deep-rooted plants generally have more access to soil moisture, making them drought tolerant and more fire adapted.

 

The photo above captures the visibly different shades of green between the unburnt and burnt sections of the Black Mountain.

We are grateful that the fire was quickly contained on this MALT-protected property and will keep you up-to-date on how the land recovers.

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