RANCHO SANTA FE — The Committee on the Natural Environment (CONE) is raising awareness regarding Rancho Santa Fe’s declining forestry. At an Aug. 4 Rancho Santa Fe Association board meeting, Bill Beckman, the chairman of CONE and one of its original founders, provided a comprehensive presentation to the board and its members.
Beckman explained that the reason for being at the meeting was to present the general health of the community’s current forest and future outlook.
“We have a visible problem in the Covenant today and it’s especially evident in the Western and Central parts of the Covenant where you can see that our forest is clearly threatened and diminishing. It’s very, very evident,” he said.
Twenty years from now, Beckman said people living in the Ranch are going to say one of two things: “They’re either going to say we could have and should have done something to save our forest, or they’re going to say thank goodness they did take action and made the effort to save our forest,” he said.
Beckman pointed out that what the community does today will have a profound effect in the future. He went on to say that the two most significant issues at hand were removing the dead and dying trees in Rancho Santa Fe and then planting new trees which would thrive as they move into the next 50 years in order to maintain the overall beauty and health of the community’s forest.
“The one thing that I want to emphasize here is that the problem will not correct itself. It’s up to us,” Beckman said. “The problem will get worse if we don’t take action and make it better.”
Beckman shared that the positive experience and unique appeal for residents and visitors is Rancho Santa Fe’s healthy forest. Another major impact of a healthy forest in the community, Beckman said, is the safety of the properties.
“The threat of a major fire in our community is gravely increased if we have thousands of dead trees standing in the air. That’s not to say that the dead trees increase the probability of a fire, which they don’t, but if there is a fire, it’ll spread faster,” Beckman said.
Beckman shared that there was also an environmental component to a healthy forest such as shade, reduction in water evaporation and more.
Another level of importance mentioned was how a healthy forest affected property values.
“Studies on a national basis showed that homes in an area with mature and healthy trees sell for 20 to 30 percent more than similar houses that do not have mature and healthy trees,” he said.
Beckman wanted members to know that the average sale price for a home in the Covenant last year was around 2.5 million. Without a healthy forest, he said, the average sale price would be a $500,000 to $750,000 less.
What’s negatively impacted the trees in the western and central portions of the Covenant have been Red Gum lerp psyllid on the Red Gum Eucalyptus trees. Another factor has been the prolonged drought, he said.
And the drought is predicted to continue.
Beckman shared that CONE, a committee of six people, did have a plan of action. The first thing would be to create a detailed, strategic plan for this complex issue. According to Beckman, CONE is putting together a request for proposal so interested consultants can assist.
“We’re going to try to move forward very quickly with this strategic plan and a consultant will have details of the steps needed, the timelines, the resources, both financial and personnel, that are going to be needed to put on this major push to maintain and restore the health of our forest,” Beckman said. “It’s been estimated that at this point to have a strategic plan would cost between $25,000 and $40,000 which is a pretty good price actually, but we’re going to be very, very involved in this strategic plan as well.”
Beckman told the RSFA board that he hoped they would commit funds to the strategic plan.
He also mentioned how the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation has committed to fund a portion of the strategic plan in an effort to reforest the Ranch, as well.
In addition to creating a strategic plan, Beckman also noted the importance of community education events, model tree planting events, and tree steward programs.
These events offer community building opportunities, he said, and bring people together for something enjoyable.
Beckman explained that how being beneficiaries of tree planters of past generations in the Ranch should encourage current members in ensuring that future generations are afforded with the same forest ambience. And that’s by way of planting the right trees in the Ranch.
“It’s us. It’s now. Everybody in our community benefits and everyone wins,” Beckman said.