Tejon Ranch is the largest contiguous private property in California and, because of its location at the confluence of four major ecological regions, it is a significant locus of biodiversity. In 2008, the Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement set aside the vast majority of the Ranch—178,000 acres, with an already-exercised option for 62,000 more—for permanent conservation. It also created the Tejon Ranch Conservancy.

As the first step in its mission to “preserve, enhance and restore the native biodiversity and ecosystem values of the Ranch and the Tehachapi Range for the benefit of California’s future generations,” the Conservancy is required to prepare a Ranchwide Management Plan by 2013.  A central issue in the Plan will be fire management. 

With its impacts on hydrology, vegetation structure, and succession, fire plays a key role in a number of the Ranch’s ecological communities.  Many of these communities are fire-adapted and include species that depend on fire to trigger germination.  Yet severe wildfires can also threaten human populations, cause economic damage, and disrupt ecological communities.

 

 

 

 

The purpose of this Bren School group project is to assist the Conservancy in preparing the Ranchwide Management Plan by developing and evaluating a suite of fire management strategies. To do this, the group will use a variety of analytical tools, ranging from historical research and scenario-building to fire return interval departure mapping and spatially explicit vegetation modeling. These tools will allow us not only to identify alternative strategies, but also to examine how those strategies will interact with climate change, population growth, and other challenges that the Ranch will face in the coming century.