Forest Mastication is an Eco-Friendly Method of Fire Fuel Reduction
Working Demonstration of Forest Masticator/Mulcher Equipment
Sage has recently incorporated the use of forest masticator/mulcher equipment in its fire fuel modification projects in wildland/urban interface settings. In August 2022, we hosted a working demonstration for clients and fire inspectors.
Acacia Recolens Removal
As required by Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), this client's site involved removal of a large amount of acacia redolens (commonly known as bank catclaw, prostrate acacia, or desert carpet). Acacia redolens is an extremely flammeable species of shrub/tree (because of its high content of cresote). Other acacia species are currently acceptable to fire departments.
Sage completed fire fuel load reduction on steep slopes throughout this large site overlooking the ocean. It is an area of Laguna Niguel situated in a high priority fire prevention zone. Most of the work consisted of prescribed goat grazing and hand removal/trimming of vegetation.
Why Did We Use A Forest Masticator?
The forest masticator/mulcher equipment was brought in to knock down and mulch a large area of the acacia redolens. It had overgrown to over 6 feet tall. The goats will not consume acacia, the taste is not appealing to them. Hand removal by crews would have involved extensive cutting and hauling of bio mass. It would have taken several weeks of labor and possibly create erosion on these steep slopes. By using the forest masticator/mulcher equipment the job was done in 2 short days.
The forest masticator/mulcher equipment treats woody material by mulching or chipping to a small very size and working it into the soil to become a source of nutrition. This approach contributes to habitat restoration and forest health.
What is forest mastication?
Mastication is a fuel reduction treatment method used in forestry management to reduce wildfire risk, to reduce fuel loadings by returning the forest to natural conditions. Masticating fuels, or mulching the forest, involves the reduction of vegetation into small chunks and is one of the many ways overstocked forest stands are thinned. The benefits include opening the canopy and forest floor which provides the remaining trees access to more nutrients, sunlight and water. When trees are crowded together, they are in competition for sunlight and water. As a result they tend to be less healthy. Mastication can assist in removing some trees in the early stages, to allow the remaining trees to grow faster, stronger and larger. Over the past decade, Forest mastication methods have dramatically reduced wildfire hazards and greatly improved forest health.