Starr Ranch is situated adjacent to national forest on the east, the community of Coto de Caza and Bell Ridge to the west, and along Bell Canyon, which runs north-south along Bell Creek, a tributary to Trabuco Creek, that exits the property onto Orange County Park land to the south. Elevations range from approximately 500' above mean sea level along the creek bed to the highest peak of approximately 1700 feet above mean sea level. Environments on Starr Ranch range from oak woodland to coastal sage scrub with stands of pure cactus habitat as well as sycamore and alder dominated riparian corridors and chaparral habitats at higher elevations. The goal of the project is to reduce hazardous fuels in an area that covers ~ 4,000 acres within California Audubon's Starr Ranch located in unincorporated Orange County, CA. The project will provide a direct benefit to over 500 homes, a university, and a high school adjacent to the project area, as well as over 4,000 homes located in the adjacent communities of Dove Canyon and Coto de Caza. This project will include raising the tree canopy, brushing vegetation, and removing dead and down vegetation from within the preserve. The project will reduce the risks associated with wildfire to the habitable structures by reducing the vegetation within the preserve and adjacent to roads, homes and HOAs. The vegetation in some areas currently encroaches on the roadways, limiting visibility and slowing emergency response. These roads are critical for emergency egress and are often the only way in and out of the communities. The reduction of the vegetation will not only improve emergency access, but will also reduce the fuel load (including ladder fuels) around the densely packed homes and increase defensible space. This fuel reduction project will also improve visibility allowing for faster response and egress times, and will help to reduce a structure fire from spreading to the WUI and threatening additional structures and communities. Project activities will consist of thinning roadside vegetation, trimming, pruning, thinning or skirting the existing vegetation adjacent to homes, and removing hazardous dead or dying vegetation adjacent to roadways and structures. The cut vegetation will be chipped into green waste bins and hauled away to green waste facilities or chipped onsite at predetermined locations.
This project meets the requirements of a Class 4 Categorical Exemption " 15304 Minor Alterations to Land" - "Class 4 consists of minor public or private alterations in the conditions of land, water and/or vegetation which do not involve removal of healthy, mature and scenic trees except for forestry and agricultural purposes". The project will increase general fire safety, while creating minimal ground disturbance that will not result in significant effects on biological and archaeological resources or the environment. Fuels management activities will reduce the volume of flammable vegetation and will not involve the taking of threatened plant or animal species and work will occur outside of avian nesting season.
See NOE for Full Details.