Mount Madonna Forest Health Plan

Santa Clara County Parks developed a comprehensive Forest Health Plan (FHP) for the 4,605-acre Mount Madonna Park. The FHP was developed in response to two major tree die-off events near the summit of Mount Madonna in 2002 and 2012. The Mount Madonna Forest Health Plan identifies forest health projects to increase forest resiliency to drought, disease, pests, wildfire, and climate change. The FHP promotes adaptive management strategies in response to evolving forest threats and provides a framework for long term management. This approach to land stewardship will ensure continued public use of the park and its recreational activities for future generations. 

The Mount Madonna Forest Health Plan identifies six categories that the forest health projects fall under: fuels reduction, meadow restoration, redwood restoration, invasive species removal, treatment of pathogen affected areas, and prescribed fire. 

The Forest Health Projects include:

    The Fuels Reduction Project is the first project phase to be implemented from the Forest Health Plan. The objective of the Fuel Reduction Project is to reduce wildfire potential and improve driver safety in case of fire. The Project involves hazardous fuel reduction and the creation of a shaded fuel break along Pole Line Road. Learn more about the Fuel Reduction Project by following the link below.

    Funding for this project provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as part of the California Climate Investments Program.

    The Meadow Restoration Project is designed to restore meadows that are being encroached by brush and invasive plants in order to allow native grasses and wildflowers to grow freely.  This work involves cutting coyote brush with hand tools and piling for future pile burning. Meadows may also be broadcast burned to reduce competition from non-native grasses. See Prescribed Fire for more information.

    Work began on this project December, 2021.  Closures are not expected during cutting and piling work. Meadow trail may be temporarily closed during prescribed fire operations. Advance notice will be posted at affected locations within the park.

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    The goal of the Redwood Restoration is to improve stand conditions in redwood forests by selectively thinning overly dense forests to reduce competition among trees and increase resistance to pest and pathogen outbreaks. 

    The Park’s redwood forest is a second-growth forest after being logged in the 19th and 20th century. Second growth forests typically include unnaturally high densities of trees per acre, are comprised of younger, smaller trees of similar ages, and less diversity of wildlife habitats.  Healthy redwood forests are characterized by lower stand densities, with a greater diversity of tree age and structure, and a greater diversity of wildlife habitats. Healthy stands are comprised of vigorous trees that are more resistant to pest and disease outbreaks than those in overcrowded stands.

    Closures are not expected at this time due to this work. If closures are needed, advance notice will be posted at affected locations within the park.

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    The removal of invasive species that supports biological diversity by encouraging the growth of native species.  At this time, the primary invasives impacting Mount Madonna Park are blue gum eucalyptus and French broom.

    Partial and/or temporary full road closures along Pole Line Road may occur due to this project. Advance notice will be posted at affected locations within the park.

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    Increased pathogen, or disease, activity has been observed within the forest adjacent to high-use developed areas near the summit of Mount Madonna. In response, hundreds of diseased madrones and tanoak trees were removed in 2002 and 2012.

    The Tree Safety Program was developed in 2003 after the first tree removal event. The Tree Safety Program is a biannual monitoring program that identifies trees in use areas affected by insects, pathogens, or environmental factors that could lead to a tree failure and provides a management strategy for each identified tree.

    The Mount Madonna Forest Health Plan was developed in 2018 after the second tree removal event. The plan promotes proactively treating insect and pathogen infestations at a stand level to improve forest health in Mount Madonna County Park.

    Closures are not expected at this time due to this project. If closures are needed, advance notice will be posted at affected locations within the park.

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    Prescribed fire is a highly effective forest management tool that can reduce the potential for catastrophic wildland fires, accelerate nutrient cycling, reduce competition from underbrush, and reduce risk of pathogen spread.

    Prescribed fire treatments identified in the Forest Health Plan include pile burning and broadcast burning. 

    • Pile burning involves the stacking and burning of material under specific guidelines. It is a valuable tool for disposing of plant material, especially when affected by pathogens.
    • Broadcast burning is a way of mimicking the natural fire conditions of the area and involves setting a low intensity controlled fire within a set perimeter. Broadcast burning is not widely recommended within the Forest Health Plan but is an important tool for meeting specific management objectives.

    All burning operations are conducted in cooperation with state and local fire agencies and Cal Fire.  Partial road, trail, campground, and parking lot closures may be required due to prescribed burns. Advance notice will be posted at affected locations within the park.

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    Completed Projects:

    The Mount Madonna Forest Health Plan was prepared by Registered Professional Foresters (RPF) under contract with County Parks with input from the local Cal Fire Forester, a Cal Fire plant pathologist, the local Fire Safe Council, and community members. 

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