USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Defensible space-erosion protection tools development

Principal Investigators:
Michael Hogan, Integrated Environmental Restoration Services, Inc.
Mark Grismer, University of California-Davis

Proposal [pdf]

Final Report [pdf]

Educational Pamphlet [pdf]

Please contact Michael Hogan with questions regarding the report.

Project Summary

This project fills a critical information gap identified in the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program, discussed briefly in the Lake Tahoe Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Pollutant Load Opportunity Report and hinted at in nearly every defensible space directive– the need for practical residential defensible space practices that effectively reduce fire risk and while controlling erosion and reducing runoff. Current defensible space practices are tending toward the removal of protective soil cover, thus increasing erosion and water quality degradation risk.

This project identified and quantified defensible space practices around homes that are capable of reducing or eliminating fire risk (as per California Public Resources Code 4291), while minimizing erosion, protecting water quality, infiltrating stormwater and snowmelt, reducing runoff, and gaining acceptance from fire agencies and homeowners. This research focused primarily on protecting water quality from poorly thought-out defensible-space strategies and perhaps improving water quality protection through implementation of defensible space practices.

The project evaluated eight soil protection Best Management Practices (BMPs) for both flammability and erosion control parameters. The most mutually effective BMPs were showcased during a Conservation Landscape Tour and at Autumn Festival to showcase defensible space practices that achieve both fire protection and erosion control water quality objectives. The results from the study were also developed into an educational pamphlet geared for homeowners and were distributed throughout the Tahoe Basin.