Forest health group to launch Web site


A new Web site, designed to help residents deal with ailing or dead eucalyptus trees on their property due to the attacks by red gum lerp psyllid, will be launched Monday by the Rancho Santa Fe Forest Health Task Force.

“We’re making a positive effort to keep the forest as healthy and prolific as possible,” said Christy Wilson, chair of the task force and Rancho Santa Fe Foundation executive director.

Association Manager Pete Smith said some trees are starting to recover as the psyllid-eating wasps have returned.

Paul Flores of Rancho Tree Service also suggested spreading eucalyptus seeds in the coming months. He said the timing is right if the predicted El Niño rains do come soon.

The new Web site will include frequently asked questions, offering tips such as what to do if they receive a notice from the fire department to remove dead, dying or diseased trees, and companies they should work with to remove trees.

The fire department allows homeowners to get an arborists’ opinion about whether a diseased tree can be left alone to see if it will improve. The department is flexible, said Fire Marshal Cliff Hunter, and will give residents up to two months to see how a tree is responding.

If a tree does need to come down, finding a licensed and bonded company to do the work is one of the areas the committee stressed.

“Homeowners do need to do their homework,” said Fran Lambert of Mariposa Tree Service.

As trees have started to come down due to the fire department’s notices, there was some concern among the committee about how many are being removed. In a recent incident, a homeowner essentially cleared their lot off La Gracia of all trees, a look that shocked Wilson. She said the look of the whole street was changed.

“It shouldn’t all hinge on fire safety. Fire safety is very, very important but it’s not the only thing,” said Dick Doughty, an association board director. “To get rid of live trees is a sin given the current condition.”

Mike Scott, the urban fire forester at the fire department, said that is exactly why they advise homeowners to get the opinion of an arborist on what trees can be saved.

Scott said that the most trees they have ever suggested removal for on any lot is four. They have never recommended a clear cutting like the one that took place, he said.

The next task will be to develop a game plan for reforestation of the Ranch, repairing the tree canopy the Covenant has come to be known for. The Forest Health Task Force will hold their next meeting on Sept. 14 at 9 a.m.

The new Web site is