Following a letter from EHL showing conflicts between Riverside County’s brush clearance regulations with the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, that ordinance has been significantly improved while maintaining fire safety.
The old ordinance required chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and other wildlife habitat to be crisscrossed with 100-ft firebreaks even in the absence of any structures that might need protecting. With the leadership of new Fire Chief John Hawkins, the ordinance was revised to eliminate such unnecessary clearing, shifting the focus to defensible space for structures. To clear up residual problems, EHL had to intervene legally, but hopes to resolve these issues without going to court.
EHL has also called for a change in land use policy to reduce the siting of new homes in high risk fire zones, which leads not only to habitat destruction but to enormous fire-fighting costs for state and local government. As a sign of additional progress, the County's Fire Hazard Reduction Task Force included this recommendation in a recent report to the Board of Supervisors. However, implementation of the recommendation has yet to occur.