Restoration work will facilitate a more resilient and fire-resistant landscape in the popular recreational destination.
California Natural Resources Agency has awarded the City of Irvine a $1 million grant to reduce the risk of wildfire by restoring a heavily visited 49-acre portion of Bommer Canyon Preserve, which will also enhance habitat quality for wildlife. The City of Irvine chose to partner with Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC) to execute this project, the initial phase of which will be completed in March 2026.
The area, located south of Shady Canyon Drive, has been overrun with non-native grasses and weeds, which dry up and can readily ignite, posing a fire hazard to neighboring communities and wildlife. The goal of this project is to replace highly flammable non-native vegetation with less flammable native vegetation. The project design will include natural fuel breaks of native riparian vegetation along drainageways interspersed with upland scrub habitat. Although native scrub can also ignite, this vegetation stays green later in the year. This could mean a shortened fire season that starts in September instead of as early as April. An added benefit is that native oak and elderberry trees will also be added to provide shade to the exposed sections of Bommer Meadow Trail.
“Since many visitors recreate at Bommer Canyon Preserve, our team will be reaching out to the community through signage and educational materials to explain the many benefits of the project as it unfolds,” says Robert Freese, IRC Restoration and Enhancement Program Manager.
The project will commence in August 2023 with fence installation, mowing, and installation of an irrigation system to accelerate the “grow & kill” cycles needed to deplete weed seeds in the soil. Although irrigation is not usually an option for landscape-scale restoration in remote areas, the location of this project on the urban edge makes it feasible, and IRC has sought input from Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) on the irrigation design and implementation. When the site is seeded in October 2025, irrigation will also be used to ensure establishment of the desired vegetation of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Although the initial phase of the project will officially conclude in March 2026, IRC will likely continue to manage the site on behalf of the City of Irvine for five years to ensure the restored vegetation is truly sustainable.
“This is by far the largest restoration project undertaken through our collaborations with the City of Irvine. We’re very grateful for this funding from the California Natural Resources Agency and partnership with the City of Irvine to make this possible,” explains Freese.
To learn more about Irvine Ranch Conservancy and restoration projects on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, please visit IRConservancy.org.