The last two years have been full of unexpected challenges, for the Land Trust, for our state, and for the wider world. During the week of October 10th, 2021, the Alisal Fire burned more than 17,000 acres along the Gaviota Coast and the Santa Ynez Mountains in the Los Padres National Forest. Unfortunately, the Alisal Fire also burned through the hills and canyon of the Arroyo Hondo Preserve.

Due to the hard work of fire crews and emergency personnel, the fire is contained and all of the structures, including the historic adobe, discovery barn, family picnic area, and a newly installed stream ecology sign remain intact. The fire posed a threat to the preserve and to neighboring ranches and families and we are happy to report that everyone is safe. Thank you to those who reached out to check on John Warner, Jennifer Dunn, and Sally Isaacson. The Land Trust staff is working to assess the damage at the preserve and to map a path forward. We have received an outpouring of community concern and offers to help—please stay tuned for ways you can help as we identify our next steps. The Arroyo Hondo Preserve will remain closed until it is safe for the public to return. 

It is important to note that wildfires are a natural part of California’s ecosystems, though climate change has made fire season more intense. Mother Nature regenerates herself, often spectacularly, with native plant species flourishing after fires. For more disturbed areas where nonnative invasive plants like black mustard crowd out native species after a fire, humans can help through restoration. Once it is safe to host volunteers for trail and restoration projects, the Land Trust will offer opportunities for the community to get involved.

Rest assured—this beautiful place and its inhabitants are resilient. With a little time, some gentle rains, and thoughtful stewardship, Arroyo Hondo will come back to life. Until then, thank you for sticking with the Land Trust—amid these challenges, we have also achieved unprecedented conservation gains in Santa Barbara County. With your help, we can keep moving forward, balancing the challenges of uncertainty with the knowledge that together, we are headed in the right direction.

Read more about the Alisal Fire at the Arroyo Hondo Preserve in the Santa Barbara Independent and in the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Photo: Tom Bolton/Noozhawk