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To provide Cal Poly students, faculty, staff and the public with a unique interdisciplinary environment in which to foster the Learn by Doing philosophy by providing educational experiences on a working ranch, supporting diversified agriculture and forest resources while maintaining the integrity of ranch operations.

  —Our Mission

Field Training: Fuels Treatments in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI): Lessons Learned Post Wildfire at Swanton Pacific Ranch

Thursday, July 27th, 2023  9:00am-4:30pm

This was an opportunity to learn about forest health treatments, hazard tree removal, lessons learned in post-wildfire fuels treatments, and biomass removal with the goal of increasing fire resilience and enhancing forest health in the wildland-urban interface (WUI).  
Participants learned from staff at Swanton Pacific Ranch about how to increase the pace and scale of vegetation and fuels treatments, utilizing various funding opportunities and partnerships.
Dr. Grey Hayes, Program Director of FAVE, Research and Education Manager at Swanton Pacific Ranch and Restoration Ecologist began by giving the participants a historical overview of disturbance regimes, fire ecology, and provided some context to the site history of the ranch. Dr. Hayes spoke to the funding streams and partnerships needed to support the work, discussed the strategy for fuels treatments and provided lessons learned in implementation of the Forest Health grant project. 
Chuck Sweeney, Forest Health Technician, at Swanton Pacific Ranch spoke to the technical aspects of implementing fuels treatments, forest management and monitoring, and salvage logging after high-severity fire. He also touched on student involvement at the ranch and how it interacts with the forest health grant.
Mark Swisher, Director at Swanton Pacific Ranch, highlighted important recovery milestones and outlined project goals for the future vision of Swanton Pacific Ranch.
Time Item


Workshop begins, event registration and sign in

1st Site


Kelly Meyer: FAVE Workforce Development Program


Mark Swisher: Recovery Milestones and Project Goals for Swanton Pacific Ranch

  Chuck Sweeney: Student Engagement at Swanton
  Dr. Grey Hayes: Site History
  Chuck Sweeney: Forest Health Treatments
  Dr. Grey Hayes: Lessons Learned by a Project Lead
  2nd Site
  Dr. Grey Hayes: Biomass Disposal: Lessons Learned in Implementation
  Dr. Grey Hayes: Guide to Hillside Biodiversity and Disturbance 
12:45pm Lunch
1:15pm 3rd Site
  Dr. Grey Hayes: Fire Severity Indicators
  Chuck Sweeney: Redwood Defect Study
  Dr. Grey Hayes: Interactions Between CALFIRE Forest Health, FEMA Hazard Tree Removal, and Congressional Community Project Funding
  Chuck Sweeney: Hazard Tree Removal
2:25pm 4th Site
  Dr. Grey Hayes: Predicting the Future, Using the Past
  Chuck Sweeney: Forest Health Treatments (cont.)

Dr. Grey Hayes: Biomass Disposal (cont.)


Mark Swisher: Visioning the future of Swanton Pacific Ranch

4:30pm Workshop ends


Mark Swisher, Director, Swanton Pacific Ranch

Mark has worked with Cal Poly for the past three years building capacity to foster the Learn by Doing philosophy through leading-edge practice and research in a resilient, sustainable, and accessible working landscape at Swanton Pacific Ranch as the Director. Prior to joining Cal Poly, Mark has worked throughout the state planning and executing landscape level management programs integrating ecological conservation efforts with agricultural production systems, utility operations, and recreational land uses. In addition to directing “Team Swanton”, Mark currently assists with oversite of projects relating to forest health, hazard tree removal, and reconstruction planning following the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. 

Dr. Grey Hayes, Education and Research Manager, Swanton Pacific Ranch 

Since 1986, Dr. Grey Hayes has worked in and around Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch to train students, professionals, and community members about how working land management goals integrate with ecological conservation. Dr. Hayes’ research has resulted in publishing and co-publishing peer-reviewed papers in restoration ecology of prairie and redwood systems. His experience includes extensive teaching at both the University of California, Santa Cruz and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo on restoration and land management. In 2021, Dr. Hayes and Cal Poly were awarded funding for two ambitious projects: a state-wide fuels and vegetation management workforce development program and a 600-acre fuels management project at Swanton Pacific Ranch and the Soquel Demonstration State Forest. These projects, and Dr. Hayes’ other work, provide Cal Poly students and faculty opportunities for leadership and hands-on experiences in cutting edge practices to increase the State’s resilience to climate change triggered increases in wildfire frequency and intensity.

Chuck Sweeney, Forest Health Technician, Swanton Pacific Ranch

Chuck specializes in silviculture, forest health, and fire management after graduating from Oregon State University (’22) with his master’s (MF) in sustainable forest management. His master’s projects focused on estimating fuels treatment effectiveness for the 2021 Bootleg Fire using open-source remote sensing data. Growing up on the central coast of California in Santa Barbara, Chuck was inspired to work in forest management after being affected by several large wildfires and evacuations during his youth. He brings experience working as a wildland firefighter for the Oregon Department of Forestry as well as working in forest management for CalFire. Chuck is working towards his RPF license and hopes to continue designing and implementing fuels treatments for the California coast redwood communities and is an advocate for managing landscapes for fire resiliency.



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