Staff Report

The Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society and Solvang Library are hosting a talk about wildfire and regional biodiversity by distinguished herpetologist Samuel Sweet. This free program, titled “Fire Management and the Future of Southern California’s Sky Islands,” will be held on Thursday, September 27, 7:00 p.m. at the Solvang Library, located at 1745 Mission Drive.

Southwestern California contains a number of “sky islands,” which are ridge lines and mountaintops that trap moisture and still provide conditions that support isolated relict coniferous forests and plant communities that are rich in animal life. In our immediate area, small examples of sky island habitat can be found on Figueroa Mountain and Ranger Peak. Direct evidence of fires was actually lacking in these sites until recently, but changes in fire origins and fire management in the last decade or so have created a crisis whereby some of California’s most spectacular sky islands have been lost, and the remainder are under severe threat.

A decade after the catastrophic Day and Zaca fires, conifers have completely failed to recruit because conditions are now too hot and dry, and these sites will continue as chaparral for thousands of years until the next glacial cycle. This lecture will focus on the few remaining sky islands to illustrate what is being lost. The talk will also examine how current fire-management strategies could be modified in order to better protect these imperiled places.

Dr. Samuel Sweet is a Professor at UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. His research focus is on distributional ecology and systematics of western North American and Australian amphibians and reptiles.

For more information about the Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society and its fall 2018 schedule of lectures and field trips, please visit