In March, the Heritage Fire breached Palisades Ranch, burning 34 acres of this special wildlife haven. We now know that at least 300 mature trees burned in the fire and 10% of the riparian habitat was affected.
This 1,647-acre property spans 3.7 miles of the Mojave River and has 440 acres of cottonwood-willow riparian habitat. Its rich plant community and presence of surface water attract around 40 special-status wildlife species, making it one of the Mojave Desert’s most important habitat areas. The property was acquired by MDLT in 2018 with the goal of restoring and protecting this crucial West Mojave riparian corridor. In recent decades, the former agricultural fields at the property had become overgrown with invasive species including perennial pepperweed, which seriously impacted the native plant population and helped fuel the fire’s spread.
Aerial images and on-the-ground assessments show the fire left a graveyard of trees and habitat. In all, 14 acres of Fremont cottonwood forest, six acres of willow thickets, and three acres of southern cattail and common reeds were affected. Following are some photos of the damage as surveyed by MDLT staff.
The fire destroyed rare riparian habitat for the Mojave’s bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species. Beavers, Mojave river voles, and migrating birds are some of the wildlife that may have been impacted. Bird surveys in 2020 detected a federally threatened western yellow-billed cuckoo and two pairs of federally endangered least Bell’s vireo.
MDLT is continuing to assess the damage and impact to flora and fauna. This fire created an even greater urgency for the on-going restoration work and invasive species management.
The property remains strictly closed to the public.