Welcome to the holiday edition of our newsletter. As the rains return to The Preserve and snowberries and hollyleaf cherries highlight the subtle beauty of the winter woods, this is a wonderful time for reflection and for looking forward with hope and excitement. 2020 will be our Silver Anniversary, and we are planning on a memorable year ahead.

The Conservancy was created 25 years ago as an essential part of the Santa Lucia Preserve, to sustain the health and beauty of our greatest asset – The Preserve’s natural lands. From the beginning, The Preserve Design was, and still is, a pioneering model of private lands conservation, a place where the natural beauty and rich diversity of wildlife and plants are actively cared for by a thriving community of people, for the benefit of all. There is nowhere else like it in the world.

The Conservancy and The Preserve community have come a long way in the last quarter century. Together, we have woven beautiful homes into a healthy wild landscape, made and kept promises to protect special places, and embarked on dozens of habitat restoration projects. Preserve members are weed warriors, wildlife champions and conservation partners. This is, by far, the most thoughtful and ambitious approach to caring for these lands since the Rumsen Ohlone tended the grasslands and oaks here over 250 years ago. Through our cooperative efforts, we are creating a legacy that will benefit everyone living in this community and far beyond, for generations to come.

Strengthening connections within this growing community and sustaining a shared conservation vision is essential to our continued success. As a place to share information and inspiration, our newsletter has already featured 15 community members and their unique conservation stories, with many more to come.

As you may have read in a recent letter from Board Chair Jeff Langholz, I am approaching my 10th year as executive director, and 2020 will be my last in this position. It has been a privilege to lead the Santa Lucia Conservancy through these exciting times, and The Preserve will always have a special place in my heart. With an engaged community and terrific Conservancy team in place, I am prepared to pursue conservation challenges farther afield. In 2020, I will work closely with the Board of Governors and actively participate in the succession plan. Rest assured, the Conservancy is stronger than ever, and will remain a steadfast partner for The Preserve community.

I hope you will take an opportunity over the holidays and through the coming year to spend time with the Conservancy’s wonderfully talented and dedicated team of conservation professionals, who come to work every day with one aim: to help The Preserve community reach its full potential as an exceptional conservation community. You are welcome to give us a ring or stop by our office anytime at 26700 Rancho San Carlos Road, just a half mile outside The Preserve’s gate. We look forward to your visit and to celebrating our Silver Anniversary together.

Happy Holidays to you all,



The upcoming year is the Conservancy’s Silver Anniversary, an opportunity to celebrate our partnership with The Preserve community and our shared commitment to this remarkable place. Together we are ensuring that the beauty, biodiversity and rich cultural legacy of The Preserve is sustained. Looking back through history, we can see that people have had an intimate relationship with this land for thousands of years. Understanding the challenges they faced and decisions they made can offer insights and inspiration, as we chart a path towards a healthy future. READ MORE>




During the holidays it’s not uncommon for visitors to stop by your home unannounced. Some might even overstay their welcome and begin to hang decorations around your abode. Surprisingly, the California ground squirrel faces a similar dilemma come winter when the burrowing owl breezes in to ‘borrow’ her burrow. This fascinating story will leave you with more empathy and understanding about one of The Preserve’s unsung ecosystem engineers and update you on recent wildlife encounters.




Maps are an effort to define the landscape around us and put ourselves into that context while gaining a deeper understanding of the imprints we leave on the land. They have facilitated our “Sense of Place”, or strong identity deeply felt by inhabitants, long before the term was even coined. Discover how the Sense of Place we have on The Preserve inspires and guides the Conservancy’s science and land management, and in turn secures that experience for all others who spend time in this exquisite landscape. READ MORE>




Each summer the Conservancy is gifted with young, talented and energetic interns from universities across the country. This past summer we had a total of six interns, our largest pool to date, reporting to Dr. Christy Wyckoff. The interns work across a variety of the Conservancy’s research projects and many write about their experience. In this first-person narrative, TJ Francisco, an undergraduate at Stanford University, shared his experience of working with the Conservancy and the impact it had on him. READ MORE>




This year saw the launch of the biggest and most ambitious landscape restoration project ever undertaken by the Conservancy. Rodrigo Corona Sierra, the Conservancy’s director of stewardship, looks back on a remarkable year that saw the cattle herd and the field crew more than double in size in an effort to look after The Preserve’s native grasslands, that are so precious to all of us. READ MORE>



MOUNTAIN LION SIGHTINGS  Several recent mountain lion sightings, especially around the Sports Center/Garza’s Creek and the Golf Course, have confirmed the presence of a lion family: a mama and her two juveniles. It’s not uncommon for juveniles to stay with mom for up to two years. The hard-working mom will teach the juveniles how to navigate their terrain and hunt deer and young turkeys, until the young cats are ready to be fully independent. Lions are highly mobile and patrol large home ranges up to hundreds of square miles. This is a remarkable opportunity to witness a such a secretive creature, and there is minimal risk but please do help keep wild animals wild, and do not approach. And please continue letting us know what you are seeing, we keep a record of all observations.

WILDFLOWER COURSE  Poppies, lupine and shooting stars are beauties that are easy to spot come wildflower season. If you’d like to learn how to identify these and other wildflowers, you’re invited to join our 2020 Wildflower Identification Course. The course spans over four days (February 18 and 25; March 3 and 10 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. in The Preserve Room) and is lead by Naturalist Nikki Nedeff. Nikki will offer instruction on wildflower anatomy, common flower families, and how to identify species using the Monterey County Wildflowers Field Guide. To sign up, please contact Lindsay Cope; [email protected].


DOWN TO EARTH PODCAST  Last August, the Quivira Coalition, a global leader in regenerative grazing and farming invited our Director of Stewardship and Grassland Ecology to participate in their Down To Earth podcast. The episode includes Rodrigo’s previous experience managing conservation lands in Mexico, his PhD project, and the work that is being done on The Preserve. As a result of this interaction, Rodrigo was invited to talk at Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, about the values of land stewardship and the role of grazing for grassland health. Returning full circle, last week, he attended the Quivira Coalition’s annual meeting ‘Regenerate’ (Regenerate) in Albuquerque, joining a round table discussion about science and land management. He returned with very good feedback about our work on The Preserve and hopeful that collaborations will continue to grow.

CAL FIRE FUEL BREAK WORK  If you’ve driven along Rancho San Carlos in the past month, you might have noticed some changes in the brushy extent along the north west corner of The Preserve. The large-scale mowing project is part of a Cal Fire fuel break, which runs along Palo Corona Ridge and south, along White Rock Ridge, on the western edge of The Preserve. The aim of the fuel break is to create safe access for emergency response along the ranch roads that wind through Palo Corona Regional Park, The Preserve, Mittledorf, Joshua Creek Reserve and White Rock Gun Club. The mowing in the grasslands also compliments the Conservancy’s Grassland Initiative, to reclaim brush invaded grasslands like those along Rancho San Carlos.  

KYLE’S FAREWELL  After three years of dedicated hard work, Kyle Meyer and the Conservancy, decided that it was time for him to move onto his next adventure. During his time with the Conservancy, Kyle spent most of his days walking alongside our cows, evaluating their health and ensuring their well-being with plenty of good forage and water. To be able to move the cows through The Preserve, Kyle built and removed electric fences and sang to the cows, luring them over to green grass. Together with Leslie Dorrance, he played a fundamental role in successfully establishing our grazing program. The Conservancy team and Kyle still connect outside of work and we are delighted to see him pursuing his artistry in woodwork. We certainly miss him but are in good hands with our Director of Stewardship and Grassland Ecologist, Rodrigo, Conservation Grazing Assistant, Dayna, who is leading the Grazing Program, with support and guidance from Leslie.

FUEL MANAGEMENT PLANS UPDATE  We have exciting news for homeowners seeking Fuel Management Plans. Carol Rice has increased her team to meet the demand of our community, shortening the time it takes to prepare these plans and improving the overall quality. Carol, pictured left, provides expertise in fire management with specialized knowledge in fire behavior, along with fire codes and policies, risk assessment, structural ignition potential, fire ecology, defensible space creation and maintenance, and fuel and vegetation management. New team member, Kathy Murphy, provides expertise in hazard fuels reduction. Kathy previously worked for the Forest Service – Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit preparing for and conducting Rx burns to reduce wildfire fuels. Esther Mandeno also recently joined the team, hailing from CA State Parks. Esther is a GIS specialist, applying her fire expertise to digital mapping.

KEEPING OUR SCIENCE SKILLS SHARP  This fall Conservancy staff attended science and stewardship conferences to keep up to date on the latest research and management techniques in conservation and land stewardship. In September, Dr. Christy attended the annual Wildlife Society conference in Reno, along with 4,400 other attendees. The four days of non-stop science covered wildlife response to fire, the latest understanding of wildlife corridors and exciting new developments in detecting hard to find wildlife like frogs and salamanders. Jenna attended the California Invasive Plant Council Symposium, where she learned how other California conservation groups are tackling the world’s worst invasive plants. Rodrigo was invited to be a panelist on the Science of Regenerative Grazing at the Regenerate Quivera Coallition Conference focused on progressive grazing techniques for land recovery.

WEED WARRIORS  The Conservancy just won second place in the California Invasive Plant Council’s photo contest with this photo. The white handle of a weed wrench stands among invasive French broom that litters the foreground in various states of removal. Our weed management crew finds a quiet moment to appreciate the rainbow in the background. The work is never done, but we are making progress!


The exquisite basket weaving practices of the Rumsen people were nearly lost this past century. Thankfully, our friend and collaborator Linda Yamane has dedicated her time, energy and dexterous fingers to studying and reviving this lost art. The baskets she has created are now on display in museums (like the one in this photo) but she has also created “work baskets” intended for demonstration and revival of traditional methods for preparing and cooking with acorns. This fall, the traditional time for acorn harvest, we joined Linda in celebrating the Rumsen basket weaving traditions. Learn more about her work on our website (link to the video about the baskets called A Rich Native Heritage is in our bio).

The Conservancy welcomed Bill Haas, Director of the Central Coast Bat Survey and Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Conservation Alliance, to set up two acoustic monitors overnight when he visited The Preserve on Halloween eve. One monitor was placed near Williams Canyon and the other at Moores Lake. The equipment detected ten bat species between sunset and sunrise: California Myotis, Western Small-footed Myotis, Yuma myotis, Western Red Bat, Hoary Bat, Canyon Bat, Pallid Bat, Fringed Myotis, Long-legged Myotis and the Brazilian Free-tailed Bat. This is especially exciting as early bat surveys from the early 1990s recorded only nine species. Thank you for joining us and let us know if you spy any of these beauties around.


December 27:             Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count

For the Conservancy’s 2020 calendar of events, please visit our Member Events page.


We hope you enjoyed the final edition of the Conservancy newsletter in 2019. The next edition will be out in a couple of months. Until then, stay updated on Conservancy news through any of our social media channels (Instagram @slconservancy; Facebook @santaluciaconservancy; YouTube @slconservancy), website, event listed above, and by participating in any one of several citizen science programs.

The non-profit Santa Lucia Conservancy envisions a place of enduring wild beauty and resilient biodiversity, actively cared for and protected by a thriving community of people for the benefit of all. If ever you have a question or need assistance, we hope you get in touch. Please feel free to stop by the Conservancy office to connect or simply say “Hello” at any time.

© 2019 Santa Lucia Conservancy
26700 Rancho San Carlos Rd.