The world’s most prominent scientists warn that globally, the ecosystems that provide all the elements needed for the human civilization to thrive are in great peril. For the first time in history, a single species, rather than geological shifts or planetary catastrophes is fueling the world’s sixth mass extinction. But there are hope spots, like The Preserve, around the world, each doing their best to turn the tide.
The Preserve, our home, protects 20,000 acres of amazing California ecosystems, most of them in incredibly good shape. Our forests are glowing with redwood and oak seedlings. Our maritime chaparral and coastal scrubland offer some of our most diverse native vegetation communities, fostering a myriad of species. The Preserve grasslands are a true treasure. Throughout California, grasslands have lost most of its native components, reducing its diversity and resilience in the long term. Meanwhile, our grasslands offer a safe space for endangered vertebrate species and vegetal communities at a landscape scale not easily matched.
But, being in this fortunate position does not mean it’s time to rest on our laurels. Quite the opposite. Continual land stewardship is fundamental to maintain and improve the ecological conditions of the Preserve’s ecosystems. As we speak, we are developing a Forest Management Plan to combat the expansion of sudden oak death in our forests. In spring of 2019 we launched a comprehensive Grassland Initiative, designed to improve the ecological health and aesthetics of native grasslands while simultaneously minimizing wildfire fuel.
To deal with invasive plant expansion within our Wildlands, the Conservancy assembled a seasonal field crew to tackle weeds, either by pulling, mowing and/or, when necessary, by chemical control. Our seasonal weed warriors covered 450- acres, removing French broom, yellow star thistle, mustard, poison hemlock and other invasives. To help landowners with their Openlands management challenges, we created the Openlands Management Program, where, by request the Conservancy staff develops customized management plans for specific lots on The Preserve. In 2019 we completed 21 Openlands Management Plans, which covered 731- acres.
A total of 127- acres of coyote brush was removed as a result of grants secured from the Natural Resource Conservation Service through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Our Conservation Grazing Program more than doubled in size from 45 to 101 cows. The herd grazed 1500- acres, removed thatch (fuel loads), increased organic matter (soil) and improved the overall health of this amazing ecosystem.
Together with the Agricultural Research Service from the USDA, the Conservancy will dive deeper and analyze more than a decade of monitoring data. The results will help us better understand the current ecological conditions of The Preserve’s ecosystems, the fine details and benchmarks of our management efforts, and of course, the never ending adaptation and improvements necessary to our stewardship program.
We look forward to an even more exciting and successful year ahead.
In 2020 we aim to treat 500- acres of invasive covered grasslands, graze 1800- acres, manage the coyote brush removal areas, continue the expansion of the Openlands Management Program and work with The Preserve to advance the mission of the Trails Committee.
BY RODRIGO SIERRA CORONA