Tejon RancH Conservancy eNews December 2017

On the Ranch

The view from our Conservancy office today is obscured as a small storm cell slowly sweeps by, moving south across the landscape, bringing with it sprinkles of rain, gusty wind, and heavy fog. Waiting for the first big snow of the season, we can officially say we are headed into winter.

For a conservancy like ours, we’re so used to being out on the land…this means more work indoors catching up. One of the more important tasks is compiling easement monitoring reports, a key responsibility, as we hold conservation easements funded by the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) , along with several other conservation easements across Tejon Ranch (in addition, of course, to the conservation agreement covering all 240,000 acres!). Annually monitoring conditions on the ground assures conservation goals are being met, and this takes a significant staff effort, led by Laura, Conservancy Stewardship Manager.

Cooler temperatures also mean toasty nights by the fire, especially in our local mountain communities where woodstoves are common and public campgrounds abound. In this issue, Laura, offers a reminder to be extremely careful when harvesting, buying, and transporting firewood due to the increasingly common threats of spreading invasive insects that have catastrophic impacts on our woodlands, especially GSOB, plaguing California’s oaks.

Ellery, our Conservancy Science Manager, has been busy driving the Ranch to measure Residual Dry Matter (RDM), and now will be compiling these reports with Tejon Ranch Company staff to help monitor and adapt grazing protocols on Tejon grasslands. RDM is a standard used by ranchers and conservation agencies to measure plant material left on the ground after a year of grazing, and before the next growing season, and helps inform land managers on best practices for grazing, which depend on many environmental variables. The Conservancy has partnered with UC Berkeley over the years to advance grasslands research and use of RDM and is cited in many publications. Such metrics influence the Conservancy’s adaptive approach to natural resource management. In this issue, Ellery also discusses adaptive management on a landscape scale, and Ben, Conservancy Wildlife Biologist, offers a video showing just how this approach is working on Tejon.

Fall and winter bring a different color palate and changing landscape to the Ranch, one that visitors can get a rare glimpse of on our Ranch tours. Just recently, guests on a Beartrap Canyon tour saw several black bears, and two mountain lion cubs. Other visitors were treated to our local pronghorn herd and foraging California condors. Chris, Conservancy Public Access/Education Manager, has been busy building a 2018 calendar of tours and special member activities. We’re also busy developing a new education outreach program for local schools, thanks to the generosity of two very special donors. Reaching out to underserved communities is a Conservancy priority, please help with a year-end gift today.

Did you know there are historic olive trees at Tejon? Chris Gardner, Docent and California Naturalist walks us through their history and Paula Harvey looks at our budding education program.

Last but not least, Tim, Conservancy Administrative Coordinator, a man of many talents, shares his thoughts about experiencing Tejon, something near to his heart, as Tim runs the membership program and is that friendly voice you’re likely to encounter when arranging a visit.

While some may think of winter as the “slow” season, clearly here at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, we stay pretty busy! And as always, we enjoy hearing from you, and better yet, having you join us in this important work as a Conservancy partner!

See you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

President and CEO

Photo by Scot Pipkin

Love your woodlands? Help preserve them--buy local firewood!

By Conservancy Stewardship Manager Laura Pavliscak

As the temperatures drop and the nights grow longer, many of us relish warmth and light from our woodstoves and campfires. While collecting firewood on public land requires a permit, there isn’t any oversight regarding where wood is harvested and transported. In the last 10 years transporting firewood infested with invasive non-native insects has been the source of landscape-scale tree mortalities across southern California. As a hub of commerce and with the fair weather to support a wide variety of species from around the globe, this region of California is particularly susceptible to the effects of invasive species.

Seasonal changes in Tejon oak woodlands.

One such species that keeps land managers up at night is the golden spotted oak borer, Agrilus auroguttatus. GSOB are oak specialists native to southeastern Arizona, and were first detected in California in 2004 in San Diego County, likely transported in firewood. Large-scale oak mortalities were first observed in 2008, and since then tens of thousands of trees have succumbed to this invasive insect with infestations migrating into Orange and Riverside counties. In 2016, the first infestation in Los Angeles County was recorded, not far from Tejon’s southern border. GSOB targets older, mature oaks, especially of three species--coastal live oak (Quercus agrifolia), canyon live oak (Quercus chrysolepis), and black oak (Quercus kellogii). Once an area is infested, there is very little land managers can do to stop trees from dying and the insect from spreading, resulting in catastrophic ecological consequences and dramatically increased wildfire risk.

Oaks on Tejon Ranch

Another more recent invader making the news is the polyphagous shot hole borer, (Euwallacea sp.), or PSHB, a beetle from southeast Asia. PSHB spreads a pathogenic fungus (Fusarium euwallacea) that can kill a whole suite of native species including coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), California sycamore (Platanus racemosa), cottonwood (Populus fremontii), and willows (Salix sp.). In addition to natives, dozens of ornamental and cultivated species are at risk, notably avocado trees (Persea americana), the fifth most valuable agricultural commodity in our area. The threats to our environment and economy from this single species are significant with experts estimating that 38% of our regional trees are at risk.

Golden Spotted Oak Borers

The list of concerning invasive species found in our region seems to be growing faster than agencies can effectively manage. However, there are things you can do to help stem the tide of invasive invertebrates and their dramatic impacts on our wildlands, orchards, and urban green spaces. Please buy your firewood locally and be very careful selecting firewood for purchase or for harvest. Don’t Move Firewood (dontmoveforewood.org) is an excellent online resource developed by a coalition of non-profits, agencies, and academic institutions to help inform the public about the impacts of invasive invertebrates. It offers guidelines on collecting and transporting firewood as well as contacts for responsible firewood dealers. Our collective actions can have great consequences—both in enhancing threats to our woodlands and in protecting them. Please consider joining this important conservation effort by taking care when procuring firewood and encouraging others to do so.


Landscape Scale Conservation: A working lands model at Tejon

By C. Ellery Mayence, Senior Ecologist, Tejon Ranch Conservancy

Tejon Ranch is large, biologically diverse, and a very active working landscape. Though there are a number of commercial activities allowed on the ranch, cattle ranching is by far the most dominant, with livestock dispersed across nearly all the ranch’s 270,000 acres at various times of the year. In the context of a working landscape, specific conservation or restoration goals are generally implemented knowing they should have minimal impact on revenue for the property owner and/or its lessees (Tejon has two cattle lessees). Exceptions do exist, however, for specific research projects, extremely high priority conservation areas, and activities that are mutually beneficial to all parties. One way of achieving the latter is to identify activities that complement one another, such that conservation and operational (or financial) goals can both be achieved.

This year we took a new direction (though certainly not a new concept to natural lands management) with the Conservancy, Tejon Ranch Company, and their cattle lessees, implementing grazing of select pastures at a time of year when the impact to sensitive habitat is minimized, yet the available forage and potential economic gain to the rancher is not forgone. This requires all parties to be adaptable and willing to modify their operations to changing conditions, whether they be climatic shifts such as drought, market changes, or simply a change in, for example, habitat condition brought on by the initial change in management. By investing in water infrastructure (i.e., wells, pipelines, tanks, and troughs) and realigning fences by breaking large pastures into smaller units, the Conservancy is quantitatively assessing changes in riparian habitat condition associated with shifting from dry to wet season grazing. This is done under an adaptive management framework.

In the dry summer season, livestock is either not present in a given pasture or encouraged by the newly installed water infrastructure to graze away from riparian habitat; in the wet winter season, livestock is less likely to gravitate to riparian habitat because of the abundance of green forage in adjacent grassland. Also, grazing impact on habitat condition is generally less in winter because most riparian plants are dormant at that time. Through this passive restoration approach, riparian habitat condition can be improved, benefiting not only native plant conservation, but also non-game and game animal species.

Over time, and as habitat condition is improved, a level of resiliency is established that affords riparian habitat the ability to resist destructive occurrences such as high water events, drought or short-term regressions in grazing practices. On a future visit to Tejon Ranch, ask Conservancy staff or docents about landscape scale resource management and see for yourself how this is occurring within the ranch’s working landscape.

This work has been possible through the support of private donations, a multi-year NRCS grant and of course the cooperation of the Tejon Ranch Company and their cattle lessees.

Yeah, it is something big, is it for you?

By Conservancy Administrative Coordinator Tim Bulone

In the interest of full disclosure I want to say right up front that this is really an advertisement. I’ll let you be the judge though, deciding if you are buying what I am selling. For about 150 years, the various owners of the Tejon Ranch have done a great job of keeping the Ranch a pastoral paradise. Native plants and animals thrive here, due in large part, to the enormous size and un-fragmented landscape of the Ranch.

When the Conservancy was created in 2008, the result of collaboration between the Tejon Ranch Company and five major environmental organizations, one of its directives was to provide public access to the previously inaccessible Tejon Ranch. There is no place in the American West quite like Tejon. Each of us has our own Tejon Ranch “experience.” These are moments when the absolute wonder of nature is revealed, whether it’s the stunning views across the landscape, spotting wild animals or the dazzling discovery of spring wildflowers. I have heard one after another describe their own versions of these experiences but until it happens to you, it’s just…words.

For me it was a sunny day right at the end of winter. The hills wore a lustrous green coat and the leafless oaks, like ancient sentinels, kept watch over croaking frogs at a surprise creek, along with meadowlarks and bounding ground squirrels (even as golden eagles circled above). The soft wind was brisk but it felt clean and I gulped it down. The busy-busy-ness of our weary world was a million miles away, there was only earth, air, sun and stream…and me. For a few glorious hours this is exactly what my soul yearned for. Welcome to Tejon!

I obviously can’t guarantee you will have a similar Tejon experience if you join us, but you definitely won’t if you never visit and our Public Access program is how that happens. When you become a member, not only do you have access to members-only and other events on the Ranch, but you support the legacy of protecting this incredible land for future generations. And not just for people, as you’ll be helping its rooted, scaled, feathered, and fur-bearing inhabitants sustain the lives they have always known. Plus, you’ll help facilitate scientific research that shapes decisions about our own stewardship, and even influences decisions in conservation far from here and into the future. You’ll also be helping students from places like Cal State Bakersfield and UC Santa Barbara learn more about applied conservation and research in this vast living laboratory.

So, why not be a part of something big? Join us!

Of course, if you are already a member, thank you! Side by side, we discover a little more about Tejon every day with your help. As a member, I ask you to consider, if you can, to make a special year-end gift because the Conservancy’s task is big and important, it’s something that will carry on long after our short time here is done. It’s not just for our children or grandchildren, but also for cubs, owlets, kits, poults, fawns, bunnies, hatchlings, whelps, tadpoles, eaglets and so many more, so many more.

Thank you...and I look forward to speaking to you when you call our office.

Photo by A. Jones

Tejon Ranch Olive Trees

Story and Photos by California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent Chris Gardner

In the 1850’s and 60’s, Edward Fitzgerald Beale and his wife Mary, purchased four adjoining Mexican land grants. The land grants had been established in 1843, and when consolidated by Beale, established the Tejon Ranch. Ranching operations were centered around the headquarters on Sebastian Road on the San Joaquin side of the Ranch.

During the 1890’s, General Beale planted olive trees around the headquarters. The olive tree, Olea europaea, is native to the Mediterranean, and as such, thrived in the Mediterranean climate of Kern County.

The White Wolf Earthquake, a magnitude 7.3, occurred in 1952, resulting in major damage and destruction to many of the structures in the ranching headquarters. As a result, the headquarters were moved to Lebec, across from Ft. Tejon Historical State Park.

Today, after 120 years, the olive trees around the old headquarters are still going strong, a fitting tribute to the foresight of the founder of the Tejon Ranch, and the endurance of olive trees, which in many locations around the world can be traced back hundreds of years.

Photo by Mike White

Tejon Ranch Conservancy and Hungry Valley State Park Present

Public Access Update

By Conservancy Public Access/Education Manager

Chris Fabbro

Our 2018 Public Access schedule is filling up. In addition to annual events such as springtime wildflower weekends and regular public access tours, we plan to continue hosting several member events and group hikes, as well as implementing our education program (see Paula Harvey’s article). Further, we are introducing quarterly public educational events with local partners, starting with a meteor shower program in December (see attached flyer).

In addition, the Conservancy plans to work again with Conservation Corps crews on various field projects, and is preparing to host another California Naturalist training as well as new docent training (in conjunction with several Audubon chapters). If you are interested in more information on any of the above, please contact Public Access/Education Manager Chris Fabbro at cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org.

Education Update

By Conservancy Education Program Coordinator Paula Harvey

Paula Harvey

As the new grant-funded Education Program Coordinator for the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, my focus is developing and providing outdoor education, art, and science experiences for high school and college students, also known as “STEAM” programs. I am developing a “toolkit” of STEAM lessons (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) for older students, some of which I will be sharing in our future monthly newsletters.

We have held professional development days, where science teachers networked with colleagues, toured the ranch, and discussed ways they can enhance their science programs with field trips and research activities. (More professional development opportunities are coming!) Some of our offerings are:

• Faculty professional development/collaborative planning/networking

• One-day field trips that introduce students to nature journaling and basic outdoor skills,

• One-day field trips integrating several STEAM activities,

• Specially designed field trips based on teacher needs/interests,

• Recurring field trips studying a specific area during different seasons

• Independent study programs and internships

• Credit recovery opportunities

• Camera trap data analysis

• Classroom presentations

• Science Fair support

If you are interested in bringing students out on the Tejon Ranch, or learning more about the program, please contact me at: pharvey@tejonconservancy.org or by phone at 661-248-2400 x102.

Photo by Scot Pipkin

CSUB Geology undergraduates rewrite geology history

Over two dozen undergraduate interns in the Dept. of Geological Sciences at CSUB have spent the last two summers in the “Pit of Hell” (summer in the San Joaquin) leaving no stone unturned in their insurgent campaign to liberate the conglomerates of southern California.

Undergraduate results dominated the Sedimentary, Clastics division at the national meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Seattle Oct 22-25, 2017 garnering praise from legendary California field geologists Bob McLaughlin, Keith Howard, and Elizabeth Miller. CSUB Geology undergrads presented 17% of the posters in the Sedimentary, Clastics division.

Undergraduates presented evidence for large river systems and changing drainage patterns in the southern San Joaquin Valley that will add important new knowledge to the geologic history of California and help manage water resources in the future. Students were part of a field internship program mentored by Dr. David Miller, CSUB Geological Sciences Lecturer, that is investigating ancient river systems in southern California and is supported by the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP), Dept. of Education, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP), National Science Foundation (NSF), the Dept of Geological Sciences, CSUB, Research Council of CSUB, the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, and an anonymous donor. CSUB affiliates presenting the results of their research on Tejon Ranch at GSA in 2017 include (bold indicates undergraduate):

Lead authors: SARTI, Ethan, MCKINNEY, Sam, JAMES, Robert N., MILLER, D.E.

Coauthors: MONTEJO, Carlos, GALLAGHER, Tony, SCANLON, Darby, MORENO, Jesus, RODRIGUEZ, Virginia, SPRIESTER, Jacob, WATSON, Kenneth, BUEHLER, Jeff, MCKINNEY, Sam, JACKSON, Jake, EPUNA, Favour, HERRERA, Peyton


Actualizing the Mission of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy

By Conservancy Wildlife Biologist Ben Teton

The mission of the Tejon Conservancy is centered on science, stewardship, and public access/education. Responsibilities and objectives specific to these three program areas direct our operations across the conserved lands of Tejon. While independent from one another, opportunities to develop programs that simultaneously contribute to multiple program areas continually emerge. Examples of this symbiosis include our upcoming Christmas Bird Count, wherein citizen scientists and birding enthusiasts from our surrounding community will be brought in to census bird species across the Ranch, thereby contributing, not only to our own internal understanding of Tejon’s avian diversity, but also to the national effort to learn about and conserve bird species throughout the United States. Similarly, when student groups are brought out to pull invasive weeds or remove decommissioned ranching infrastructure (barbed wire, etc.), we are directly improving the native ecosystems of Tejon Ranch while introducing the next generation of conservationists to the natural splendor of the Tehachapis. As the Conservancy looks forward to 2018, we hope to maximize the impact and productivity of our limited program staff by investing in those projects that promote the Conservancy’s mission and the ecological values of Tejon through the collaborative efforts of all three program areas.

More than any major project currently administered by the Conservancy, our initiatives related to riparian/spring enhancement through adaptive management, cattle exclusion and selective grazing, may hold the greatest opportunity to actualize the three mission objectives through this collaborative approach. As cattle ranching remains a reserved right held by the Tejon Ranch Company, effectively managing cattle to conserve and promote the native ecosystem values of Tejon is a central objective of the Conservancy. Our ability to address this issue, particularly around sensitive riparian/spring systems, can be viewed as ground-zero, where science meets stewardship on Tejon Ranch. Additionally, by incorporating our public access/education programs, through the direct engagement of volunteers, members and student groups, we enhance our ability to enact meaningful change across these critical ecological systems and thereby enhance the conservation values of Tejon Ranch, while at the same time contribute to the growing knowledge of grazing management for conservation throughout the west.

The following video highlights a project where the benefits of these collaborative efforts around riparian springs are currently being felt. For several years, the Conservancy has been administering a desert spring enhancement project in Sacatara Canyon. This project includes long-term wildlife, vegetation, and ecological disturbance surveys within large, fenced exclosures protecting a series of wetland spring systems in the Antelope Valley from disturbances associated with cattle grazing. This video will introduce you to the native wildlife that are the direct beneficiaries of this continued effort, as well as their invasive neighbors that remain a significant concern. For more information on how to support riparian/spring enhancement projects on Tejon Ranch, please contact Ben Teton at bteton@tejonconservancy.org or Laura Pavliscak at laura@tejonconservancy.org.

Click here to learn more.

Thank you!

Tejon Ranch Conservancy E-News is written and produced by Conservancy staff and volunteers with the help of co-editors Tim Bulone, Paula Harvey and Susan Chaney. If you'd like to contribute to E-News please let us know.

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