Tejon Ranch conservancy enews August 2018

On the Ranch

By President & CEO Bob Reid

Traveling the dirt roads of Tejon Ranch can be challenging in any season. In these hot, dusty days of summer, it’s, well, dusty! In winter, snow and ice can make many roads impassable, and with the wet season, roads can quickly turn into slippery clay snot, more suited to momentum than to braking and traction. On a good day, fallen tree branches, big rocks, and endless vistas needing pictures may be our only obstacles.

But here at the Conservancy, getting out on the Ranch is what we do, as often as we can. It’s the Conservancy’s job, working with the landowner, the Tejon Ranch Company, in this unique partnership of working lands conservation, to share this remarkable slice of California with researchers, students, guests—and you.

Our vehicles (and our drivers) need to be up to the challenge. Pick-ups are used for checking cameras, hauling picnic tables, moving fencing for exclosures, and so much more. SUVs take teachers, students, and researchers around the Ranch, along with tour guests and funders. Last, but certainly not least, is “Xanthus,” our rugged 12-passenger 4x4 van; many of you may have trekked across the Ranch in it over the past 4 years. Xanthus recently gained a companion, “Ben” (named in honor of our lead donor’s late husband), a brand-new Ford Transit 12-passenger 4x4 van, which will help us tour even more students, teachers, and guests. The new van was made possible by the generosity of a challenge gift from a loyal supporter and dozens of other contributions from our readers, members, and friends—a perfect example of how people like you make the Conservancy possible. Support our transportation fund so even more students can enjoy the Ranch. Thank you all! Enjoy some pictures of our excited staff welcoming the new van (below).

Although thrilled about our new van, we’re saddened by the departure of Laura Pavliscak, our Stewardship Manager. Over the past 4 years, Laura has keenly focused on raising conservation values here at Tejon, working closely with the Ranch, monitoring conservation easements, helping to implement Ranch-wide Management Plan Best Management Practices, leading volunteers on pipe-capping days, weed abatement, and more. She has hosted many bio-blitzes, looking for breeding birds, herps, and even lichen and acorns. We will miss Laura in the office and on the Ranch, but she promises not to disappear completely.

It’s barely August and it’s hot. It’s a month for vacations, for escaping to the coast, reading in the shade, getting out at daybreak, then back in, away from the searing afternoon heat. We hope you enjoy this ENews, maybe sipping a cool drink, while sitting by a fan or enjoying an evening breeze. Wherever you are, we welcome your friendship and support, and appreciate having you as part of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, helping to protect and restore, experience, and explore, this rare slice of undisturbed California.

See you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

President and CEO


By Public Access/Education Manager Chris Fabbro

With summer heat upon us, we have moved our tours to the Tejon High Country, offering several each month to a variety of groups, including members, educators, and the public.

Half a dozen newly trained docents have been on many of these hikes, drives, and nature walks as part of their ongoing training.

The Conservancy website calendar now has events posted through the fall with registration opening up a few weeks prior to each event.

Our annual Perseid Meteor Shower dark sky event, co-hosted with Hungry Valley State Park will be August 11; over 60 people have registered so far. Please join in! In addition to the activities listed on the flyer (above), Conservation Communications Manager Ben Teton will present highlights of our camera trap program including rare images of wildlife on Tejon.

A reminder that all events and activities on Tejon Ranch require an access permit from the landowner through the Conservancy, so we ask that everyone please follow the registration procedures for all events. If joining us for an event, please bring a refillable water bottle (we’re happy to provide water at our office) as the Conservancy will no longer be providing single use disposable plastic water bottles.


By Operations Manager Tim Bulone

Laura Pavliscak has made her career in the spaces between California’s loneliest landscapes, and the rural and agricultural places that increasingly abut them. “I’ve always been super interested in the intersection between wildland conservation and land management, working on many rural farms throughout my schooling,” she offered in a 2014 interview.

That’s when she came to the Conservancy as its first Stewardship Manager with a master’s degree in Natural Resources and with many years under her belt as a field biologist in the Southwest and abroad. “I am fascinated by the interconnected complexities of wild systems and humbled by our potential to interact and affect those systems.

“I was hired immediately following the formal approval of our Ranch-wide Management Plan (RWMP). Crafted by the Conservancy, the Tejon Ranch Company, our Science Advisory Panel, and expert natural resource contractors, the RWMP created a blueprint for the working lands conservation management of Tejon Ranch.

“We started the stewardship program from scratch, using the RWMP as a guide for prioritizing projects and activities, from riparian and wetland restoration to invasive plant management. On a property this size and with so many stakeholders and management practices, meaningful change is slow, but I’m proud of the work we’ve done collaborating with the Ranch and their lessees—the Echeverria Cattle Company and Centennial Cattle Company—to modify grazing practices and quantitatively monitor biological responses, to prioritize and target invasive plants in strategic areas, thoughtfully monitor well over a hundred thousand acres for compliance with our guiding documents, and think creatively about leveraging our limited bandwidth to maximize our conservation impacts.”

Her fascination, some would say barely contained exuberance, for both the practices and possibilities of landscape-scale conservation has driven her these past four and a half years. “There have been so many dazzling highlights during my time working with the Conservancy. The property is fascinating, complicated, and diverse—every opportunity to be on the Ranch has me learning something new and marveling at beauty and ecological intrigue."

“Laura is a true diplomat. In the most trying of moments, Laura exercises patience, practicality, and wonderful listening skills. Working with her terrific moderating talents, I learned a lot and listened more. Thank you, Laura!” — Soapy Mulholland, Conservancy Board Member

“I’ve also felt so lucky to work with staff, researchers, contractors, and volunteers who bring their passion for the wild world and their own unique perspectives and expertise to help the Conservancy learn about and promote the conservation of this extraordinary landscape.”

But challenges outside of work are swiftly bringing Laura’s time here to a close. “I lost my home in the devastating Thomas fire this past winter and will need to fully rise to the occasion to rebuild. It is bittersweet leaving the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. While I will deeply miss the daily wonders, the extraordinary wildlands, the projects I’ve created and managed, the continued opportunities for growth and beauty, and the good folks I’ve met along the way, I’ve had to refocus my personal life as of late.”

“Laura is a constant reminder of the importance of science-based conservation practice and principles, the magnificence of the RWA and the RWMP, and the big picture importance of navigating the daily details to achieve our shared aspirations of Tejon’s stewardship. All that and always quick with a smile and a resounding laugh!”—Bob Reid

The challenge of rebuilding her home is a necessary sidetrack, but her heart remains in conservation. “My internal compass needle is entirely tuned to the long game of meaningful conservation work and I’m eager to continue learning, observing, and advocating. I hope I’ve been able to contribute in a meaningful way to advance that cause here on Tejon.”

Having taken it to heart, Laura offers this lesson to anyone interested in conservation work. “The lively thrum of professionals that I’ve had the fortune to cross paths with during my time here has given me perspective on the hopeful, passionate, and sometimes immensely challenging world of conservation. Two of these, friends and cherished mentors that I’ve met working with the Conservancy—Mike White and Jerre Stallcup—have emphasized the marathon rather than sprint that most meaningful conservation entails. See Jerre’s excellent blog on this subject here.

“As a mid-career professional, it is easy to become impatient with slow progress, but I can see that significant gains in learning about, protecting, and restoring this dynamic and extraordinary world that we depend on is a long game. To learn from seasoned advocates that have spent decades negotiating, compromising, winning and losing, and advancing the ball forward is truly inspiring. It’s a passionate heart, a hungry mind, and a patient spirit that promote the most meaningful change. And it’s slow.”

Photo by M. Prather


By Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence

August’s installment of the Tejon Ranch Ecology Seminar Series will turn back the clock with an old-school cross-ranch tour. This does not refer to a horse and buggy as our mode of transport, but rather our route up and over the Ranch. We’ll ascend Tejon Canyon on the Central Valley side and descend either Gato Montes or Little Oak Canyon on the Antelope Valley side, seeing nearly all the dominant habitat types on the property. Plan for a full day with numerous stops, science-based discussions, and a scenic bring-your-own water and picnic lunch.

Please contact Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence at emayence@tejonconservancy.org for registration and trip information. Date: Saturday, August 18; fee to cover costs: $20.


By Administrative Coordinator Susan Chaney

Photos by Chuck Noble

The Conservancy wishes a fond farewell to one of its great supporters and volunteers, Chuck Noble.

He and his wife, Joyce, have said goodbye to their Lebec home of 11 years to move to Bardstown, Kentucky, near their daughter. The Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is nearby, so Chuck is likely to find himself once again volunteering, taking photographs, and sharing his experiences.

Almost a decade ago, Chuck heard about a hike on Tejon Ranch. A photographer by profession—he worked in the aerospace industry for 40 years—Chuck jumped at the chance to get out in nature with his camera equipment. When asked if he would be interested in becoming a docent, without hesitation, Chuck responded, “Yes!” He knew that with his knowledge of wildlife and his tracking skills, he just had to be part of this.

And was he ever!

Chuck guided hundreds of people across the 240,000 acres of conserved land at Tejon. His biggest job, he says, was to be observant and point things out to visitors. On one trip, he spied a small herd of pronghorn in a field. The pronghorn “looked like rocks out there,” he said. Once his camera and telephoto lens were mounted on a tripod, the nature seekers were in for a treat.

His favorite tours, though, were those with children and teenagers, perhaps because the Nobles also have a son and three grandkids. Top in his memory is when some L.A. kids were on the Ranch to look at flowers, but found the tiny wildlife, such as ants and beetles, more interesting. Chuck saw a golden eagle circling above. It dove, picked up a feral piglet, dropped it on a road, and then retrieved it to dine in a tree—the cycle of life in nature. “The kids were fascinated. I just love doing things like that with kids.”

Chuck also restored old flora photographs for the Conservancy (when he lived in the San Fernando Valley, he had a side business doing commercial photography and restoration), contributed hundreds of Ranch photos to the Conservancy’s collection, helped cap pipes so that wildlife wouldn’t get trapped in them, and accompanied the public access manager on hike scouting trips.

“It was always fun to see Chuck in the Conservancy office after a day in the field, as he always had some great stories and even better pictures,” said Conservancy President and CEO Bob Reid. “He’s been such a loyal volunteer and dedicated conservationist, and is so knowledgeable about the Ranch and the local area.”

The adventurous photographer will no doubt find new horizons to shoot, but says he will miss “just being out there, enjoying the beauty of it, watching the wildlife, feeling the solitude.”

We’ll miss you at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, Chuck. Read about Chuck in his own words here.


The verdant green spires of milkweeds are a notable exception to the season’s broad rolling contours of dormant golden grasslands. One of the few species flowering in the summer heat, they are a powerhouse of faunal activity. Invertebrate species feed from their dense clusters of blossoms, many evolving to rely specifically on milkweed.

Tarantula wasps (Pepsis sp.) left, and an unknown thread-waisted wasp (suspected Podalonia sp.) right, feed on narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)

Milkweeds are named for their potent white sap, easily observed when a leaf or stem is broken. The chemical structure of the sap is highly toxic to most living things. Many invertebrates have adapted to resist the effects of these toxins and sequester the chemical compounds for their personal defense. They advertise this toxicity through bright colors, warning would-be predators.

Below are a few examples of species that have developed resistance to milkweed sap and use it to defend themselves.

Large milkweed bug nymphs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) feed on narrow leaf milkweed.

Milkweed aphids (Aphis nerii) on desert milkweed (Asclepias erosa). The aphids are female and reproduce by giving birth to live clones.

This milkweed longhorn beetle (suspected Tetraopes basalis) is feeding on desert milkweed. To avoid being inundated by sticky sap, it severs the leaf vein, then forages on the vegetation after the sap flow slows.

A desert milkweed blossom.

About 15 native milkweed species live in California. Four can be found on the Ranch. They are generally distinguished by their erect stature, opposite or sometimes whorled leaves, and unique, highly specialized flower structure.

California milkweed (Asclepias californica).

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) rely on milkweeds to reproduce. They lay their eggs on the leaves and the larvae eat the toxic plant material, which then protects the butterflies on their long journey. Many efforts have educated the public on the importance of milkweeds, encouraging native milkweed species planting.

Next time you find yourself near a patch of these magic plants, take a moment to observe the extraordinary diversity of life.

Here are some ways to learn more and help:

• An informative guide to select California milkweeds;

Monarch Joint Venture, a coalition focused on monarch conservation; and

The Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving invertebrates and their habitat.

Photo by Scot Pipkin


By Education Program Coordinator Paula Harvey

As you prepare for your upcoming school year, please include the Conservancy in your plans. Now is the time to consider bringing your students out for an exciting outdoor experience with a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activities. If you have a project in mind, we can help facilitate it. If you have no experience planning field trips, we can provide instructors and activities, or we can work together to develop a customized program.

Left photo: CSUB summer interns Jazmine Mejia Muñoz, far left, and Hannah Savage, and Kern High School faculty Araceli Ramirez and Jose Valadez pose for a picture after a full-day cross-ranch tour. Right photo: College of the Canyons administrators Jerry Buckley, Harriet Happel, and Patty Robinson study a map of the Ranch at White Fir Day Use Area during their 3-hour tour.

You can bring your students for a one-time visit or multiple times throughout the school year to study ecosystems through the seasons. Bring an entire class or small groups. We can assist with data collection for science projects and provide guidance to students as they plan their research. If you can imagine it, we can make it happen! We are here to help you inspire and amaze your students.

Contact pharvey@tejonconservancy.org to discuss options for enhancing your educational program.

Photo by M. Prather


By Conservation Communications Manager and Wildlife Biologist Ben Teton

Louis Agassiz Fuertes was an American ornithologist and illustrator. He is widely considered one of the forefathers of modern scientific illustration. Born in 1874, Fuertes followed in the illustrious footsteps of John James Audubon by combining his love of the natural world with his unique artistic gifts and a rigorous attention to detail.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes, 1874-1927

At 17, he was the youngest member ever inducted into the American Ornithologists’ Union. He went on to set a new standard for scientific illustration, whose principles are still used today.

Specializing in birds, Fuertes developed a unique approach to capturing the essence of wild species through patient observations of individuals interacting with their natural environment. His commitment to wildlife conservation and research was reflected in his dedication to creating realistic renderings of far-ranging and seldom-seen species. Fuertes’ work reminds us of the historical synchrony between the natural sciences and the creative arts, as each pursuit may inspire the other to explore beyond what was previously thought possible.

L.A. Fuertes and a young baboon in 1927

Fuertes died 91 years ago this month. In honor of his contributions to wildlife conservation, we have paired his artistic renderings with their living counterparts on Tejon. The following video showcases his ability to capture the true character of his many wild muses.

It is with great pride that we continue this tradition of blending art and science as we begin our first Artist in Residence program on Tejon Ranch next month. To learn more about this project and the artists involved, contact Public Access Manager Chris Fabbro at cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org

Photo by Scot Pipkin

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

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