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).
LAURA PAVLISCAK AND THE LONG GAME
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.”
HAPPY TRAILS, CHUCK!
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.
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.