Tejon Ranch Conservancy eNews December 2019

On the Ranch

By Operations Director Tim Bulone

What a year it has been!

The Conservancy started out 2019 by preparing a reaccreditation application for the Land Trust Alliance Commission. A small percentage of the land trusts in the U.S. are accredited by LTA, so the staff carefully gathered dozens of documents and answered many questions. It was a true team effort and we are now in the final stage of answering follow-up questions and providing more documents.

In April, John Muir Laws led a two-day science and nature journaling workshop for educators. The excitement of the participants came through in the emails we received afterward. Many were inspired and enlightened as to how they could use journaling to engage their students in any number of subjects.

Also in the spring, the Conservancy, with the inimitable help of docents and volunteers, brought scores of visitors to the Ranch to see what many called a super bloom. Just the right combination of natural factors came together to put on quite a show. Wildflower lovers boosted visitor-ship in 2019 to more than 1,200 (not counting December, of course).

The Education Program, TEJON TEACHES, took giant leaps forward in 2019 via a challenge grant from one of our staunchest and most generous supporters (along with donations from some 85 of you), an ongoing internship partnership with California State University Bakersfield, and the development of new collaborative relationships with CSU Bakersfield, College of the Canyons, and Kern County Unified School District.

The stewardship of conserved lands included a working vacation for members of the American Hiking Society, the Conservancy’s annual monitoring of and reporting on conservation easements, ongoing vegetation monitoring of riparian enhancement areas coinciding with strategic grazing management, and innumerable weeding efforts targeting the removal of invasive plant species.

Science moved ahead on conservation easements in 2019 too. We continued to facilitate Ranch access for academic research, which included herpetological, ornithological, etymological, and botanical surveys, along with several long-standing projects. The list of species native to the Ranch just keeps growing! This year’s research found a westward range extension for the Mojave green rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus), a moderate increase in the Ranch’s pronghorn antelope population, release of additional tamarisk beetles as a biocontrol for the invasive trees, soil coring to assay pollen residue to look at vegetation patterns from thousands of years ago, and increased biodiversity in plant species, among many others!

And, finally, in September, the staff undertook the big move from an office on Ranch property to one in Frazier Park. This, too, took a major effort, not just from staff, but from dedicated docents who packed boxes, then unpacked them and hung window shades, among other tasks.

Of course, we can’t mark the end of any year without saying that very little of this would be possible without you, our supporters. Whether you sent a note about how much you enjoyed a Ranch tour, donated to one of our core programs, renewed your membership, or joined our group of volunteers, we say, once again, “Thank you.”

As we head into the new year, this newsletter will become a quarterly publication but we'll still look forward to seeing you on the Ranch!

Photo by Mitchell Coleman


Things That Make You Go, ‘Wow!’

A view of Antelope Valley

Story and Photos by Shelley Ring Diamond

In December 2018, I was invited to join a private tour of Tejon Ranch. An artist-in-residence program was being developed and I was the ink-stained artist.

That day was a cascade of unforgettable experiences and sights that made me go “WOW!” Here they are:

Mitchell Coleman (front) and Docent Patrick Saatzer

Wow 1 We are driven through the Ranch grasslands by expert botanist Mitchell Coleman. He describes how four ecosystems smash into each other here: The southern spine of the Sierra, the westernmost expanse of the Mojave, and the Transverse Ranges coming from the Coast and the Great Central Valley. I am blown away by the grandeur and scope of the picture being painted here.

Along the Way

Wow 2  En route through the Pescado Creek area, burrowing owls pop up. We look for pronghorn, but find only hoofprints. The landscape shifts to a hilly mix of scrub and low trees, the domain of non-native wild pigs. Just then, we notice a slumped black figure, possibly snoozing, possibly dead, against a tree. Perhaps someone might poke it, I suggest, just to check. Before my fellow travelers absorb this idea and toss me out, this great, wild, massive creature comes alive and leaps 5 feet in the air with a graceful twirl, then races down the road!

Floor of the Antelope Valley

Wow 3 Up, up we go, past the McNamee inholding and onto a rocky, single track road to Antelope Peak in our Expedition. How is this vehicle even clinging to the road? A line of squirrels and bunnies flatten themselves against the embankment to avoid squishing. I’m hallucinating that part, but not the spectacular Antelope Valley views below. On the peak, the promised mash-up of ecosystems appears. We overlook the fog-shrouded San Joaquin Valley, swivel our heads to the Mojave, and look to the left as the Transverse Range forms a final geographic piece of this magnificent landscape. No flat map, no Google Earth 3-D can compete with our condor’s eye view. I’m so lucky to be here today.

Black Oak

Wow 4 A snow-dusted road climbs high into the Tehachapis to about 6,000 feet. We glimpse a wee bit of the Southern Sierra. Binoculars bring the looming monoliths beyond the Kern River into view. There’s a different feel to this location, some other spirit. Native peoples used the local rock formations for grinding. Acorns were gathered from the surrounding black oaks. Water collects in the ancient grindstone, and oak leaves overlay it like jigsaw puzzle pieces. But I am spellbound by one enormous black oak that overlooks these boulders. It has great power and I feel in tune with the people who once lived their lives on this land. I am utterly wowed by this unchanged, historical landscape, a proverbial stone’s throw from L.A.’s megalopolis.

Shelly Ring Diamond

We head off the mountain and stop by a beautiful cascade of Joshua trees. They wave and send us home.

Photo by Mitchell Coleman


And the Conservancy staff listens

Volunteers are essential to the operations of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. A core group that is pretty much up for anything makes themselves available whenever they are needed. The Conservancy is indebted to these volunteers.

But we were wondering why we weren’t seeing more of our volunteers, other than during wildflower season. So, we undertook a little survey last month to see what we could learn.

More than a dozen volunteers responded, telling us that they most like to:

• Assist on tours and hikes, especially wildflower tours;

• Participate in citizen science and stewardship activities;

• Volunteer on excursions to less-visited parts of the Ranch; and

• One volunteer would like to work in fire ecology and recovery.

They also shared what challenges they face in volunteering:

• A number of volunteers are only available on weekends;

• Many have other life and/or work commitments that limit their availability;

• Some simply live too far away to volunteer with any regularity; and

• The Conservancy doesn’t always communicate volunteer opportunities as well as it could.

Some responses were eye-opening for the Conservancy staff (like the interest in fire ecology, who knew?). And inspiring too. And also invigorating.

The staff will be addressing the issues over which we have control in preparation for a 2020 full of exciting volunteer opportunities and a few boring ones.

See you then!

Photo by Mitchell Coleman


Bear Trap Tour - December 6, 2019

Bear Trap Canyon in the western Tehachapi is the only watershed separating the immense Central Valley from the even larger Mojave Desert. It also connects the Sierra & Coast Ranges. Join us for a guided driving tour through this rare gem.

Tejon Canyon Hike - December 8, 2019

This moderately strenuous hike is 6 miles up and back through Tejon Canyon, which was the historic route used by early explorers to cross the Tehachapi Mountains. We will hike along a dirt road, adjacent to Tejon Creek, through a beautiful sycamore and willow riparian ecosystem, as well as oak woodlands and incense cedars.

Landscape Photography Workshop - December 15, 2019

Join us for a photography workshop in the unique natural landscapes of the Tejon Ranch. Sign-up and enjoy a day and share it in a small group of artistic guests. Open to all levels (anyone who is interested in learning about Landscape photography). *Camera is Required

End of Year Hike - December 29, 2019

This moderately strenuous hike is 6 miles up and back through Tejon Canyon, which was the historic route used by early explorers to cross the Tehachapi Mountains. We will hike along a dirt road, adjacent to Tejon Creek, through a beautiful sycamore and willow riparian ecosystem, as well as oak woodlands and incense cedars.

The Small Print

Please register early, seats are first come, first served. Events may be canceled and access may not be granted for any reason including, but not limited to, severe weather, hazardous conditions, not enough registrants for a specific event, actions that are incompatible with with the 2008 Conservation and Land Use Agreement, etc. Event registration is mandatory and no person may be substituted for another. Those not registered will not be allowed access to the property. Pets and smoking are not allowed on Tejon Ranch.

Photo by Mitchell Coleman

VIDEO: A Short Tail in Winter

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Thank you!

Tejon Ranch Conservancy E-News produced by co-editors Tim Bulone and Susan Chaney. If you'd like to contribute to E-News, please let us know.

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Tejon Ranch Conservancy