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Tejon Ranch conservancy enews January 2018

On the Ranch

By Conservancy President & CEO Bob Reid

While it’s important to look back at accomplishments, and we had our share in 2017, it’s equally important to look forward. So in this issue we’d like to tell you about the Tejon Ranch Conservancy’s 2018 Annual Plan. Each year our staff prepares the plan, then we review it together and use it as a guide in building the budget in the fall before the December board meeting. The Annual Plan is important for several reasons. Foremost it’s a tangible reflection of how we expect to deliver on the Conservancy mission of Science, Stewardship, and Access/Education. Equally important, it’s a reality check on our aspirations. As stewards of 240,000 acres, you can imagine there’s plenty we’d like to do. The reality is we can only do so much with limited resources and a small cadre of dedicated staff and volunteers.

We’re pleased to share this condensed version of the 2018 Annual Plan, and will be focusing on programs and activities in the plan in future eNews editions. We hope you’ll enjoy learning more about the Conservancy with this blueprint for conservation on one of the most biologically significant landscapes in California, if not the West.

Citizen scientist Chris Gardner shares his knowledge and beautiful photos of the once-native Pronghorn, relocated back to the Antelope Valley on Tejon several decades ago. Those visiting us often describe the rare sighting of this nimble creature as the highlight of their day. Paula Harvey shares her thoughts on building the Conservancy education program, and how we are working to forge partnerships with schools in the local communities, as well as Bakersfield and beyond.

Did you see the Geminid meteor shower in December? Guests of the Conservancy and Hungry Valley State Park were treated to an amazing dark sky night show. This is an example of the types of new fun and educational experiences coming from Public Access Manager Chris Fabbro, who shares plans of Tejon outings for the next few months. Chris is also recruiting volunteers for Wildflower Viewing, a great opportunity to help guests enjoy the springtime bloom.

We say goodbye to retiring and founding board member Gary Hunt. Gary was at the table before there even was a Conservancy. Representing the Tejon Ranch Company on our board, Gary has helped shape who we are today and he will be missed (Gary was replaced by TRC Vice President Hugh McMahon profiled in our December issue). Also profiled is Peter Weiner, a prominent land-use and renewables attorney, who joins the Conservancy Board as an independent member and whom we look forward to working with this year.

As always, Wildlife Biologist Ben Teton gives us a glimpse into the often-unseen natural behavior of Tejon wildlife. Ben’s extraordinary wildlife camera grid has gained much attention lately, and we hope you enjoy his videos as much as we do.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the challenges the recent Thomas Fire posed to many friends and family at the Conservancy and throughout Southern California, including loss of life and homes, evacuations, and wildlife rescue. While we recognize fire as a natural part of our ecology, we live in an environment that makes for a tenuous relationship between the man-made and natural environments. Losses suffered are nonetheless very real, and we sympathize with the many victims of the fire.

As always…we look forward to seeing you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

President and CEO

P.S.

We had a wonderful Christmas gift in the way of a $30,000 matching gift challenge from a dear friend of the Conservancy for vehicles. We’re rallying to meet the challenge and making great progress, but there’s still more to go. Helping meet the challenge could be a great way to kick off 2018! Here's how!

Photo by James Burrow

Conservancy Science Programming – what to expect in 2018

By Conservancy Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence

The Conservancy’s Science Program is multifaceted and aims to deliver on many fronts including evolutionary ecology, wildlife ecology and management, rare plant conservation, habitat enhancement, geological sciences, and straight-up scientific discovery. Included are internal or in-house research projects, projects carried out by external researchers associated with one of many partnering higher education institutions, and those managed by citizen scientists such as the Conservancy’s team of dedicated docent naturalists. As would be expected, the Science Program is highly integrated with the Conservancy’s other program areas, Stewardship and Public Access/Education. Integrated programming builds the internal capacity required to achieve desired land management and conservation outcomes, and ensures the Conservancy delivers on its basic mission – to protect, enhance, and restore the biodiversity of Tejon Ranch for California’s future generations. So, what should Tejon Ranch Conservancy supporters expect from the Science Program in 2018?

First is the implementation of seasonal cattle grazing or grazing management in designated areas to improve riparian habitat condition. Habitat enhancement benefits both non-game and game animal species, native plant conservation, water quality, and stream bank stabilization. Implementation is occurring in close coordination with Conservancy Stewardship Manager Laura Pavliscak. Second is the continued support (facilitation) of external researchers who provide insight for Conservancy conservation and land management activities, in addition to benefiting the greater, at-large scientific community. For example, Evan Meyer of the UCLA Mildrid E. Mathias Botanic Garden will be commencing a three-year research project assessing the population dynamics and ecology of the California jewel flower, Caulanthus californicus, one of nearly 60 plant species on Tejon Ranch with ”special status” listing by the California Native Plant Society. Ongoing research projects of note include assessing differences in carbon sequestration capacity of grasslands and shrublands (UC Berkeley), ecosystem structure and function under different climatic conditions (UC Santa Barbara), and physical attributes of paleo river systems in the Tehachapi Region (CSU Bakersfield). Third, and as an avenue to incorporate more scientific content into the Public Access Program, the Conservancy is launching the Tejon Ranch Ecology Seminar Series (TRESS), a field-based seminar series that aims to expose (and educate) visitors of all backgrounds to the discipline of ecology using Tejon Ranch as the classroom.

Looking ahead, 2018 is shaping up to be a year filled with scientific content on many Conservancy fronts. Contact the Conservancy to learn about upcoming opportunities and how you can get involved.

Tejon Ranch Ecology Seminar Series (TRESS) – a monthly, field-based seminar delivering in-depth scientific content across a range of topics relevant to Tejon – all while on an exciting ranch tour!

The upcoming Tejon Ranch Ecology Seminar Series (TRESS) is being coordinated by the Conservancy’s Senior Ecologist, Ellery Mayence, designed for individuals interested in getting out on the Ranch and increasing their working knowledge of the natural sciences, notably ecology. The first seminar in the series will focus on landscape-scale processes such as abiotic factors (e.g., weather, climate, elevation, and soil type) influencing the distribution of species (plants and animals) through time and space. Biotic factors such as competitive interactions among species will also be discussed. As with most tours, distinctly different habitat types will be visited – with opportunities for botanizing and bird watching among other activities. Group size will be limited to 15 participants to provide an intimate setting conducive to learning. Future seminars will cover other ecological disciplines including but not limited to wetland ecology, plant ecology, desert ecology, seed ecology, grassland ecology, oak woodland ecology, riparian ecology, and wildlife ecology. The anticipated date for the inaugural TRESS outing is Saturday, January 20, 2018. Please contact Ellery at emayence@tejonconservancy.org for more information. Science background is not required. Duration: 8 hours. Fee: $20.

Appreciation for Retiring Board Member Gary Hunt

Gary Hunt

The Tejon Ranch Conservancy and the historic Ranch Wide Agreement might not exist had it not been for the skillful negotiation, persuasiveness, good humor, and experience of many of our Conservancy board members over the last decade, including, in particular, Gary Hunt. As a founding board member appointed by the Tejon Ranch Company, Gary helped to guide the Conservancy’s creation and forge many of the programs and collaborative ideals that underlie its operations today. As Chair of the Nominations and Governance Committee and a member of the Executive Committee, Gary greatly influenced the policies and practices developed between the Conservancy and the Tejon Ranch Company (TRC).

“It is scarcely possible to overstate the important leadership role that Gary has played for the Conservancy, both in its creation and during his tenure on the board,” said Joel Reynolds, Conservancy Board Chair. “His many years of experience on a wide range of boards – both for-profit and non-profit – provided an invaluable source of expertise in our organizational governance, and it is no exaggeration to say that he will be sorely missed on the board. That said, he has assured us he will continue to advise the Company on important Conservancy matters, and for that we are grateful. Over the years of working together he has become a good friend and a valued colleague, and we wish him well, with sincere gratitude for his unique contribution to the conservation of Tejon Ranch.”

Gary Hunt recently retired from the Conservancy Board as a TRC representative, but he will remain active as a principal of California Strategies, a Sacramento-based consulting partnership that has earned a reputation for involvement in a range of significant public policy matters in California.

“Gary has exemplified the high standards of experience and commitment of our longtime Conservancy board members. Without his engagement, and without the engagement of our board as a whole, it would be substantially more difficult, if not impossible, to navigate the many day-to-day issues that arise in the course of realizing the Conservancy’s working lands conservation mission,” said Bob Reid, President and CEO. Thank you, Gary Hunt!

How the Pronghorn Came Back to Tejon

Photos and Story by California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent Chris Gardner

Pronghorn, Antilocapra americana, were once abundant in the grasslands and scrub-steppes of California. They evolved to outrun the American cheetah, an extinct predator, and are the fastest land mammal on the North American continent. Pronghorn can reach a top speed of nearly 60 mph. Their speed, combined with their extremely sharp eye sight, allow them to detect and outrun most modern predators.

The arrival of settlers in the Antelope Valley in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s resulted in the fencing of the pronghorn’s historical open ranges. Pronghorn, unlike deer, are incapable of jumping fences, which severely limits their speed advantage needed for escaping predators. The combination of the conversion of their native grasslands to cultivated crops and overhunting resulted in the disappearance of the pronghorn in the Antelope Valley in the early 1900’s.

In 1985, the California Department of Fish and Game, as it was then known, translocated 17 males and 37 females from Modoc County to the Tejon Ranch. In 1987, an additional 3 males and 37 females were translocated. At the present time, the herd on the Ranch consists of 27 to 28 individuals.

During the years 1987, 1988 and 1990, Fish and Game also translocated just over 200 Pronghorn to the Carrizo Plain. The Carrizo Plain population first increased, began to fluctuate, and then declined. By 2012, the Carrizo Plain population was estimated to be fewer than 30 individuals.

Four primary factors have been found to contribute to the decreasing population of pronghorn in general: predation, starvation, exposure, and disease. For the pronghorn on the Ranch and the Carrizo Plain, only predation has been found to be significant. Predators include coyotes and golden eagles. Studies show that survival rates of juveniles is far lower than survival rates of adults.

It has been noted that on the Ranch, cattle grazing may reduce fawning cover, which is necessary to hide the fawns. However, grazing may be of benefit in that it can result in increased amounts of forbes and shrubs that are preferred by pronghorn. Further, cattle grazing may reduce vegetative cover, resulting in better long-range sighting and avoidance of predators.

The survivability of fawns appears to be critical in the long-term success of the herd. Studies on the Carrizo Plain have found that more fawns are born each year than on the Ranch. However, the survivability of the fawns is much poorer on the Carrizo Plain than on the Ranch. As such, it appears to this observer that the pronghorn on the Ranch receive a direct benefit from the ranching activities.

A special thank you to the Citizen Science Pronghorn Team for their continuous monitoring efforts. If you’d like to become a Tejon Ranch Conservancy volunteer please contact Chris Fabbro at (661) 699-2085 or by email at cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org.

Education Update

By Education Program Coordinator Paula Harvey

Our faculty field trips for high school science and art teachers are scheduled for January. Field trip sites have been identified on both the San Joaquin and Antelope Valley sides of the Ranch, offering convenient access to high school groups from Bakersfield, Santa Clarita Valley, and Lancaster-Palmdale. Teachers will explore the field trip sites and experience a few of the many activities available to their students. All activities are STEAM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). We will discuss ways the Conservancy can support teachers’ specific science and art programs. These exciting field trips offer opportunities for teachers to network and collaborate, and are a valuable professional development opportunity.

There are still available slots in January. If you are a high school teacher and are interested in participating in a faculty field trip, contact me at pharvey@tejonconservancy.org

Activity: Nature Journaling

The first and probably most important outdoor activity students should learn is nature journaling. Nature journaling allows us to slow down, discover, and study what’s around us.

Begin each entry with basic data: location, date, day, time, weather, including temperature, wind speed, percentage of cloud cover. It isn’t necessary for these data to be exact; approximations are fine.

Write a few thoughts about your purpose or your impressions of the area you’re about to study. Make a sketch of something that interests you, the landscape or a plant, for example. Add notes, diagrams, and enlargement drawings. Don’t worry about making something pretty. Focus on observing, on truly seeing what you’re looking at.

Before leaving the area you’ve been studying, take some time to write a reflection of your time there. Include thoughts and feelings about the experience; write a list of questions you’d like to investigate further. Include a simple poem or descriptive narrative.

Students are excited about their discoveries when they are given the opportunity to slow down and truly examine what they are looking at, and nothing allows students to learn more about what they’re studying than drawing it!

There are many ways to create a nature journal. Customizing your journal makes it personalized and interesting. Consider bringing colored pencils and a small hand lens along with the notebook. Some other useful supplies are clear tape or a glue stick, and small envelopes to collect samples.

For more information about starting a nature journal, see “How to Get Started with Nature Journaling” by John Muir Laws.

Photo by Chuck Noble

Look, up In The Sky...

By Public Access/Education Manager Chris Fabbro

Photo by Conservancy Docent Reema Hammad

The Conservancy and Hungry Valley State Park co-hosted a stargazing event in mid-December to coincide with the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. Mother Nature did not disappoint the more than 30 revelers who bundled up for the show, taking breaks for snacks and cocoa in the adjacent training center at Hungry Valley, where crafts and educational activities were provided by the park. Check out the attached photo of the night sky around Orion, taken by volunteer Reema Hammad. We look forward to hosting more activities in 2018 with our State Parks partners, including a summer campout during the Perseids meteor showers, which will coincide nicely with the August new moon.

We have a number of Public Access activities scheduled in 2018, including California Naturalist training (June 9-17), spring wildflower tours including volunteer training TBA in the next newsletter, a variety of weekly events such as hikes, cross-ranch safaris, Bear Trap tours, specialist outings, member events, public activities/speakers, and in conjunction with American Hiking Society, a Volunteer Vacation in mid-April to help build a Conservancy campground at 4,000 feet above Pescado Creek (more on that once AHS opens registration on its site in January). We will also be hosting Conservation Corps crews again this summer, tackling maintenance at the campground and stewardship projects.

If you have a group of 8 to 15 that would like a specialized tour (based on availability), please contact cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org for additional information.

Photo by Ian Shive

Calling all Wildflower Volunteers!

Wildflowers are coming to the Tejon Ranch in the spring, and we need volunteer wildflower docents. Over several weekends, the Conservancy offers guided tours to the public along the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains from the Antelope Valley to the San Joaquin Valley.

The wildflowers of Tejon are some of the most spectacular displays in California. Conservancy volunteers assist guests as they view these amazing blooms and hike through fields of unbelievable color, offering interpretive assistance. Docents also have an opportunity to get behind the gates of one of Southern California’s most iconic landscapes.

Training dates will be announced this month. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit https://www.volgistics.com/ex/portal.dll/ap?ap=1658046147 or contact Chris at cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org.

Welcome Peter Weiner

Peter Weiner, newly elected Conservancy Board Member

Peter grew up in Los Angeles (Fairfax High) and from an early age was a hiker and bicyclist. He started backpacking seriously at 14 and still does so with his grandchildren. Peter attended Harvard College and Yale Law School, clerked for the California Supreme Court, and then worked for California Rural Legal Assistance, the State of California (Special Assistant to Governor Brown for Toxic Substances Control), and has worked for the last 20 years at the law firm of Paul Hastings. In those 20 years, he has also been active on non-profit boards such as the Coalition for Clean Air and the California State Parks Foundation. In his law practice, Peter represents a variety of businesses, municipalities, and community groups, focusing on renewable energy and brownfields development.

Peter lives in Berkeley with his fiancée, Sylvia Quast, and has three children and five grandchildren, all of whom also live in Berkeley. Peter says that he is eager to serve on the Conservancy Board of Directors. “I see the Tejon Ranch Conservancy and its mission as being at the top of conservation opportunities and projects in California,” he said, “with 240,000 acres of unimaginable variety and beauty.”

Conservancy Board Chair Joel Reynold exclaimed, “We are very excited that Peter Weiner has joined the Conservancy’s board. He brings a rare combination of legal and conservation experience that will serve the Conservancy well in the coming years. With all of us associated with Tejon Ranch, Peter shares a recognition that the property embodies a once-in-a-lifetime conservation opportunity and that the Conservancy is at the very heart of making that opportunity a reality. We look forward to working with Peter as a leader in this rare conservation experiment.”

Photo by Conservancy Operations Manager Jennifer Brummett

Wildlife Monitoring at Chanac Creek

By Conservancy Wildlife Biologist Ben Teton

As we look forward to 2018, we are excited by the prospect of expanding our research and stewardship activities to the San Joaquin Valley floor around Chanac Creek. We will utilize modern adaptive management and progressive grazing techniques to enhance the native ecology throughout a series of delicate riparian habitats that have been severely degraded from cattle and invasive wild pig disturbance for decades.

As our conservation actions are implemented across these riparian systems, we will be monitoring the changes in wildlife abundance and activity through an expansion of our camera trap array. This will be our first comprehensive wildlife monitoring effort in this section of Tejon and we are eager to learn more about the distribution of wildlife in these lower elevation habitats.

The following videos were captured from the first of 15 wildlife camera trap stations that will be monitoring wildlife in these areas over the next few years. Already it is interesting to see the variation in species abundance, demography, and behavior along these lower elevation riparian corridors when contrasted against our higher elevation sites set deep into the Ranch interior. Who knows what we might discover in the year to come!

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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 an article to E-News please let us know.

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