Tejon RancH Conservancy eNews September 2017

On the Ranch

Conservation is a long-term game. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it temporary or easy. Conservation takes commitment; what we do today will last long into the future. Conservation is also about partnerships. Here at Tejon, we thrive because of partnerships, and in this issue we’ll share some of these stories.

Foremost is the partnership with the landowner, the Tejon Ranch Company (TRC) and the environmental organizations that created the Conservancy. Other partners include the Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, UC Santa Barbara, and so many others who help contribute to our understanding of Tejon.

We’re also partnering with local Conservation Corps to help with invasive plants and the future Conservancy Camp. The CSUB EPIC program provides internships on the Ranch designed to inspire students toward conservation careers. On a national scale, our partnership with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (APHIS) is providing valuable data about the growing problem of feral pigs and the threat they pose to native ecologies as well as agriculture, which will be used for years to come. Lastly, learn more about feral pigs with Ben’s videos, always an eNews favorite.

I can go on and on about these partnerships, of which there are dozens more!

But let’s turn our attention to the natural world which also relies heavily on partnerships. In this issue we’ll learn more about symbiotic relationships, those very specific inter-dependencies which thrive on the Ranch.

Of course, the most important partnerships of all are with volunteers and supporters, please join! The Conservancy could not succeed without you.

See you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

President and CEO

Tejon Ranch Conservancy or Tejon Ranch Company… who’s who?

By Conservancy President & CEO Bob Reid

The Conservancy and the Ranch are so often confused, whether it’s camera crews coming to Conservancy offices or folks asking us about new stores coming to the outlets. Here are some basic facts about us:

Filming, the Outlets at Tejon and agriculture are just some of the Tejon Ranch Company businesses.

The Tejon Ranch Company, or TRC, is the publically traded corporation that owns the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch, and has since 1936. On the real estate side, TRC is developing and operating the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center, where you’ll find the Outlets at Tejon, major distribution centers and two of the busiest travel plazas in the state, if not the nation! TRC is also planning the Grapevine, Mountain Village and Centennial real estate developments on approximately 30,000 non-conserved acres along I-5. TRC also manages hunting, cattle ranching, agriculture, oil and mineral extraction, filming, the equestrian center, and water resources on the Ranch, as allowed under the 2008 Ranch Wide Agreement (RWA).

The Tejon Ranch Conservancy, is a 501c3 non-profit organization created to oversee the 240,000 acres of conserved land covered by the 2008 agreement. The Conservancy works closely with TRC in implementing 474 Best Management Practices of the 2013 Ranch Wide Management Plan (RWMP) and is focused on Science, Stewardship and Access/Education. The Conservancy has a 12-member board consisting of four TRC members, four Resource Group members and four Independent members. The Conservancy board focuses on strategy, core programs, funding, and of course, carrying forward the principles of the Ranch Wide Agreement.

The “Resource Groups” are the environmental organizations (NRDC, Audubon, Sierra Club, Planning and Conservation League, and Endangered Habitats League) that negotiated the landmark 2008 conservation agreement with TRC that protected 90% of Tejon Ranch and created the Conservancy, as an independent organization.

Conservancy offices are located at the Lebec exit on Bear Trap Road, and TRC offices are located a few miles north at the Fort Tejon exit. Both organizations’ staff are often in the field more than in the office.

TRC and the Conservancy work closely together on a daily basis to preserve and protect this cherished piece of California. For example, the Conservancy works with the landowner, TRC, for access to the property, assuring safety, sustainability, and respect for the land are enforced, and TRC works with the Conservancy to develop infrastructure that allows for research, managed seasonal grazing, and education.

Did you know that you can buy TRC stock on the NYSE? And you can also invest in the future of Tejon, by becoming a Conservancy member!

For more information about the Tejon Ranch Company and the Conservancy, go to the TRC website at www.tejonranch.com and the Conservancy website at www.tejonconservancy.org. There’s a lot to learn about both organizations, and about the majestic Tejon Ranch.

A Bounty of Interns!

By Conservancy Stewardship Manager Laura Pavliscak

In 2015, with the help of generous philanthropists Gayle and the late Ben Batey, a partnership was formed between California State University Bakersfield (CSUB) and our Conservancy. The EPIC program (Environmental Educational Partnerships Impacting Colleges & Careers) was created with a vision to share the extraordinary living laboratory of Tejon Ranch with the University through a series of Conservancy-led lectures, tours, and a summer internship program. Now in year two, we have hosted a handful of summer interns working on everything from native shrubland restoration to piecing together aspects of geologic history of the property. Students have the opportunity to further independent research, learn more about the extraordinary landscape of Tejon, and get exposed to the diverse career paths that stream through the Conservancy--from the research, management, and interpretive work we conduct, to visiting researchers and public interest groups. This summer we hosted two highly motivated, enthusiastic, and extremely productive undergraduate students that contributed to both our understanding of the Ranch and our organizational operations.

Natalia Rangel

Natalia Rangel is starting her senior year studying biology, and has been working with Dr. Antje Lauer investigating molecular methods to detect the fungal pathogens in valley fever (Coccidioides immitis). The skills she has honed working in a lab extracting and processing genetic material were invaluable to us at the Conservancy, as she handily entered, labeled and organized our backlog of data, wildlife videos, and photologs—saving staff many dozens of hours of work. Enthusiastic and curious, Natalia accompanied staff on public tours, weed management events, biological monitoring efforts, citizen science projects, and all manner of independent ranch chores. She dramatically contributed to our efficiency and productivity this summer, and was a pleasure to work with.

Ethan Sarti

Ethan Sarti is a geology student in his senior year working with Dr. David Miller. Partnering with the US Department of Education MSEIP (Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program), Ethan and Dr. Miller continued their ongoing regional project “Paleodrainage, Basin Boundary, and Landscape Evolution.” They are investigating the presence and origin of ancient rivers that traverse the region, including Tejon Ranch, as evidenced by sinuous bands of exposed river cobble that weave through now arid mountain slopes. Mapping these systems and analyzing the rocks they contain are helping them to understand how the landscape looked and how it was connected many tens of millions of years ago. Fascinating stuff! In addition to spending weeks sampling on the Ranch and analyzing materials in the lab, Ethan contributed his positive energetic efforts helping us with organizational chores like sorting through materials and entering data.

For a small organization like ours, hosting willing and intelligent interns is a huge benefit, providing skilled labor to important but time-consuming tasks, consistent participation on projects that require an investment of training and regular attention, and fresh and thoughtful perspectives from soon-to-be professionals. We significantly increased our efficiency this summer with the help of Natalia and Ethan and hopefully we shared with them a compelling understanding of the extraordinary landscape of Tejon Ranch and what it means to try to learn from, steward, and share its riches. We are hugely grateful to them both, and to the generosity and vision of Gayle and her late husband Ben Batey who made it possible. Cheers!

Participants of the Jepson Herbarium Workshop on Tejon Ranch.

Research Update: Spotlight on Jepson Herbarium Workshops

By C. Ellery Mayence, Conservancy Senior Ecologist and Science Program Manager

In this and future newsletters we’ll deviate from past editions and highlight specific research or a research-related activity every other month. Each year for the past several years, the Conservancy has hosted one of the Jepson Herbarium’s monthly public workshops. This year’s workshop, led by botanists Neal Kramer (Kramer Scientific), Nick Jensen (Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden), and Maynard Moe (CSU Bakersfield), was entitled “Tejon Ranch in August: late-season treasures of the Tehachapi’s.” These workshops tend to be 2-3 day events, during which participants (and organizers) cover as much ground as possible, searching for botanically interesting taxa or habitat types among other discussion points.

So what is the Jepson Herbarium and who attends these workshops? The Jepson Herbarium, along with the UC Berkeley Herbarium, are two collections of pressed plants housed together on the UC Berkeley campus. Accompanying the collections are various facilities including research laboratories, libraries, and archives. The UC Berkeley Herbarium was established in 1895 and houses botanical collections from around world, whereas the Jepson Herbarium was founded in 1950 and specializes in vascular plants of California. Collectively these two herbaria hold over 2 million specimens, representing one of the largest collections in North America and the largest collection of herbarium material west of the Missouri Botanic Garden.

Jepson workshops appeal to and are attended by a wide range of participants including botanical researchers, botanical consultants looking to bolster their plant identification knowledge, wildflower enthusiasts, and lay people looking to gain a better understanding of all things botanical. The 2017 Jepson Workshop on Tejon that occurred in August focused on taxa such as buckwheat (genus Eriogonum) that tend to be both late summer blooming species and species that retain their flowers for some time, making them easy to observe for extended periods. Overall, Jepson workshops cover many topics and target numerous themes and localities throughout California.

The 2018 Tejon Ranch Jepson Workshop is tentatively scheduled for April and will focus on the spring bloom and rare plants of the Tejon Hills. For more information about the two herbaria, news and events, and the role of herbaria in cataloging botanical resources, visit the herbaria’s website www.ucjeps.berkeley.edu. For more information about the Conservancy and Conservancy-led activities, stay plugged in to our newsletter or visit our website www.tejonconservancy.org.

The California Naturalist Series

By Paula Harvey, California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent


Mutualism: In biology, mutualism is symbiosis that is beneficial to both organisms involved. A perfect example of this is the Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, and the Yucca Moth, Tegeticula yuccasella. One simply cannot exist without the other.

Joshua trees are native to the southwestern United States. They have deep and extensive root systems, as much as 11 meters (36 feet). In the first ten years, their rate of growth is about 7.7 cm (3 inches) per year, then about 3.8 cm (1.5 in) per year thereafter. The lifespan is hundreds of years and there are some plants that are one thousand years old. The tallest trees reach about 15 meters (50 feet). New plants grow from seed or from underground rhizomes that spread around the parent tree.

Joshua trees in the Antelope Valley.

These trees flower from February to April and the fruit are green-brown, elliptical, and contain flat seeds. Joshua trees branch at the bloom site, but they do not bloom every year. Blooming depends on rainfall at the proper time. They also need a winter freeze.

Once the Joshua trees bloom, the flowers are pollinated by yucca moths, Tegeticula yuccasella, also called pronuba moths. They are small white or gray moths, with a body length and wingspan of 18–27 mm, about one inch. The moths are most active at night when the blooms are fully open. The female has specialized mouth organs that enable her to collect highly adhesive pollen from the flowers’ stamens and hold it in a little ball. She lays her eggs in the ovaries of the flowers and applies a fragment of the ball of pollen to the tip of each pistil, thus ensuring pollination of the flowers and the growth of the ovules in the pod.

Pronuba Moth

The larvae hatch within several days, now surrounded and protected by the developing fruit. The larvae feed on the seeds, but enough seeds go uneaten to ensure new plants. Interestingly, the tree is able to actively abort ovaries if too many eggs have been laid.

A Scott’s oriole eats the larvae of the pronuba moth as it clings to the seedpods of the Joshua tree. (Photo by Chris Gardner)

When conditions are right, the larvae will emerge from the fruit and drop to the ground and burrow down from one to three inches, where they will pupate. They will remain underground from several weeks to several years, at which time they will emerge to begin the cycle over.

Interesting facts:

• Joshua Trees are vulnerable to climate change. There are dire predictions that they will perish within 60-90 years.

• The Joshua tree cannot migrate to more favorable climates because of the extinction of the giant Shasta ground sloth. They disappeared 13,000 years ago, and it is believed that they were responsible for the plants’ seed dispersal.

• Joshua tree communities are called woodlands, not forests.

• Female pronuba moths rarely lay eggs where other females have visited, which ensures there will be enough food for her offspring.

Working with Young Conservation Volunteers: A Win-Win

By Conservancy Public Access/Education Manager Chris Fabbro

The Conservancy was pleased to host two young adult service groups this summer: Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) in July and Careers in Conservation (CiC) in August. Each crew tackled various service projects, including the removal of invasive plants such as mustard at the high desert Conservancy Campground near Pescado Creek as well as invasives in Sacatara Canyon, and preparing basic sites in the campground, which will serve as a home base for ongoing Conservancy projects.

YCC is a program with the Southern California Consortium, offering public lands management career training and vocational opportunities for youth from underserved communities in the greater Los Angeles area. As part of their camping experience on the ranch, they also toured the High Country, taking hikes along Blue Ridge and the piñon forest above Antelope Canyon. Careers in Conservation, after a long afternoon of pulling weeds, was treated to a rare ranch thunderstorm at sunset in Pescado, followed the next day by scattered shower activity at Ray's Perch. They also spotted pronghorn on the way to Sacatara, a first for everyone on the crew, including the crew leaders, who gladly snapped multiple photos along the way.

Both crews expressed deep interest in coming back to the ranch for future service projects. The Conservancy looks forward to strengthening its relationships with youth service crews and collaborating on a multitude of skills-building projects.

Help the Conservancy host more underserved youth to experience Tejon and learn more about conservation.

Yes! I want to help!

Learn more about California ecology or share your knowledge by becoming a Conservancy Volunteer. Contact Chris Fabbro at (661) 248-2400, x105 or by email: cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org.

a Start to Addressing Wild Pig Problems in the West: A Collaboration

By Conservancy Wildlife Biologist Ben Teton

Over the last year we have featured a wide-variety of wildlife photos and videos captured by our camera traps, currently deployed across the Ranch. These wildlife highlights have proven to be quite popular and are an exciting, although secondary, product of a wildlife data collection protocol that the Conservancy has been developing since 2014. This camera trap array, which now consists of over 70 active units, plays a central role in a broader research initiative, investigating invasive wild pigs (Sus scrofa) and their impacts on the native ecology of Tejon.

The story of wild pigs on Tejon is all too familiar for land managers across the Tehachapis and beyond. As a popular game species, wild pigs have often been intentionally introduced to foreign landscapes, dramatically expanding their range throughout much of the world. In the early 1990s, a private landowner neighboring Tejon Ranch brought in wild pigs for hunting. The pigs subsequently escaped and began expanding into the neighboring wildlands. As pig populations continue to expand, so does the disturbance associated with their rooting, wallowing, and foraging across native ecosystems.

Invasive wild pig rooting under native California oaks.

Despite this heightened concern, effective population control methods remain a challenge nationally and here at Tejon. This lack of effective population control is due, in part, to an inability to effectively track wild pig population change through time, as reliable population estimates are necessary to test the efficacy of any proposed control strategy.

In recent years the Tejon Ranch Conservancy has emerged as the central hub for invasive wild pig research in the West, as we seek to fill these critical gaps in our understanding of how to effectively monitor and manage wild pigs across the dynamic landscapes of Tejon. This initiative includes long-term data collection on wild pig abundance, density and other population parameters, as well as their impacts to California’s native ecology and agricultural interests. The Conservancy has also developed non-invasive methods for more efficient monitoring of this increasingly problematic species, including the use of natural marks and pelage patterns for mark-resight population estimation. This work is being done in partnership with multiple academic institutions and government agencies, including the USDA APHIS’ National Feral Swine Management Program, within which Tejon Ranch represents the sole west-coast study site.

Wild pigs in panel trap (left). Data collection on an immobilized boar.

Data collected through this initiative are currently being analyzed for publication and will be presented at this year’s Wildlife Society Conference being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico later this month. Our work with wild pigs across Tejon Ranch represents one of the most substantial wildlife research initiatives ever put forth by the Conservancy and will help inform more effective wild pig management throughout the United States for years to come. If you are interested in learning more about wild pig research on Tejon, we invite you to watch this short documentary film.

For more information about invasive wild pig research on Tejon, please contact Conservancy wildlife biologist Ben Teton at bteton@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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