Conservancy Stewardship Programming
Story and Photos By Conservancy Stewardship Manager Laura Pavliscak
When we describe our three organizational programs to visitors, we often get questions about stewardship—what exactly is it? From our perspective, stewardship is where the rubber meets the road in conservation; where we take what we’ve learned scientifically and apply it to meaningful on-the-ground management that supports the complicated ways ecological systems function as well as the life forms they sustain.
Photo: Cattle grazing in Grapevine
This can entail things like removing invasive species to reduce both competitive exclusion of native species as well as their transformative ecological affects like increased fire and erosion. Changing the timing and intensity of livestock grazing, intentional planting of key species, and modifying infrastructure to favor species of concern are also simple ways to affect the way ecological systems function and to enhance their biological diversity.
Photo: Cattle outside Tunis exclosure
On Tejon, stewardship is doubly complicated because the property is both a large scale wild system as well as a working landscape. Cattle grazing, hunting, farming, mining, and future real estate developments are all interacting influences that affect how the natural systems work and who lives here. We have formed our programmatic work around these practices, relying on our in-house monitoring and research partnerships to inform adaptive management. To date, our stewardship program has focused less on active restoration of systems like planting shrubs, and more on passive work that takes advantage of existing management tools like controlled grazing.
Photo: Tamarisk beetle release in Tejon Canyon
Working with the cattle lessee and the property owner, we have developed infrastructure including miles of fencing and water resources to modify cattle grazing around sensitive resources like perennial creeks and wetlands. We have treated dozens of acres of invasive plant species like Saharan mustard, tamarisk, perennial pepperweed, and yellow star thistle, prioritizing weeds around rare plant populations and in areas with good chances of spreading. Our fabulous volunteers have walked miles of fencing, surveying for areas to modify passage for pronghorn and other wildlife along with identifying long sections of tangled barbed wire for removal. We have capped hundreds of open vertical pipes that pose a mortality threat to cavity-nesting birds.
Photo: Removing Arundo in Tejon Canyon
Monitoring both natural resources and land management practices is a huge part of what we do to better understand how these dynamic systems change over time and what we can do to enhance their conservation value. In addition to systematic vegetation and wildlife surveys, every year we devote much of the fall to a formal easement monitoring process across the property—one of our primary responsibilities as an accredited land trust. 2017 was our seventh year collecting photos and information on Tejon, which has offered us some unique perspectives in how resources and management practices change over time.
Photo: Tunis spring before fencing
It is also an important opportunity to work with the property owner, the Tejon Ranch Company (Company), to review the Best Management Practices (BMPs) and projects outlined in our Ranchwide Management Plan, a formal document agreed to in 2013 that provides a blueprint for the conservation management of the property. In it are 474 BMPs that the Company has committed to in protecting the natural resources on the Ranch. Check it out here.
Photo: Tunis spring after fencing
This year, we continue to expand our efforts in managing and monitoring Tejon’s phenomenal natural resources. Come out and join us! If you would like to get involved in any management or monitoring work, be in touch with the Conservancy and help us steward this extraordinary landscape.
Photo: Volunteers capping open pipes
by Paula Harvey, Education Program Coordinator
In January, we had two professional development events for teachers of Frazier Mountain High School. We took science and art teachers across the Antelope Valley, up to Ray’s Perch in the high country. Then we visited two sites selected for student groups, and discussed ways the Conservancy could support their science and art programs. One group had the good fortune of seeing a herd of 21 pronghorn grazing as we drove by.
We participated in judging the Ridgeview High School science fair. Two groups of students used Conservancy camera trap data for their projects. Students talked with us about ways to advance their research further with the support of the Conservancy. We’re excited to help them in the coming year.
Photo: Science/FFA teacher Lee Bizzini, right, and art teacher Tim Ellis at Martinez Ridge, admiring the vast Antelope Valley before them.
February’s faculty field trip is set for February 14th. We have invited high school science and art teachers to come visit the San Joaquin side of the Ranch and network with colleagues. A similar trip is scheduled for April 12th. If you are a high school teacher interested in joining us for one of these valuable and fun professional development trips, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Science teachers Lee Bizzini, center, and Brianna White, right, talk with Conservancy Docent and California Naturalist Reema Hammad about these mortar holes near Ray’s Perch
Photo: Science teacher Brianna White, left, and art teacher Tim Ellis, right, study the interior terrain with Docent Reema Hammad at Ray’s Perch.