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Tejon Ranch conservancy enews July 2018

On the Ranch

By President & CEO Bob Reid

Tempus fugit…the seemingly increasing pace of the passage of time.

It’s been ten years since the signing of the landmark Ranch Wide Agreement (RWA), setting aside ninety percent of Tejon Ranch in permanent conservation and creating the Tejon Ranch Conservancy as steward of these magnificent 240,000 acres.

As with any innovative approach, we are learning as we go along. That’s not to say there wasn’t very intentional action on the part of our founders, as clearly there was. It is more to say that the Conservancy headed into somewhat unchartered waters, with significant responsibility and boundless aspiration. The day-to-day working relationship with the landowner, Tejon Ranch Company, was still somewhat undefined, and eventually better prescribed by the 2013 Ranch Wide Management Plan (RWMP) and its accompanying 474 Best Management Practices guiding these working lands toward conservation values. To this day, we continue to navigate our way through this unusual partnership of a nonprofit conservancy and private landowner.

The individual and organizational efforts made by dozens to create the Conservancy and its landowner partnership are too numerous to name, but their vision, aspiration, compromise, and eventual agreement created who we are today. Ten years later we take our hats off to them and recognize that most importantly, we’ve saved a huge ecologically unique and un-fragmented landscape of immeasurable value to science, to schools, and to conservation for future generations.

We recently came together at the historic Beale adobe, one of the first settlement structures built at Tejon Ranch by General Beale, to acknowledge ten years of the Conservancy at our annual Ranch Round Up. Past and present Board members, donors, members, and friends chatted over wine and enjoyed a pond-side dinner, followed by remarks and reminiscences of just a few of the many who were there at the negotiating table and who still hold great hope for the vision of conservation at the iconic Tejon Ranch.

Dozens more trekked across the Ranch the next day, some for the first time, to experience the natural wonder we waxed poetic about at dinner, and then enjoyed a surprise gourmet lunch at the high elevation White Fir Day Use Area, crafted by Ellery and Conservancy staff and volunteers, including Chris Gardener and his always interesting history of Tejon. See the fun photos below in this ENews.

Over the next few months, we’ll begin reflecting and sharing with you our thoughts about the next ten years of the Conservancy. We’re a complex organization with many moving parts overlaid on a natural environment that we learn more from every day.

More than anything, I think we’ve all realized the need to be adaptable, to manage expectations without compromising principles, and to never forget the look of wonder on people’s faces as they gaze out over these protected lands, and the fact that those people and many more look to us to continue to do the best we can, here at Tejon.

See you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

President and CEO

PS: You are an important part of this conservation approach and we need your help. If you’re not yet a member, please join today, and if you’re already a member, please consider increasing your support to keep the Conservancy strong and the vision alive for the next ten years! Thank you.

Ranch Round Up!

Meeting with old and new friends to celebrate ten years of conservation history at the historic Beale Adobe

Guests met at the one-time home of General Edward Fitzgerald Beale on the southern edge of Tejon Ranch. The adobe was constructed in the mid 1800s.

Families with historic links to the Tejon Ranch like the Cattani, Thomson and Hoss families reminisce about Tejon.

Past and present board members, donors, members and friends catch up with each other under the oaks at the adobe.

Conservancy Chair Joel Reynolds, left, and CEO Bob Reid, right, welcome Conservancy members Sharon Mettler, right and Wendy Hoss.

Conservancy Chair, Joel Reynolds, emceed the event.

Former Conservancy CEO Tom Maloney remembering the early days.

Conservancy Vice Chair Emmy Cattani describes the hard scrabble life of her female forebears, one of whom worked at the adobe for the Beale family.

Former Conservancy Science Director Mike White explains what makes Tejon Ranch biologically important.

Conservancy board member Mike Campeau, Vice President Operations, Tejon Ranch Company, relays a bit of the adobe's history as well as the relationship between the Ranch and the Conservancy.

Gayle Batey, lower center, is surrounded by interns and former interns of California State University, Bakersfield's EPIC program. Gayle is a huge supporter of the program that sees interns get practical, real world experience working for the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. Read more about these interns in this newsletter!

Place settings for a Ranch Round Up tour and picnic in the conifer forest of the Tejon Ranch.

Guests, including Conservancy member James Burrow, foreground, arrive at the White Fir Day Use Area above 6000 Foot Road for the picnic.

Bird watching was an added bonus for this group including Conservancy board member Soapy Mulholland, center.

First timers and others enjoy the rugged beauty of Tejon Ranch.

A Salad Nicoise lunch was prepared by Conservancy Science Manager Ellery Mayence.

California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent Chris Gardner provides a detailed history of the Tejon Ranch for picnickers.

PUBLIC ACCESS UPDATE

By Public Access/Education Manager Chris Fabbro

Congratulations to the 12 new and returning docent naturalist tour leaders who completed the 32-hour training in June (pictured above at Ray’s Perch on the Ranch). They bring passion and knowledge to the team, shown by their impressive classroom presentations, and will enable the Conservancy to increase its events and tours in the second half of 2018. Our next training will be scheduled for early 2019 in conjunction with the rescheduled California Naturalist course. Ongoing training will also be offered via day courses and our Tejon Ranch Ecology Seminar Series (TRESS). If you are interested in becoming a docent naturalist, please email us, we’d love to hear from you.

Here are some upcoming events from our Conservancy calendar and Facebook page.

July 14—Two-mile interpretive nature walk in the conifers along “Six Thousand Foot” Road

July 29—Late day tour (with optional 1.5-mile walk) around Marble Spring (shaded, destination at 4,500 feet)

August 11—Free public meteor/stargazing event during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.

We have been experimenting with a variety of events like gourmet camp dinners and campouts, specialty tours, etc. and we will continue to try out creative ways for visitors to experience the Ranch. If you have suggestions for tours or would like to schedule a nature tour for eight to 15 people, please email cfabbro@tejonconservancy.org for more information.

TEJON RANCH ECOLOGY SEMINAR SERIES (TRESS)

Saturday, July 28

Hello Tejon Ranch ecology enthusiasts! TRESS programming will resume later this month on Saturday, July 28. As a means of coping with the mid-summer heat, we will explore riparian and wetland habitats with a focus on how these systems function from an ecological perspective. This is very much a hands-on TRESS, as we will be in wet and/or muddy locations, so dress appropriately and plan on getting a bit dirty! As with previous TRESS events, a nominal $20 fee applies to cover costs. Please contact Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence at emayence@tejonconservancy.org with questions or to register.

The California Naturalist Series

THE CALIFORNIA GROUND SQUIRREL

Story and photos by Paula Harvey, Education Coordinator and California Naturalist

Visitors to the Ranch are always excited to see wildlife. Probably the most commonly observed mammal is the California ground squirrel, also known as Beechey’s ground squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi.

Beechey’s ground squirrels measure between 16 and 19 inches in length and are mostly gray and light brown in color.

These squirrels live in burrows and prefer hillsides and low earth banks. Burrows can house a solitary squirrel or a colony of eight to ten. Short burrows have a single opening, but larger, more extensive burrows have multiple openings. Most burrow excavation is done in the spring, but upkeep and improvements are a continuous process. Ground squirrels generally spend their entire life within 100 feet of their burrows. Their burrows can subsequently become dens for foxes and coyotes, nests for owls, and homes for amphibians. Small rodents such as voles and mice raid burrows for food caches.

California ground squirrels are omnivorous. They eat nuts and seeds, berries and insects. They also eat fungi, roots, bulbs, carrion, and the eggs of ground-nesting birds.

The are diurnal and spend their time and spend their time feeding, sunbathing, grooming, and dusting themselves. At lower elevations, they are active throughout the year, but they hibernate in the winter at higher elevations. In locations where the summers are hot, they will estivate for a few days at a time.

Ground squirrels breed from December to mid-spring. Gestation is one month with three to eleven pups born, but an average of five to six. The young open their eyes at five weeks and leave their burrow between five to eight weeks. They begin burrowing at eight weeks and reach sexual maturity at one year. Their life span in the wild is six years, with an average of three to four years.

Many animals prey upon California ground squirrels, including eagles, hawks, raccoons, foxes, weasels, wild cats, and badgers. But perhaps most interesting is the battle between rattlesnakes (both northern and southern Pacific, and western diamondbacks) and the squirrel.

Rattlesnakes enter burrows in search of baby ground squirrels, but female squirrels have developed several fascinating methods to defend themselves and their young.

Some populations have developed varying levels of resistance to rattlesnake venom as adults. The young, however, do not have this resistance for the first month. So females with pups will roll on or chew the skins shed by the snakes, then lick themselves and their pups to disguise their scent.

In burrows, the squirrels will block a snake from their young with dirt. They swish their tails from side to side to distract the snake.

They can also flood their tails with extra blood, causing the tail to heat up. Because rattlesnakes are pit vipers, sensing infrared heat in their search of food, the squirrel’s heated tail gives the impression of a much larger animal, so the snake determines the heat source is too large to be prey, and retreats.

Finally, females will fling sand at the snake, and bite and scratch it, often injuring it and causing infection.

Interesting facts:

• The swishing of the tail from side to side is called “tail-waving.”

• The California ground squirrel is named for Frederick William Beechey, who explored Northern California from 1826 through 1828.

• One of the largest ground squirrel tunnels found was 741 feet long, with 33 openings, and housed six females and five males.

• At one time, the northern boundary of the ground squirrel’s range was the Columbia River, but it is now central Washington, as the squirrel somehow managed to cross the river into south-central Washington.

WELCOME MITCHELL COLEMAN

By Senior Ecologist C. Ellery Mayence

Mitchell Coleman

The Conservancy is very pleased to announce that Mitchell Coleman has joined us in the position of Biological Technician. Mitchell holds a B.S. in biology from Westmont College (Santa Barbara, California) and an M.Sc. in biology (plant ecology and physiology concentrations) from CSU Bakersfield.

You may recognize Mitchell’s name as he is no stranger to Tejon—as a CSUB EPIC/Conservancy intern, he conducted the bulk of the field research leading to his master’s degree on the Ranch. Specifically, Mitchell investigated the ecology, recruitment, and restoration potential (from seed and nursery-grown transplants) of valley saltbush (Atriplex polycarpa), an important shrub species of low elevation San Joaquin Valley upland habitat.

Mitchell’s role with the Conservancy is multifaceted and includes vegetation surveys, tours, data entry and analysis, and helping to maintain a 48-plus wildlife camera array, among other tasks.

Welcome aboard Mitchell—we’re happy to have you on the Conservancy team!

Summer interns in the field, left, Jazmine Mejia Muñoz and right, Hannah Savage.

SUMMER INTERN SUPPORT

By Stewardship Manager Laura Pavliscak

Situated on the doorsteps of both Los Angeles and Bakersfield, Tejon Ranch is the enigmatic backyard for many people who are familiar with its view from a distance but have never explored its dynamic wildlands. In an effort to bridge this gap, we are entering our third year partnering with Cal State Bakersfield (CSUB) to provide summer internship opportunities for exceptional local students.

Generously funded by local philanthropist Gayle Batey and her late husband, Ben, we have hosted a suite of CSUB students working on independent research projects, as well as providing direct support for Conservancy programs. This summer we are hosting two exceptionally bright and engaged interns who have enthusiastically helped with everything from field surveys, to interpretive tours, to database management.

Jazmine Mejia Muñoz

Jazmine Mejia Muñoz just completed a bachelor’s degree in biology and has been accepted as a graduate student at Cal State Monterey Bay starting this fall. She has completed numerous internships during her time at CSUB, including with Moss Landing Marine Lab and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is actively engaged in ongoing research at CSUB and has been president of the CSUB Biology Club since 2015, among several other achievements. In addition to her scholastic work, Jazmine is an inspiring advocate for inclusivity of socio-economic, cultural, and gender diversity in the sciences. She is quick to help, incredibly warm and positive, supremely capable in every activity she’s been tasked with, and is a welcomed partner in our office World Cup fervor.

Hannah Savage

Hannah Savage is also a recent graduate from CSUB with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in English. She is passionate about conservation and has completed impressively broad coursework in ecological disciplines, including wildlife biology, research design, chemistry, and statistics. In addition to having worked a year abroad, Hannah has a diverse array of professional experiences that may be the reason she is such an extraordinarily quick learner and asks excellent questions. She is fabulously observant and detail-oriented, adept at database management, and makes amazing brownies.

We feel blessed to work with both of these intelligent, accomplished, and hardworking young women, and we are grateful for this supportive opportunity created by the collaborative vision inspired by Mrs. Batey, with CSUB and the Conservancy. Thanks to all!

EDUCATION UPDATE

By Education Program Coordinator Paula Harvey

For teachers, summer is a time to rest and recharge—and plan. The Conservancy continues to offer opportunities for educators to come out and see how we can support their educational programs.

In June, a group of educators from Bakersfield and Los Angeles spent a day enjoying the varied ecosystems on the Ranch. We started in the grasslands of the San Joaquin Valley, climbed into the oak woodlands, lunched in a conifer forest, then descended to Joshua Tree woodlands and desert canyons. We saw a group of elk does and their speckled fawns, and two beautiful pronghorn, as well as many summer wildflowers and a swarm of flying ladybug beetles.

Elk fawn hiding in the dry grasses as we looked on from our vehicle.

While enjoying the sights, teachers started planning for the fall, anticipating bringing students out on the Ranch to witness and record seasonal changes.

Educators gathered for a photo in front of the beautiful old sycamore at the mouth of Little Sycamore Canyon.

We will have another faculty event on July 19. If you are interested in joining us, please contact me at pharvey@tejonconservancy.org for details. If you are an educator and want to bring colleagues or students on a tour, additional events can be arranged.

Consider including the Tejon Ranch Conservancy’s education program as part of your program as you plan for the 2018/2019 school year.

BEHIND THE GATES

By Senior Ecologist, C. Ellery Mayence

We typically like to highlight the comings and goings of various institutional partners doing research on Tejon Ranch facilitated by the Conservancy.

However, June is not the busiest month for field research, so we would like to take this opportunity to describe how this research benefits our partners, the Conservancy, the Tejon Ranch Company, and our collective mission to maintain and/or increase the ecological integrity of the Ranch’s natural resources.

To exemplify this mutually beneficial relationship, let’s take a closer look at our standing eight-year partnership with the Range Ecology Laboratory (REL) at UC Berkeley. Over this period, two doctoral, one master’s, and several senior undergraduate research projects have been completed on the Ranch. From the institutional perspective, for a research group focused on “working lands” ecology and management like the UC Berkeley lab is, having access to a working property as iconic, large, and biologically diverse as the Tejon Ranch is an unparalleled opportunity. Simultaneously, and because each of these projects represents original bodies of work (i.e., not previously studied attributes), our working knowledge of the Ranch’s ecology is significantly increased.

UC Berkeley’s focus has been grassland and riparian vegetation dynamics, although its researchers assist in an analytical capacity across resources ranging from soil carbon pools to avifauna use of recovering riparian habitat. Ultimately, the information stemming from such research partnerships is used, to the best extent possible, to inform on-the-ground natural resource management, conservation activities, and ecological restoration.

Many thanks to our many past and present research partners—as our ability to influence adaptive management of the Tejon Ranch would be significantly less effective without your involvement.

EXCLOSURES, RESTORATION, & TRANSITIONS

By Conservation Communications Manager and WildlifeEcologist Ben Teton

Here at the Conservancy, we are always exploring new ways of communicating science to the public and the communities that support us.

In recent years we have utilized photos and videos from our camera traps to show the importance of conservation and the intrinsic value of wildlife and wild places. Now, by incorporating multimedia as an educational tool, we can demonstrate conservation in action and show how the science informs our work. This is an exciting new chapter in our efforts to think creatively about how best to share the work that we do with those who share our values.

Over the last four years much of our restoration work has been focused around and within exclosure plots designed to keep cattle and/or invasive wild pigs out of sensitive wetland areas. These fenced exclosures provide a unique opportunity to control non-native species and observe the ecological response of the floral and faunal communities that would otherwise be impacted by their presence. We utilize a range of survey techniques to track changes in these natural communities before and after exclosure, including wildlife camera traps.

The following camera trap highlight reel features various approaches to visually articulate the ecological transitions taking place within these exclosures across various time scales. We look forward to building upon our creative use of these wildlife videos to bring the public closer to the work that we do and the ecological systems we endeavor to conserve out on Tejon. So enjoy and learn as we do, from our peek into the wild.

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Tejon Ranch Conservancy ENews is written and produced by Conservancy staff and volunteers with the help of co-editors Paula Harvey, Tim Bulone and Susan Chaney. If you'd like to contribute an article to ENews please let us know.

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