Time really flies when you’re working to save tiny endangered plants! This vintage newspaper story in the San Diego Union from 1991 describes the exciting rediscovery of the endangered Orcutt’s spineflower in Encinitas that, before then hadn’t been seen for several years and had even been considered extinct as development chewed up San Diego coastal natural habitats. Way back then, now-TCLC Executive Director David Hogan was quoted, “This site is desperately needed as a seed bank to replant areas where it was once known. That would be part of the recovery program.” The spineflower’s status was somewhat improved when the species was also rediscovered in the late 1990s at several sites on Navy land on Point Loma and at one site near Del Mar in 2009.
Fast-forward to 2017: TCLC has been working to protect and restore the still-endangered Orcutt’s spineflower (Chorizanthe oructtiana) as part of its Rarest Plants Project. The spineflower live only in very particular soils near the coast where nearly all of its original habitat has been lost to urban development. So, starting in 2014, TCLC began mapping the special soils and conducting field surveys in other suitable habitat to identify any other unknown populations on nature preserve lands.
TCLC spread the exciting news in 2015 that this work resulted in the discovery of seven new populations of the species at several coastal North County preserves. Since then, TCLC staff, volunteers, and colleagues with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Cabrillo National Monument have found four additional populations for a grand total of eleven new, never before-recorded populations with hundreds of plants!
TCLC has also worked with the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to collect and bulk seed to attempt to establish new populations, weeded around existing populations, and installed fencing and signs at several preserves to direct visitors to designated trails and away from delicate spineflower populations. Seed bulked by the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden was introduced to several areas of suitable but unoccupied habitat in late 2015 and we’re pleased to report that nearly five hundred plants were counted at the seeded sites in spring 2017. In all, population numbers are quite a bit more encouraging than the mere fifteen seen in Encinitas in 1991! Check out this detailed report on TCLC’s work to protect Orcutt’s spineflowers for much more information.
The conservation status of Orcutt’s spineflower has significantly improved since then with so many newly discovered populations. But even these populations located on lands protected from development like Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve are still seriously threatened by exotic invasive plants and trampling from visitors walking off-trails. One particular invasive plant, purple veldt grass has spread rapidly from freeway and other landscaping and could outcompete spineflowers and even crowd out most other coastal natural vegetation in just a few years. So much more work is needed to control invasive plants and to provide long-term stewardship for the spineflower and many other native plants, endangered and common alike.
TCLC couldn’t have done the work to save Orcutt’s spineflower without the generous support of several government agencies and staff at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, San Diego Association of Governments, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Big thanks are due too to AJP Consulting, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Rocks Biological Consulting, and Torrey Pines Docent extraordinaire Margaret Fillius.
We at The Chaparral Lands Conservancy were shocked and saddened by the sudden passing last week of San Diego nature filmmaker Jim Karnik. Jim’s passion for wild things and wild places really showed in the short films he produced for us and many other southern California environmental groups. KPBS news published a nice tribute to Jim today, and our thoughts are with Jim’s family.
The Proctor Valley Vernal Pool and Uplands Habitat Restoration Project is located east of Chula Vista near the unincorporated community of Jamul on a City of San Diego nature preserve that was previously heavily damaged by off-road vehicle users. Starting in 2010, TCLC formed a partnership with the City to restore the site and worked to obtain all necessary permits. Grading was conducted in 2012 to repair damaged vernal pools and install artificial Burrowing owl burrows followed with the planting of thousands of native plants and seeding, weeding, and watering.
The site has undergone an incredible transformation from barren, compacted soils and non-native weeds to a vibrant community of vernal pool wetlands and surrounding coastal sage scrub. During the winter, endangered San Diego fairy shrimp and Western spadefoot toad tadpoles swim and wriggle in the pools during a short period of ponding. Seeded endangered vernal pool plants like San Diego button-celery and vernal pool pincushion plant have colonized the pools where they germinate as aquatic plants but grow to maturity after pools dry. And endangered animals like the California gnatcatcher, Coast horned lizard, and Burrowing owls have colonized restored coastal sage scrub.
Both vernal pools and coastal sage scrub are endangered habitats with roughly 97% of these California native ecosystem lost to development, agriculture, and other impacts. Restoring these endangered ecosystems and species is part of the mission of The Chaparral Lands Conservancy and we’re honored by today’s great media attention and support from all of our project partners. Particular thanks go to the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department for supporting the project and providing access to the Otay Lakes Cornerstone Lands Preserve. Thanks also to our funders, the California Department of Parks and Recreation Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division, California Natural Resources Agency, San Diego Association of Governments, San Diego Foundation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For more information please visit our Proctor Valley Vernal Pool Restoration page.
The Chaparral Lands Conservancy has submitted a grant application to the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division (OHMVRD) to restore off-highway vehicle (OHV) unauthorized routes in eastern San Diego County.
The Eastern San Diego County OHV Unauthorized Routes Project is located in two discreet areas: Buck Canyon near the community of Ranchita; and McCain Valley near the community of Boulevard. The Project would restore unauthorized routes used by OHVs in both areas including OHV trails where there are no designated routes and trails designated for non-motorized recreation that are used by OHVs. Restoration of unauthorized routes would protect natural and cultural resources and block ongoing OHV access into designated wilderness, riparian areas, endangered species habitat, and other sensitive areas.
The preliminary grant application is available on the OHMVRD’s website for review and comment from Tuesday, March 8, 2016 through 5pm Monday, April 4, 2016. The OHMVRD website provides detailed instructions on how to view the grant application and submit comments. Note that comments must be submitted by email to both the OHMVRD and TCLC. Comments to TCLC should be submitted to David Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The preliminary application is available on the OHMVRD’s website for review and comment from Tuesday, March 4, 2014 through Monday, April 7, 2014. The OHMVRD website will provide detailed instructions on how to view the preliminary application and submit comments. Note that comments must be submitted by email to both the OHMVRD and TCLC. Comments to TCLC should be submitted to David Hogan at email@example.com.
Construction of new steel pipe vehicle barrier fencing is finally underway in South County San Diego after years of fundraising, planning, and permitting. The barriers are being installed along two and one half miles of rural Proctor Valley Road near Jamul to reduce ORV damage to sensitive habitats and to protect several nearby nature preserves including the City of San Diego’s Cornerstone Lands, the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, and the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. The new barriers are being constructed on private property to close gaps between existing barriers on adjacent preserve properties and are funded by the California Natural Resources Agency, San Diego Association of Governments, and The Nature Conservancy.
Do you live in North County San Diego and are you interested in helping with habitat restoration? Then we’ve got a job for you! The Conservancy needs volunteer site stewards at our Carmel Mountain habitat restoration project to help with easy work like stacking dead brush to hide closed paths and to greet preserve visitors with project information, especially during evenings and weekends. Any amount of time or ability is a big help and you can’t beat the ocean views and the smell of sage! Please contact David Hogan if you can help at 619 756-3864 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Conservancy has been busy this fall and winter removing invasive, non-native plants from the Rose Creek watershed in the heart of suburban San Diego near University City and Claremont. Non-native plants can act like slow-motion bulldozers, displacing native plants and eliminating important wildlife habitat in San Diego’s canyon nature preserves. Non-native plants also often grow in dense clumps near homes that increase the risk of wildfire. To address these threats, the Conservancy applied for and received a grant from the California Wildlife Conservation Board to fund professional treatment of the plant pests. The Conservancy’s consultant, RECON Environmental, has treated over fifteen acres of non-native invasive plants including twelve acres of Pampas grass and over two thousand invasive trees like Eucalyptus and Brazilian pepper. Work will be suspended during the breeding bird season that starts on February 15 but will resume in fall 2013.
The Conservancy is pleased to announce that three habitat restoration projects are now underway following years of planning, permitting, and other preparation: The Carmel Mountain Vernal Pool and Uplands Habitat Restoration Project, the Proctor Valley ORV Site A Vernal Pool and Uplands Habitat Restoration Project, and the Rose Creek Watershed Invasive Plant Control Project. The Conservancy has retained expert consultants HELIX Environmental Planning for the two vernal pool projects, and RECON Environmental for the Rose Creek project. Most grading has been completed for the vernal pool projects though follow-up work will be conducted after this rainy season. In Rose Creek, most invasive plant removal work this season will be conducted prior to the breeding bird season that begins February 15.
Long before any shovel can touch ground or seeds spread in our habitat restoration projects, complicated and time-consuming paperwork is needed to secure permits from several local, state, and federal agencies. For the Conservancy’s two flagship vernal pool restoration projects, six different permits were required, ranging from a right-of entry permit to conduct work on City of San Diego properties, to state and federal clean water and endangered species permits. These permits in turn required review under seven different environmental laws, the California Environmental Quality Act, National Environmental Quality Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and others. The Conservancy has been dedicated to complying with all regulations to make for the best possible projects and is thankful for the incredible support and assistance we’ve received from agency staff. We plan to finish permit processing this summer and restoration work on the ground this fall.