Support Grows for Bruin Ranch Protection
By Jeff Darlington
Midway through 2010, Placer Land Trust is pleased to announce that we’re over halfway to our goal of finding the funds necessary to acquire and permanently protect Bruin Ranch.
Our success so far is based on the fact that Bruin Ranch is a project that our constituents – you and your family and friends – really want. As one of our potential grant funders says: “Show me that your community supports Bruin Ranch, and we’ll write you a grant.”
2,300 acres of oak woodlands hidden away on the Bear River, connected to existing preserved lands, and ideally suited for the best wilderness trail system in the Sierra foothills … it’s easy to see why a diverse group of people support this project.
Our goal now is to keep working until this amazing landscape is put into the public trust. In partnership with the Trust for Public Land, we have until the end of 2010 to secure all the funds necessary to save Bruin Ranch.
Moving forward, you can help us make this project a reality, even if you’ve already donated.
Please talk – a lot – about Bruin Ranch, and encourage your friends to donate to Placer Land Trust!
Every supporter counts, particularly with grant-making agencies looking to stretch their dollars. If we can show continued community support, I’m confident we can acquire and protect this treasured landscape for future generations.
Andy & Shana Laursen – 2010 Placer Conservators
The rolling hills of Bruin Ranch surrounding the Auburn Valley Golf Club could not have been a more fitting backdrop for the 2010 Placer Conservator Award Dinner & Ceremony. This year’s honorees, Andy & Shana Laursen, have made protecting the Bear River where they live a part of their personal mission. The Laursens were the catalyst for Placer Land Trust’s Bear River Protection Program in 2000, and continue to enrich the quality of life in Placer County through resource conservation.
“We are extremely grateful for the vision and support the Laursens have provided Placer Land Trust,” said PLT Past President Bob Gilliom. “Andy and Shana are truly committed to the protection of the Bear River, Placer County, and wildlife near and far. We are proud to honor them with the 2010 Placer Conservator Award.”
The 2010 Placer Conservator award was a beautiful glass sculpture created by Nicholson Blown Glass. Over 150 people attended the May 15 dinner in the Laursens’ honor.
From the Board Room
Thank You Placer Conservator Event Sponsors
Thanks to everyone who attended the May 15 Placer Conservator Award Dinner & Ceremony. Andy & Shana Laursen inspired many of you to support our Bear River Capital Campaign, including these generous businesses who sponsored the Conservator event!
Str8Up TV, Inc.
Foothill Community Mediation
Larry & Linda Welch
Blast Advanced Media
Nicholson Blown Glass
Placer County Real Food
David & Barbara Roux
Aronowitz & Skidmore, Inc.
The Houston Group
Maki Heating & A/C, Inc.
Recology Auburn Placer
Robinson, Lyon & Fulton
Douglas & Nancy Van Howd
Economic & Planning Systems
Jarrette Company LLC
JD Richey Sportfishing
Magnussen’s Auburn Toyota
Sierra Solar Systems
To all of you who continue to contribute to Placer Land Trust in these tough economic times … THANK YOU for your support!
— Fred Yeager, President
Putting Wildfire on the Endangered List
Using Adaptive Management to Protect Public Safety
By Jeff Ward
As the summer months approach, our Mediterranean climate brings high temperatures and a lack of precipitation, which dries out vegetation throughout the valley grasslands and foothills.
Summer also brings a recurring problem … wildfire.
The accumulation of dry grasses and understory shrubs increases the likeliness of wildfire. In order to reduce this risk, landowners must take steps to manage vegetation on their properties.
Placer Land Trust prepares each winter and spring by assessing potential fire hazards on our preserves and implementing plans to reduce fire risk.
In 2008, Placer Land Trust (PLT) purchased equipment to make it possible to cheaply mow fire breaks on our grassland preserves. For the past two years, we’ve mowed fire breaks along the roadways at the Doty Ravine Preserve and other PLT properties to reduce surface fuels and create a buffer between potential ignition points (such as roads) and natural habitats.
This past spring, PLT worked with the California Conservation Corps (CCC) to create two shaded fuel breaks on Canyon View Preserve in the American River Canyon north of Auburn. The fuel break project is part of our Canyon View Watershed and Habitat Restoration Project. The goal is to reduce ladder fuels in two strategically selected areas by thinning understory vegetation. The objective here is that when a fire comes up from the canyon, the fuel break will force the fire to drop from the tree crowns to the ground where it will burn slower, giving fire-fighting crews a better chance to stop it before it poses a danger to populated areas.
The CCC crews also removed some of the larger trees to open up the canopy so that fire crews can more effectively use water drops or aerial flame retardant.
PLT also works closely with local ranchers to graze our preserves to reduce surface fuels and to increase species diversity. On some of our properties we graze exclusively with cattle, while on others we graze with a combination of cattle and sheep (and occasionally goats).
Like many Placer County landowners, PLT faces the issue of managing invasive plants, many of which can increase fire hazard. Many invasive species are highly flammable and act as ladder fuels to the trees that they surround. PLT has worked with volunteers to remove Scotch and French broom on some of our preserves. We’re also using sheep and goats to manage yellow starthistle and Himalayan blackberry.
Wildfire prevention and vegetation management are ongoing priorities for PLT. Our staff is constantly working with fire experts and agencies to find new and better methods to reduce wildfire risk, and we welcome volunteer support!
For opportunities to help PLT reduce fire danger, contact Jessica Aviña or Ryan Gilpin at (530) 887-9222.
Grasslands & Rangelands
Interview with Grazing Contractor Dan Macon
By Mehrey Vaghti
Part 3 of a 4-part series on Grasslands in the Central Valley. Part 1 focused on past processes and composition of valley grasslands, and Part 2 focused on present conditions and management. Parts 3 and 4 feature two of Placer Land Trust’s grazing partners. Parts 1 & 2 are archived at www.placerlandtrust.org/publications.aspx.
Mehrey: How long have you been involved with agriculture?
Dan: Essentially my entire career, about 20 years now professionally. After I graduated college I worked with my family’s auction business and developed an agricultural clientele. I then went to work with the California Cattlemen’s Association and was involved with public lands and sensitive species issues. I discovered that cattlemen and conservationists were saying the same things, both were interested in rangeland conservation. That led to assisting in the creation of the California Rangeland Trust and I became its first executive director. I also worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Nevada County Land Trust. During much of that time I was also in production agriculture part-time; I’ve been full-time for the past two years.
Mehrey: What animals do you raise?
Dan: Primarily sheep, some goats and cattle for other owners. There are advantages to having two species on the land. From the standpoint of the land, there is more flexibility with seasonality and to target specific plants, either for reduction or augmentation. For animal health, rotating species cuts the lifecycle of problematic animal pests and pathogens.
Mehrey: How long have you been involved with Placer Land Trust?
Dan: For about 10 years, the last two years have been the most significant. I am working closely with Placer Land Trust to manage Doty Ravine Preserve and Canyon View Preserve. Doty Ravine is really amazing; there is so much variation in the terrain with the vernal pools and various microclimates. I discover something new all the time. Both properties have similar invasive weed issues so the management approach is similar, but the timing is different. I use the same sheep on both properties – a strong advantage of sheep is that they are much easier to move than cattle. Working with Placer Land Trust is a really compatible relationship. It is virtually impossible to start-up in rangeland agriculture in today’s market. Placer Land Trust is a tremendous asset. Additionally, managed grazing is necessary to meet the Trust’s conservation and habitat management goals.
Mehrey: How does your land ethic influence your business practices?
Dan: Good question. The overall objective is to leave the land better than it was when I came to it. Focus on improving environmental health of the land in turn improves the health of the animals. I believe there are three elements to sustainable agriculture: ecological, social, and economic sustainability. Direct sale of products (through farmer’s markets) supports all three elements. It ties people to their food and therefore the production landscapes. It provides a model for potential opportunities, for future generations to become involved. There is a lot of cross-engagement.
Dan Macon, Grayson Coney, Alan Ehrgott, Dave Sutton, Ted Beedy, Marty Coleman-Hunt, John Hunter, Jason Jones, Jim Branham and Jeff Darlington were speakers at the 2010 Foothill Forum, hosted by the Bear-Yuba Partnership in Nevada City in May.
Approximately 100 policy-makers, planners, land managers, and conservation professionals attended the event which rolled-out new scientific research about the Sierra foothill region, funded in part by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
“We appreciate the speakers and all of the members of the community who attended,” said PLT President Fred Yeager. “We’re proud to work together with all of you to protect the Sierra foothills.”
Bluebird Housing Boom
Meet Megan Forester, 15,
Placer Land Trust Volunteer
Scout Project Benefits Baby Birds
Hello, my name is Megan Forester. I’m a sophomore at Antelope High School, and I recently completed my Girl Scout Silver Award Project.
I’m really proud to have worked with Justin Wages at Placer Land Trust to install 15 bird boxes at Taylor Ranch Preserve in Auburn. You see, many cavity nesting birds like western bluebirds use abandoned woodpecker holes and natural cavities in dying trees to raise their young. But due to increasing development, bluebirds are losing places to nest. Fortunately, these birds have adapted to using nesting boxes, so by building the bird boxes, I was able to provide more housing opportunities for the bluebirds on Taylor Ranch.
Last fall, Girls Scout Troops 1319 and 1414 helped in building the bird boxes. These boxes became new nesting places for bluebirds and tree swallows. Plus, I also had enough donations from Home Depot, Placer County Farm Supply, and my generous supporters that I could make three more bluebird boxes … and even two American kestrel boxes for Placer Land Trust’s Doty Ravine Preserve in Lincoln!
In February, I took some volunteers out and installed the 15 new boxes at Taylor Ranch. We also cleaned out last year’s nests in 27 boxes at Doty Ravine in preparation for the new nesting season.
In the spring, I went to Taylor Ranch and Doty Ravine Preserve regularly to monitor the boxes. It was hard to stay out there for very long because my allergies were acting up a lot with the blooming grass! (I’m really thankful for my mom and dad who went out to collect data while I had to go back to the car for a Kleenex fix.)
Most of the boxes at Doty Ravine Preserve were filled with tree swallows, and at Taylor Ranch, where my boxes were, over 50 tree swallows and over 25 bluebirds had hatched! All told, there were 170 fledglings. My sister took such cool pictures! All those baby birds were so cute – that was the best part of my project!
I learned that a project like this takes a lot of planning to complete. In the future, I know I’ll have to use the same kind of commitment to be successful in school and beyond.
I’m so grateful to Justin, Placer Land Trust, my family and everyone who helped support my project!
P.S. I’m sure the birds are really grateful too!
Megan’s project slideshow is online at https://www.placerlandtrust.org/volunteering-for-plt.aspx, and on YouTube.
Partners in Restoration
Westervelt Ecological Services
By Justin Wages
For the last several years Placer Land Trust has been building a working relationship with Westervelt Ecological Services, a land resource company specializing in large-scale environmental mitigation and habitat restoration.
In 2008 Placer Land Trust worked with Westervelt to restore riparian vegetation along a 20-acre stretch of stream at Doty Ravine Preserve which had been heavily impacted by past land use practices. Westervelt orchestrated the restoration planning and oversaw the planting of 5,000 native trees and shrubs from High Ranch Nursery. Project funding was provided by the State Water Resources Control Board.
Placer Land Trust and Westervelt also partnered to complete a 1.6-acre vernal pool creation project in 2009, and we are currently in the planning stages for two new wetland restoration projects (as well as a project to protect California red-legged frogs).
These restoration projects benefit Placer County residents by slowing storm water flows, filtering agricultural runoff, trapping sedimentation and reducing erosion as well creating critical wildlife habitat. Westervelt has proven to be a valuable partner in Placer Land Trust’s goal of protecting and restoring wildlands for ecosystem services and for the enjoyment and well-being of future generations.
America’s Great Outdoors
Placer Land Trust Outreach Assistant Jessica Aviña and member Cathy Haagen-Smit were at U.C. Davis on July 7 for the America’s Great Outdoors listening session, hosted by Representative Mike Thompson. America’s Great Outdoors is an initiative started by President Obama that focuses on saving America’s iconic landscapes, revitalizing the national outdoors movement for all Americans, and especially reconnecting youth with outdoor recreation and education. Representatives from White House Council on Environmental Quality, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. EPA were present and heard comments from PLT and others about how best to protect our great outdoors.
As we move into a new era of conservation, we face several challenges: most of the open space remaining in the United States is in private ownership; public agencies have limited funds; and landscapes must be managed for many competing uses including homes for our booming population. Federal agencies have been directed to hear what priorities citizens have with regards to protecting the great outdoors. That includes hearing from you! Please share your stories and submit comments at http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/. Look for the link on our Facebook page too.
Executive Director’s Report
It all comes down to people, and
we’ve got some good ones!
I wanted to take a moment at the end of our fiscal year to congratulate everyone involved in Placer Land Trust. Fiscal year 2009-2010 was another great year for us, and we couldn’t have done it without you!
Not only did we preserve the Oest Ranch – Lake Clementine Preserve and reach 5,000 acres, but we’re coming out of a dismal economic year in the black once again. Kudos to staff for tightening their belts and getting more done with less.
I also want to offer my personal congratulations to three full-time members of our staff who’ve earned recent promotions …
Long-time employee Jessica Pierce, formerly Operations Manager, has been promoted to Assistant Director. For five years now, Jessica has set the bar ridiculously high in our office, and her work ethic has been inspirational. This promotion reflects the level of responsibility she’s shown over the past couple of years, and a new leadership role at Placer Land Trust.
We also made some changes within our stewardship team. Jeff Ward, formerly Stewardship Coordinator, has been promoted to Stewardship Manager. Quite frankly, Jeff stopped “coordinating” over a year ago – he’s managing our stewardship program and we want his new title to reflect that. Similarly, Justin Wages, a relatively new employee and formerly our Land Management Technician, has taken on an incredible amount of responsibility and is now our Land Manager.
Jeff and Justin work together with some awesome interns and volunteers to make our stewardship team the best in the region.
Thanks to all of our staff, interns, volunteers, and supporters who make what we do possible!