SB 249 is a bill introduced by Senator Ben Allen (Santa Monica) to repair, reduce and prevent Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) damage to California’s natural and cultural resources. (See the most recent July –September 2017 CNPS Bulletin for a complete report on SB 249.)
Following much debate and many amendments, SB 249 is nearing the end of the legislative process. It has passed out of Senate committees and the Senate floor and the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee. It is now pending in the Assembly Appropriations Committee prior to consideration of the full Assembly.
SB 249 focuses on three key areas for improvement:
Greater Environmental Protection – SB 249 improves transparency and clarifies commonsense steps to protect sensitive cultural and natural resources. The science of conservation continuously changes and managing OHV recreation needs to change with it.
Better Value for Our Dollars – The State Parks OHV Program enjoys a substantial 100% surplus ($117.5M in 2017/18) and yet illegal riding and resource damage continues to be a serious problem. The State needs to do a better job enforcing laws and protecting resources on state, federal and private lands with the funding they have available.
Accountable Management – SB 249 clarifies State Parks organization and management to improve efficiency and transparency.
How You Can Help
SB 249 continues to face considerable resistance from opposition user groups and from the Department of Parks and Recreation. Additional amendments that weaken the legislation are a real possibility. Please make a phone call to your local Assembly member and ask him or her to support SB 249. Tell them you are a resident in their District and that the bill is needed to reform OHV recreation – protecting natural resources and recreational opportunities of all kinds – it is not a bill to destroy or stop legal riding. It is a win-win for California.
By Greg Suba, CNPS Conservation Director
For more than 50 years, CNPS has specialized in assembling the most up-to-date information on botanical resources in California and making this information publicly available. The CNPS online Inventory of Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plants of California (RPI) and the Manual of California Vegetation online database (MCV) are the most recent examples of the ways in which CNPS provides verifiable botanical data for California. This information is used every day in local, regional, and statewide planning for conservation and development around the state.
A Sense of Urgency
Over the last 10 years, the pace and scale of conservation planning in California has increased rapidly, due in part to an urgency to address climate change. It is also a result of California’s ability to couple advances in online mapping technology with opportunities to spend advanced mitigation funding. This combination allows broad stakeholder participation in a process to plan and establish an ecologically sound conservation lands network across California in real time. While the fundamental requirement of sound data as the basis for good planning hasn’t changed, today’s increased pace and scale of conservation planning requires an immediate need for more of it.
Earlier this year, CNPS began an initiative to gather unpublished information from botanical experts to supplement native plant data from the RPI, MCV, and other publicly available sources.
The goal of this work, the CNPS Important Plant Areas (IPA) initiative, is to preserve as much of California’s rich native botanical diversity as possible by assembling as complete a picture of botanical information as possible, and incorporating it into conservation decision-making processes across the state.
To generate an IPA Map, we have established a two-day workshop format. Each workshop brings together regional botanical experts to share and map their on-the-ground botanical knowledge. We then add their data to existing, publicly available sources, in order to generate as current and complete a snapshot of important plant information as possible, region by region, for use in planning.
For each study area, an IPA Map will identify, describe, and map plant areas of highest concern – rare species, locations of usual plant diversity, and rare habitat – and produce publicly available GIS maps, narrative, and data sets to help inform land and resource management decisions. The end product of our IPA Initiative will produce a GIS-based plant conservation decision-making tool for all of California that will aid in responsible planning while helping educate the public as to what is at stake.
Today we are in the data gathering stage. The CNPS Conservation, Rare Plant, and Vegetation Programs have begun planning and hosting a series of IPA Mapping Workshops. We held our first workshop in late February 2017, focusing on the southern San Joaquin Valley, and earlier this summer, we completed data gathering for part of the Modoc Plateau. Current funding will allow us to conduct workshops for northern San Joaquin Valley, the North Coast, and interior Northern California by the end of the year.
The resulting maps and botanical data of each region will be made available to local, state, and federal land use and management agencies and decision-makers. CNPS staff and volunteers can actively pursue the incorporation of IPAs into local, state, and federal land-use and resource management plans.
The CNPS IPA Initiative is proactive conservation. We will identify and protect the most important plant habitats as far in advance of the bulldozers, rather than fighting plans and projects after certification and approvals have been completed.
CNPS is the voice for the preservation of California’s native flora. Many times, CNPS is the only party at the table negotiating for native plants and their places; too often, that seat is left vacant due to the fact that we have limited capacity to take on all the important conservation battles. Now, as the pace and scale of change across California increases and federal dynamics become more challenging, it is even more critical to maintain a strong voice for native plant conservation. We need to increase our capacity to do so, and Southern California is the first place to start. Continue reading
For those of us living inland from the coast of California, summer is the perfect time to make a trip to the western part of our state, where the fog lies thick and the natural air-conditioning seems to blow continuously.
In May and June 2017, CNPS Vegetation Program staff and hardy volunteers spent two weeks sampling coastal vegetation on the Point Arena-Stornetta unit of the California Coastal National Monument. This BLM-managed property in Mendocino County is the only accessible terrestrial component of this marine monument, which stretches over 1000 miles along our coastline. The 1600+ acres of land supports coastal prairie dotted by tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa) intertwined with native California blackberry (Rubus ursinus) and sculpted riparian strips of red alder (Alnus rubra) and numerous willows (Salix spp.). Stands of shore pine (Pinus contorta ssp. contorta) and bishop pine (P. muricata) provide shelter from the wind, though you can also see planted and naturalizing stands of Monterey pine (P. radiata) and Monterey cypress (Hesperocyparis macrocarpa). The latter two conifers are classified both as rare plants in Monterey County, and as invasive in other parts of California and beyond, in an ironic twist of displacement.
Your boots can get quickly soaked while finding a surprising diversity of wetlands and saturated herbaceous plant communities in the area — including pacific reedgrass (Calamagrostis nutkaensis), coast carex (Carex obnupta), and common rush (Juncus patens). Scattered ponds support pondweed (Potamogeton sp.) and pond-lily (Nuphar polysepala). While much of the coastline between the mouth of the Garcia River and Manchester State Park is unfortunately dominated by European beach grass (Ammophila arenaria), you can find the native dune grass (Elymus mollis) and open sand supporting native dune scrub with beach morning glory (Calystegia soldanella), sand verbena (Abronia latifolia), and beach bur (Ambrosia chamissonis).
Rare plant and animal species are scattered throughout the monument, attesting to the importance of protecting these lands. With many National Monuments currently under review by the Trump Administration, now is a good time to visit and show your support for these magical public lands.
-CNPS Vegetation Program
In the northeastern corner of California along the California-Nevada border, between Mt. Shasta in the west and the Warner Mountains in the east, lies a massive volcanic plain known as the Modoc Plateau. Shaped by vast basalt flows, this landscape is covered by a sea of sagebrush and perennial grasses and is more typical of the Great Basin. Although this may be the most undeveloped region of the state, the ecosystems here are considered among the most threatened in North America. Threats include invasive species, over-grazing, woodland expansion, and altered fire regimes, amongst others. Until recently, we have had very little vegetation data from this region. Now, partners at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Natural Resources Conservation Service, and others are providing dedicated funding and support for resource-level assessment and mapping of vegetation.
With support from the BLM, the CNPS Vegetation Program spent 12 days sampling vegetation in the Modoc Plateau. The BLM selected three areas managed by the Applegate Field Office to be surveyed and mapped. Although these three areas are separated only by approximately 20 miles, and have dominant vegetation types typical for the Modoc Plateau, each one also has unique qualities. Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi) stands are common in the southwestern-most unit, with impressive displays of mule ears (Wyethia mollis) in the understory, and sometimes producing stands of its own in areas of recent burns. The centrally located site, near the Likely Tablelands, is strongly influenced by shallow soils on basalt flows with vast areas of low sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula ssp. arbuscula) and various phases of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) including old growth stands along the basalt rims. At the eastern-most site, along the east side of the south Warner Mountains is white fir (Abies concolor) and curl-leaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) at the higher elevations, and low sagebrush and perennial grasslands dominated by Thurber’s needlegrass (Stipa thurberiana) at lower elevations. Basin big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata) is found at the lowest elevations near Lower Lake.
This June we collected 64 vegetation surveys across the three sites. The data, along with hundreds more collected by CDFW and Chico State’s Geographic Information Center at nearby areas, will be analyzed to create a vegetation classification for the region and will aide in future vegetation maps of the region.
The Modoc Plateau is a beautiful and unique part of California. Much of the vegetation here is at the edge of its range and more typical of our neighboring states to the north and east. The remoteness and lack of urban development give a sense that this may be a “forgotten” part of the state but also reminds us of the added diversity of California’s ecosystems and the importance of understanding and protecting these wildlands.
– CNPS Vegetation Program
CNPS teams with the Klamath National Forest to map yellow-cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis) in California
CNPS has begun a collaborative mapping and inventorying project for yellow-cedar in California. The species is a CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants on list 4.3 (limited distribution) in the state, with only a handful of known locations. The majority of the stands are on the Klamath National Forest but a few are also on the Six Rivers. Over the course of summer 2017, Michael Kauffmann and Julie Evens will be visiting a number of these populations and collecting data on stand health, reproduction, and plant associations. The week of July 5-6 we visited the world’s southern-most stand, deep in the Siskiyou Wilderness.
This project was initiated by Forest Service Region 5 when we were contacted by Brian Buma from University of Alaska. His research is showing that yellow-cedar at the northern extent of its range is in declining health and not reproducing. The baseline data we collect this summer will inform future studies across the range of this species.