Islands of the Californias

Fremontia V.45 N.3 •  November 2017

From the editor

Fremontia V45 N3 is printed in English and Spanish.

After a childhood enchanted with island literature, aptly including Island of the Blue Dolphins, it took nearly 20 years to find myself on a real island. While teaching for the Los Angeles County Outdoor Science School, I ventured to Santa Cruz Island in 1998 with ten other young, eager naturalists. Marooned for the weekend, we gained our first place-based experiences with island biogeography while hiking and kayaking.

On this adventure we witnessed island endemics including island scrub jay (Aphelocoma insularis) and island fox (Urocyon littoralis). Checking these and other species off our life lists, our appreciation for island time deepened over a sunset staring back at the mainland—our love for biogeography was burgeoning.

Around a campfire under the eucalyptus at Scorpion Canyon we pondered speciation events, biogeographic patterns, and the audacity of invasive species. Falling asleep that evening, I contemplated my study of Lord of the Flies in high school and further understood all the mainland offers an island.

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The CNPS North Coast Chapter Research Grant

The North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) is offering a research grant (2 awards per year) of up to $1,000 for studies of local, native plants. The grant is available to undergraduate and graduate students at Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods. Its purpose is to encourage learning about native plants in Humboldt, Trinity, Siskiyou and Del Norte Counties and to support projects that will advance knowledge of them.

To apply for the grant submit the following by March 1, 2018 (two pages please):

  • Title of the project, applicant’s name, address, phone number, email address, and the date submitted.
  • Estimated time frame for project.
  • Description of the project: Outline the purposes, objectives, hypotheses where appropriate, and methods of data collection and analysis. Highlight aspects of the work that you believe are particularly important and creative. How will it advance our knowledge of our local native plants?
  • Description of the final product.
  • Budget: Summarize intended use of funds. Our grant does not approve the outright purchase of capital equipment or high-end items such as computers and software.
  • Academic status (school, graduate student, undergrad)
  • Letter of support from a sponsor, such as an academic supervisor, major professor, professional associate or colleague should accompany your application.
  • Your signature, as the person performing the project and the one responsible for dispersing the funds. All of the information related to your application may be submitted electronically.

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Northern California Botanist Certification Exam

Caulanthus californicus photographed by Greg Suba, CNPS Conservation Director

The first-ever Botanist Certification Exam at a Northern California venue is scheduled for October 30th, 2017, at the Blue Oak Ranch Reserve (BORR) near San Jose, CA. While CNPS has already put on two exams in Southern California, one in Ojai and one at the Cal State Fullerton Arboretum, an exam had yet to happen up north! We are very excited to hold the event at BORR, one of the UC Berkeley-managed lands in the wonderful UC Reserve system.

Amidst such treasured habitats as blue oak woodland, valley oak woodland, and native perennial grasslands, botanists from all over Northern California will come together to showcase their abilities during the certification exam. The test consists of written, keying, and sight identification portions in order to set a high standard of excellence in the profession. The Board of Certification, which is currently administering the certification, recommends that botanists have at least five years experience in the botanical consulting field, in the case of the Field Botanist certification level, and eight years of experience, in the case of the Consulting Botanist certification level, before considering taking the exam.

Wondering why the Botanist Certification is so important? Check out this wonderful article on the CNPS Blog.

If you are interested to register for the exam, please visit the Botanist Certification website or contact Catherine Curley, Assistant Botanist for the Rare Plant Program, at, with questions.

CNPS Garden Ambassadors

Are you passionate about California native gardening?  Ready to inspire others?  Become a CNPS Garden Ambassador!

CNPS Garden Ambassadors are a community of individuals who are willing to share their enthusiasm, experience, and knowledge to demonstrate the beauty and possibilities of California native plant gardens.  As an ambassador, you will help kick-start a movement in California native landscaping, and inspire others to “restore nature one garden at a time.”  You will make a difference in your community, and receive lots of ambassador rewards and recognition too!

There are many ambassador activities for you to choose from depending on your interests and experience.  Here are a few ways you can be involved:

  • Share photographs of your California native garden.
  • Host garden talks/visitor events in your garden.
  • Contribute to CNPS Garden Ambassador social media.
  • Participate in CNPS Garden Tours and events.
  • Volunteer at retail nurseries to educate customers about California native plants.
  • Teach workshops on California native gardening.

To acknowledge and honor all of your enthusiasm and dedication, here are a few fun rewards you will receive!

  • CNPS Membership Discount
  • Annual Nursery and CNPS Store Discount
  • CNPS Garden Ambassador of the Month recognition
  • Garden Ambassador Appreciation Events
  • Profile featured on the Garden Ambassador webpage
  • Free CNPS Natives Live Here sign
  • Brochure about your garden
  • Photography of your landscape
  • Garden Ambassador name tag, and more!


Apply for the Garden Ambassador program today!  Click here to complete the online questionnaire:


Legislation update: #ReformOHV and SB249

California state vehicle recreation area

Uncontrolled riding yields a scarred landscape at a California State vehicle recreation area. Photo/Friends of Tesla Park

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.

Important Plant Areas Mapping

Screenshot of San Joaquin Valley IPA GIS Ma

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.

Making Progress

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.