One of my favorite things about being the CNPS East Bay Chapter’s Conservation Advocate is being with the land and getting to know the parks of the East Bay. Connecting with the spaces and places and getting to know them intimately is important to me as an advocate. I find that caring for the land requires the time to listen and observe what its needs are.
On a recent visit to the East Bay Regional Park District’s Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, I was able to enjoy the beautiful white bell-shaped flowers of the pallid manzanita (Arctostaphylos pallida). As I hiked the Upper Huckleberry Loop, I reached a section on the trail where the vegetation and canopy dramatically changed. As I looked around, I realized I was looking at an area that had received vegetation treatment.
While vegetation treatments under transmission lines are required by public regulatory agencies, it felt like I had come across a scar on the land. As I observed the scar’s boundaries, it was apparent that nature is resilient. The site had received manual vegetation treatment by PG&E in 2018. Much of the area had stump re-spouted and a lot of the native vegetation had come back, presumably because much of the work had been done without the use of heavy equipment. On a trail in Sobrante Ridge Botanic Regional Preserve, I encountered another area that received a vegetation treatment. I observed chipped slash on the ground, tree stumps, and annual non-native grasses, a very different vegetation and post-treatment response than at the Huckleberry site.
One of our chapter’s Conservation Program goals has been working for a science-based approach to vegetation management and wildfire mitigation. Managing parks to reduce the likelihood of a fire and maintaining the habitat characteristics that keep the ecosystem functioning is complex work. Conservation Committee chair Jim Hanson, chapter volunteers, and I are working to learn more from land managers throughout the East Bay about vegetation treatments and how they are working to protect habitats and native flora. Conservation Committee volunteers Jane Francis, Stephanie McKenna, and Robin Mitchell have been exploring how home and landscape “hardening” helps protect against wind-blown embers (see “Fire-Resilient Landscaping with Native Plants” on the chapter’s Conservation Committee webpage). We are currently working with the East Bay Regional Park District to identify some areas suitable for restoration to coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia), a fire-resistant native tree that provides habitat for many insect, avian, and mammal species.
My goal as the Conservation Advocate is to honor the sacred and stay true to my tenets by working with land managers, volunteers, and scientists to address the need to protect people’s safety and wellbeing while not further degrading the ecosystems that native flora, and we as East Bay residents, depend on and enjoy. It is my hope that you will join us on this journey, lend your voices, and inspire your neighbors to engage with us as we advocate for responsible stewardship and wildfire management. We will share more information and ways to engage in future issues of the Bay Leaf.
— Álvaro Palacios Casanova, Conservation Advocate, CNPS East Bay Chapter