Unique attributes of Midland

0 downloads 0 Views 603KB Size Report
breeds along the upper Santa Ynez River and according to Frank & Horton (1994) has also been seen ... Garden & Capra Press: Santa Barbara, CA; 391 pp. Stephenson JR & GM Calcarone (1999) Southern California Mountains and Foothills.

CONSERVATION IMPORTANCE OF MIDLAND

Prepared by Jeff Goddard Assistant Research Biologist Marine Science Institute University of California Santa Barbara, CA 93106-6150 and Ben Munger Faculty Member Midland School P.O. Box 8 Los Olivos, CA 93441

April 2004 (Updated September 2006)

1. Physical 1a. Midland’s 2,823 acres rise in a fan shape from 1200’ on Alamo Pintado Creek to about 2400’ up the slopes of Figueroa Mountain, Grass Mountain and Lookout Peak at the southern end of the San Rafael Mountains. The property is surrounded by UCSB’s Sedgwick Reserve to the east, the Los Padres National Forest to the northeast, the Jackson Ranch to the northwest, and Chamberlin Ranch to the southwest. With Figueroa Mountain Road being the only paved road in the vicinity, Midland’s property contributes significantly to one of the largest undeveloped and unfragmented habitats in the mountains and foothills of southern California. This habitat is important for large and wide-ranging predators, including black bears, cougars, bobcats, coyotes and various raptors. Midland is also within the flight range of California Condors in the San Rafael Wilderness Area, and these endangered birds have been sighted in the past over Midland. 1b. Water flows year-round at Midland in upper Alamo Pintado Creek in Birabent Canyon and in upper Maple Creek. There are also three springs developed for livestock in the upper elevations, as well as a number of seeps. Year-round sources of water are fairly uncommon on the south side of the San Rafael Mountains and are important to resident and migratory wildlife and riparian zone plants. Livestock have been allowed to graze seasonally in the upper elevations of Midland’s property, but the developed springs tend to keep them away from the creek bottoms and surrounding steep slopes. Water quality in Alamo Pintado Creek is generally good, and except after heavy rains, it runs clear. 1c. Serpentinite, the state rock of California, occurs in extensive outcrops in the mid to upper elevations of Midland’s property. The minerals in this rock degrade into soils with a chemical composition that is harsh to many plants. As such, serpentine soils tend to support a lower overall diversity of plants, but a relatively high number of endemic species that are adapted to or tolerant of the unique chemistry (see below). Serpentinite outcrops are fairly widespread in northern California, but south of San Luis Obispo County are confined almost entirely to the San Rafael Mountains in Santa Barbara County. 2. Biological 2a. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata. Valley oak is a large, deciduous, long-lived oak endemic to the floodplains and valley floors of California. They comprise critical habitat for myriad wildlife, most notably nesting birds, and their acorns and seedlings are important in the diets of numerous birds and mammals. This stately tree is also Midland’s emblem, the source of its motto, and the first native species that Midland students learn to identify. Development and agriculture have greatly reduced valley oak woodland in California, most of which is in private ownership, and regeneration of these stately trees has been severely reduced by ecological changes stemming from these activities, as well as from the removal of large native predators, and the introduction of non-native weeds and predators. Unfortunately, valley oaks at Midland represent a microcosm of these impacts. Found mainly on the floodplain of Alamo Pintado Creek and on gentle slopes, the trees at Midland are almost all centuries old and slowly but surely succumbing to limb-loss, decay and blow down. Frank

2

and Horton (1994) noted that valley oaks at Midland have not been regenerating for many decades and described their condition as “desperate.” Owing to the slowness of these changes and the longevity of the trees, we tend to perceive valley oaks as everlasting pillars of strength, hardiness and beauty. We take comfort in their presence, mark the seasons by the condition of their leaves, and enjoy their shade and the wildlife they support. However, we need to take active measures to give their offspring - their seedlings - a chance at surviving. The conservation potential for these trees at Midland exists not just in the extent of the habitat along Alamo Pintado Creek, but also in the community of students, faculty, families and friends who can help implement and maintain valley oak restoration efforts. Efforts have been made in the past, but not sustained. Guided by the advice of Midland’s Environmental Advisory Board, Lise Goddard, Midland’s Director of Environmental Programs, restarted restoration efforts in the 2004-2005 academic year. In the two years since then, members of the Midland community have planted over 500 valley oak acorns in a total of 211 protective, tubular enclosures (L. Goddard, personal communication to JG, July 2006). Of the 87 tree tubes planted in fall 2004, 50 (57%) had produced saplings after one year. Ms. Goddard intends for each student in the school to plant 2-3 acorns, from valley oaks or blue oaks (see below), in a staked tree tube every year. 2b. Blue oak, Quercus douglasii. Blue oak is endemic to the foothills surrounding the Central Valley of California and provides important habitat for both wildlife and livestock. Millions of acres of blue oak woodland have been lost to rangeland clearing, and more recently, to agriculture, especially the development of vineyards, and urbanization. With increasing population pressure, especially in the Central Valley, more of this habitat, which is mainly under private ownership, is threatened. Owing to these threats, conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy have targeted blue oak woodlands for preservation. Midland has 133 acres of woodland dominated by blue oak, located primarily in the northeast part of the property (Figure 1). Significant numbers of blue oak also occur in the property’s 174 acres of mixed oak/gray pine forest and woodland (Figure 1), and many more blue oak are scattered in the school’s extensive mixed oak woodland. Together with the extensive blue oak woodland in the Sedgwick Reserve and in the neighboring Los Padres National Forest, this is a significant amount of essentially continuous woodland habitat. As mentioned above, blue oak will be included in Midland’s ongoing oak restoration efforts. 2c. Rare, threatened and other species of concern. To our knowledge only one survey has been conducted on Midland specifically for rare and endangered species (see below). However, extensive surveys have been conducted in the neighboring Los Padres National Forest and in UCSB’s Sedgwick Reserve, and over the years local botanists have made numerous collections in the vicinity of Figueroa Mountain. Based on these records a number of species of concern are known to exist or likely exist on Midland’s property (Table 1). Foremost among these is the Santa Barbara Jewelflower (Figure 2), a herbaceous annual known only from serpentinite outcrops in the vicinity of Figueroa Mountain in Santa Barbara County. A member of the mustard family, the Santa Barbara Jewelflower is considered one of the rarest annual plants in North America. Three populations were discovered in spring

3

Table 1. Species of concern known or suspected to exist at Midland. Records based on Smith (1998), Stephenson & Calcarone (1999), surveys conducted at the UCSB Sedgwick Reserve (see References) and personal observations. This list is not intended to be comprehensive. Abbreviations used in table: CNPS = California Native Plant Society, FS = U.S. Forest Service Taxon Species (Common name) Angiospermata (flowering plants)

Listing Status

Brassicaceae (Mustard family) Caulanthus amplexicaulus var. barbarae (Santa Barbara Jewelflower)

Status at Midland

CNPS Rare; FS Sensitive

Present

Convolvulaceae (Morning-Glory Family) Calystegia collina venusta (South Coast Range Morning Glory)

CNPS Limited distribution

Present

Liliaceae (Lily family) Lilium humboldtii ocellatum (Ocellated Humboldt lily)

CNPS Limited distribution

Present

Polemoniaceae (Phlox family) Navarretia jaredii (Jared’s navarretia)

CNPS Limited distribution

Possible

Amphibians Rana aurora draytonii (California Red-legged Frog) Reptiles Clemmys marmorata pallida (Southwestern Pond Turtle) Thamnophis hammondii (Two-striped Garter Snake) Birds Pica nuttali (Yellow-billed Magpie) Vireo bellii pusillus (Least Bell’s vireo)

4

Threatened (Federal List)

Present

FS Sensitive

Possible

FS Sensitive

Possible

FS Local viability concern

Present

Endangered (Federal List)

Possible

2006 at Midland, one from Serpentine Mountain, and two from serpentinite outcrops on either side of Maple Creek near Senior Cabin (Figure 3). Dr. Alan Pepper, a botanist with Texas A & M University who has been studying the population ecology and genetics of the Santa Barbara Jewelflower for the past decade, confirmed the identity of the plants and is excited about the prospect of studying these relatively undisturbed populations (A. Pepper, personal communications to JG, May 2006). Taking care to minimize adverse impacts on the plant, Midland’s populations of the Santa Barbara Jewelflower can also become a valuable educational asset to Midland students. The federally listed California Red-legged Frog has also been found at Midland. In September 2006 Faith Nygren, Midland’s Art teacher, and her husband John found an adult next to Parks House, on the campus. Shawn McVicar, Midland’s Biology teacher, identified and photographed the frog, and after showing it to his classes, released it near where it was originally found. This species is federally listed as threatened and would make a good subject of a systematic survey conducted by students. One species in Table 1, the Least Bell’s Vireo, is federally listed as endangered. This bird breeds along the upper Santa Ynez River and according to Frank & Horton (1994) has also been seen at Zaca Lake, just north of Midland. It breeds in low elevation riparian habitats, particularly Cottonwood-willow woodlands and Mule Fat scrub. Willows and Mule Fat have been increasing along Alamo Pintado Creek at Midland ever since the riparian area here was fenced to exclude livestock. For these reasons, we have included this endangered bird as possibly occurring at Midland. 3. Cultural 3a. The mouth of Birabent Canyon, with its year-round supply of water, park-like terrace, and plentiful supplies of acorns and pine nuts, was the site of Soxtonokmu, the largest Chumash village in the Santa Ynez Valley. The University of California at Santa Barbara conducted archaeological excavations of this spectacular site in the late 1960’s. Subsequent analysis of the artifacts revealed that this village conducted major trade with coastal tribes and was a center of economic activity. The village site has been fenced to prevent damage by livestock, but can be traversed and enjoyed by hikers making their way up the canyons toward Grass Mountain. 3b. Midland School is built around an early 20th century ranch, and the original farmhouse (which is on the National Register of Historic Places), barn and two other buildings (one of which became the chapel, the other of which serves as the student store and post office) are at center of the school. Many of the school’s early buildings (e.g., some of classrooms and faculty homes) were built by faculty and students, are unique and may also be eligible for listing. Midland School today still represents a classic example of an early California boarding school, with its rigorous, disciplined education based largely in an outdoor setting. Midland was - and still is - unique among these early schools with its emphases on selfreliance, frugality, and awareness and conservation of natural resources. Paul Squibb, the school’s founder, was also progressive in admitting qualified students to the school, regardless of their economic means.

5

References Ferren W, J Hamilton & M Williams (2003) Draft checklist of the vascular plants of Sedgwick Reserve, Santa Barbara County, California. Frank F & JC Horton (1994) Forest Stewardship Program: landowners plan. Technical Report prepared for Midland School, Los Olivos, CA. Howard JL (1992) Quercus douglasii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ Howard JL (1992) Quercus lobata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ Kuhn, William (2004) Vegetation map of Midland School. GIS database and map prepared for Midland School, Los Olivos, CA. Lewis GA (2001) Dominion over Palm and Pine: Paul Squibb and his Students. Artful Codger Press: Kingston, Ontario, Canada. 601 pp. McRae KS (1999) Soxtonokmu (CA-SBA-167): An Analysis of Artifacts and Economic Patterns from a Late Period Chumash Village in the Santa Ynez Valley. M.A. Thesis, University of Texas at San Antonio. 205 pp. Schoenherr AA (1992) A Natural History of California. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA; 772 pp. Smith CF (1998) A Flora of the Santa Barbara Region, California. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden & Capra Press: Santa Barbara, CA; 391 pp. Stephenson JR & GM Calcarone (1999) Southern California Mountains and Foothills Assessment: habitat and species conservation issues. General Technical Report GTR-PSW172. Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 402 pp.

6

7

(from Kuhn, 2004)

Figure 2. Santa Barbara Jewelflower (Caulanthus amplexicaulus var. barbarae) from Midland, May 2006. Clockwise, from upper left: Whole, flowering plant, 14” tall; basal leaves of flowering plant; flower; two seedlings. Photographs by Jeff Goddard.

8

Lookout Mountain

Grass Mountain

Maple Creek

Site 2 Site 1

A

Grass Mountain

Maple Creek

Serpentine Mountain

Zaca Peak

Site 3

Alamo Pintado Creek

Figueroa Mountain Road

B

Figure 3. Aerial views showing serpentinite outcrops containing the three known populations of the Santa Barbara Jewelflower at Midland. A, looking north toward site 1 (elevation above sea level = 539 m), and site 2 (elevation = 557 m). B, looking northeast toward site 3 (elevation = 552 m) on Serpentine Mountain. Images from Google Earth.

9