Subject: Open Space Outlook May 2017


May 2017

Is the Drought Behind Us?
At the start of 2016, 100 percent of California was in varying states of drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, that number has dropped to about 24 percent, with the Bay Area and further north enjoying most of the reprieve. The question remains whether the drought can be declared over.

“This year may be a wet one, but we should continue our long-term march toward greater water conservation,” said John Varela, chair of the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board, “We will certainly have more dry years in the future—maybe even next year.” He added that people should VOW, as in Value Our Water, to make permanent changes that save water such as replacing high water using landscapes with California friendly ones.
A Look Back in Time
The Coyote Valley, a 7,500 acre natural and agricultural landscape between south San Jose and Morgan Hill contains the Laguna Seca, the largest freshwater marsh remaining in the South Bay. But this area was anything but dry (“Seca”) during the 2016-2017 storms. As pictured above, this winter it filled for the first time in years, attracting birds and wildlife and reminding us of nature at our doorstep and what the area looked like over 100 years ago.

Human and Natural Communities Heal from Loma Fire and Winter Storms
Plant and animal communities experienced devastating impacts from the Loma Fire — and their story is still being written. Chaparral scrub, hardwood forests, grasslands and oak communities all burned during the fall fire — but nature has a way of healing itself, even if it takes some time.

Galli Basson, the Authority’s Resource Management Specialist, said that certain plant communities, like chaparral scrub, are normally fire receptive but regrowth may not follow typical patterns because of the years-long drought. “We’re expecting some rare species to pop up,” she said. “It will be interesting to see what plants come back, and whether they are native or invasive.”

The local human community breathed a collective sigh of relief on October 11, when the Loma Fire was contained after burning for nearly two weeks. Proactive land clearing by residents and the Authority helped save people’s homes from the fire. Twelve homes were destroyed and a total of 4,475 acres burned but, thankfully, no lives were lost.
Mark Wiley, a Casa Loma resident for six years and a volunteer firefighter, said that the fire was definitely not a surprise for most residents — especially after so many dry years — but the “water that came was, for some people, more devastating.”

“It was really a double whammy between the fire and the unprecedented amount of rain,” he said. “The fire was intense and there is a long road ahead for getting fixed up. One of the silver linings is the way the community has come together.”

During the fire, the Authority opened staging areas to accommodate residents, said Megan Robinson, Supervising Open Space Technician. “We were in a position to provide the residents with a place to stay close to their homes, offer a listening ear, and help out wherever we could.”

The Open Space Authority’s land management team has been busy monitoring and reporting on roads and hillsides at risk of mudslides and clearing and repairing trails damaged by fire and rainstorms.

“Our main concern has been visitor safety and maintaining the infrastructure of our trail system,” said Andy Burnside, Open Space Technician. “We’ve had a steady flow of visitors since the storms ended and our trails and preserves are just about back to normal.”

A Lichen Whisperer
Volunteer docent Cait Hutnik has a soft spot for the little guys—pond turtles, dragonflies and even lichen, an unsung hero of the forest. Cait began by taking photos of preserves and shortly after she began leading themed hikes in Sierra Vista and Rancho Cañada del Oro.

“The Open Space Authority gives volunteers the opportunity to explore their passions,” she said. She discovered lichen during dry winters when the mushrooms weren’t as abundant. Spotting the thriving lichen, she decided to dig deeper.

“I find lichen very beautiful in how it expresses itself,” she said. “I realize how important to nature they are. They act as carbon sinks. With their ability to clean the air they are very valuable.”

She calls lichen the “flipside to wildflowers.” While wildflowers are ephemeral, lichen will live in the same spot for a very long time, and can be photographed over the course of a year. Cait was recently recognized by the Lichen Society for promoting awareness and appreciation for lichen.
Making Connections to Nature

Download the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority 2016 Annual Report to the Community

Volunteer Opportunity!
Get your hands dirty as we do the first-ever cleanup at our newly-acquired Santa Teresa Foothills property! No experience required, we provide all the necessary training and tools!

Saturday, May 13, 2017
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Register today!
Who Am I?
You might spot my warm purple blossoms between March and June. They usually rise about a foot from the ground in scrub or chaparral habitat, including in Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve. My stem is fuzzy with slender leaves. Bees and butterflies enjoy my nectar, including the Bay checkerspot butterfly, which is found only in the San Francisco Bay area and is listed as federally threatened.
Starry Nights
Join astronomers from the San Jose Astronomical Association for a peaceful and cool evening out under the stars. They bring the telescopes!

Saturday, May 20, 2017
9:15 to 10:45 p.m.
Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Who Am I? Answer
I’m owl’s clover, or Castilleja exserta. My genus name – Castilleja, also includes Indian paintbrush and my blooms may resemble clover, although we aren’t related.
I’m found in most regions of California and in parts of the southwestern United States, although subspecies may differ. You may have noticed my leaves are thin: that’s because I don’t produce all of my own food. Instead, I steal some from nearby plants using small projections called haustoria to tunnel inside my neighbor’s tissues and nab a snack.
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Photo Credits

Laguna Seca - Patty Eaton
New growth - OSA Archive
Mark and Megan - Alisha Maniglia
Cait Hutnik - OSA Archive
Santa Teresa Foothills - Alisha Maniglia
Owl's Clover - J. Scanlon
Nebula - OSA Archive
Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority | 408.224.7476 |
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6980 Santa Teresa Blvd Suite 100, San Jose, CA 95119, United States of America
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