Irvine Ranch Conservancy is celebrating the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks and its stewardship programs during the month of December, in honor of International Volunteer Day – traditionally held on December 5. Nature lovers are invited to join the celebration by registering for stewardship programs that offer an opportunity to give back to the environment while connecting with the local lands.
This international day of volunteer recognition and action was founded by the United Nations, and the Conservancy encourages everyone to participate by volunteering during the month of December and beyond. The Landmarks span nearly 40,000 acres of open spaces, with many reoccurring stewardship opportunities that invite the community to become ambassadors of the lands. Getting involved as a volunteer is as easy as participating in a hike, volunteering on the Native Seed Farm, pulling an invasive weed, or helping out with trail maintenance.
In celebration of International Volunteer Day, we would like to take the time to recognize some of our exceptional volunteers here on the Landmarks:
Bequi Howarth, a relatively new volunteer, has made an especially important contribution to the restoration work in Weir Canyon following the fire and dedicated many hours to monitoring the gold-spotted oak borer infestation and controlling invasive plants.
Bob Sill greets participants and interprets the plants and wildlife for them as a wonderful
ambassador to the Landmarks. Bob has donated over 800 hours since 2012 in many areas of the Conservancy’s work. He has made great efforts to rid the trails of puncture vine as well as other invasive plants.
Chuck Sweigeart has been a solid supporter of the Conservancy and the many activities we offer since 2007. He is a regular at every Wilderness Access Day, providing registration support, recommending routes and other activities, and being an excellent ambassador of the Landmarks for the public visitors.
Carolyn Parsons has devoted her time and energy to helping the Irvine Ranch Conservancy on hiking and land stewardship programs since 2013. Her work is especially appreciated at the Augustine Nursery where you can find Carolyn enthusiastically seeding, planting and watering native shrubs for future projects in Limestone Canyon.
Duffy Clark is an avid naturalist and interpreter for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. His gregarious nature lends well to mentoring new Conservancy volunteers, taking time to go on patrols and explore so that everyone is further enriched by the experience. Duffy has been a volunteer since 2008 and has led hundreds of hours of programming
Chris Doyle became a volunteer with the Conservancy in 2012. Since then he has contributed almost 700 hours and many of those hours have been dedicated to the Trail Crew program for the last 6 years. Chris regularly shows up for the burliest of trail work projects. He can also be found on the trail volunteering as a Land Steward, or at a Fire Watch post during Red Flag days.
Gabriel Lassalle has been with us since 2011 and is a valuable asset to our many programs and departments. He regularly leads and assists with interpretive tours, family hikes and evening programs. He has a natural curiosity that is infectious with the visitors, especially when exploring tracks and other animal evidence.
Larry Robins began volunteering with the Conservancy in 2012 after a conversation with an OC Parks Ranger who was patrolling the Irvine Ranch Open Space. That interaction led him to become a volunteer, a docent and a member of Orange County Fire Watch. Larry has built portable cases for the many animal mounts available for volunteers to use during activities and outreach events.
Richard Dryden has been a regular participant in stewardship events since 2016 in the City of Irvine Open Space Preserve as well as the City of Newport Beach’s Buck Gully. He has donated more than 50 hours this calendar year alone to help maintain the water-wise restoration site in Buck Gully, remove artichoke thistle along the trail in Quail Hill, and collect native seed materials.
Lesley Gill joined Irvine Ranch Conservancy as a volunteer in 2015 and quickly became a Trail Guide. She is a frequent supporter of Wilderness Access Days as well as the OC Fire Watch program. With family pulling her frequently across the pond to England, Lesley still manages to give greatly to the land – having contributed over 900 hours of volunteerism.
Kilian Witzel is a Trail Crew triple threat: he is a docent, a driver, and has limitless energy and enthusiasm for trail work. During Trail Crew programs Kilian is always very engaged and willing to help out wherever help is needed. It’s well-rounded volunteers like Kilian that keep the land and trails in such good shape!
Rudi Berkelhamer devoted many volunteer hours toward moving our seed inventory data into a new relational database. As a result, the Science and Stewardship Department now has an updated, cutting-edge database to track how much seed of which species from which collections we have available for restoration. Rudi has donated almost 500 hours since she joined the Conservancy.
Steve Christle has donated over 800 hours to the land since 2012 and his work has been priceless to each department. He regularly supports wildlife monitoring through the Science department’s camera trap program. It takes a considerable amount of time to patrol the trails, find the camera locations, and bring back valuable data to the Science’s camera technicians so the Conservancy can monitor the health of wildlife on the Landmarks.
“Our sole purpose is for the land and meeting the needs of our partners in the service of excellent stewardship and connecting people to these spectacular places,” said Michael O’Connell, Irvine Ranch Conservancy Executive Director. “We all know that taking care of these lands and building a community of support is far too big a job for any single organization or agency. Without an extraordinary community of partners, this entire enterprise wouldn’t be possible.”
International Volunteer Day is a catalyst to begin a new journey as a steward of the lands or to rekindle a love of nature. Stewardship programs on the Landmarks offer the community an opportunity to protect and enhance the natural resources of the open space, and ensure the local wildlands are around for future generations to enjoy. For more information on the Landmarks and stewardship programs, visit LetsGoOutside.org/activities.