Most of us know ants as tiny pests that we’d rather not have in our kitchens, but these amazing little insects have an outsize role to play in nature. The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are home to several native ant species that play an important role in the ecosystem. These tiny arthropods turn over and aerate soil, allowing oxygen and water to reach plant roots. Their movements aid in seed dispersal, contributing to the growth of new plants. Ants are also food for many larger animals on the Landmarks, such as beetles and spiders.
Mountain lions are rarely seen by humans, but they loom large in the imagination of many outdoor enthusiasts. It’s not just their size – with healthy males weighing up to 220 pounds, they’re the second-largest big cat in the Americas. And it’s not just their incredible range – found from the Yukon to the very tip of South America, they are the widest-ranging terrestrial mammals in the Western Hemisphere. They are adaptive, making their home in a wide variety of habitats, from deserts to forests to wetlands. Their widespread presence means they are known by many names, such as puma, cougar, and catamount. Combine their size and range with their striking features and noted elusiveness and you’ve got a mysterious, majestic animal that inspires awe, despite the pains it takes to stay away from humans.
Ten years ago, Irvine Ranch Conservancy was faced with the challenge of acquiring plant materials like seed and container plants for habitat restoration projects throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff put their heads together and proposed an innovative idea of collecting seeds from the wild and growing them on a farm. Once grown, the plants would be harvested for more seed and used in restoration projects throughout the Landmarks. This idea led to the creation of the Native Seed Farm.
This past fall marked the 10th anniversary of the Native Seed Farm and Irvine Ranch Conservancy is excited to celebrate the significant growth and impact the Farm has had in restoring the Landmarks, as well as educating the community.
On Tuesday, December 10, Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett of the Orange County Board of Supervisors presented certificates of recognition to OC Fire Watch and exemplary Fire Watch volunteers. The Orange County Board of Supervisors recognized volunteers Rick Gaskins, Rocky Bruno, Joan Steiner and Ed Steiner for their dedication to Fire Watch activities and protecting the Orange County community from wildfire. These four volunteers have individually served over 300 hours of volunteer service to support their community during Red Flag Warning deployments.
“While these volunteers are not trained as firefighters, they provide an important component to prevent destructive wildfires,” said Chairwoman Bartlett. “OC Fire Watch volunteers have over 12,000 hours of volunteer service in support of their communities. I want to congratulate all of them for a job well done and thank you for your service to our communities.”
While the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are known for beautiful outdoor settings and diverse flora and fauna, they are also the native habitat and home for many local wildlife species throughout the Orange County region. By working alongside landowners including OC Parks, the City of Irvine and City of Newport Beach, Irvine Ranch Conservancy constantly strives to accommodate the needs of wildlife while also considering the recreational needs of the public.
One of the key programs the Conservancy uses to observe various native animal species is the Wildlife Monitoring Project. This project employs camouflaged cameras throughout the Landmarks to gain close looks at our native wildlife, including rare and protected birds and mammals. Heat and motion trigger sensors in the cameras, which then allow Conservancy staff and volunteers to gather images that indicate the health, movement, and distribution of wildlife. These data inform the work of staff and the landowners to protect important species, but the images also provide the public ways to explore the Landmarks.
Welcome to the Irvine Ranch Conservancy "News from the Field" blog. These articles are written by Conservancy staff about activities and projects in and near the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.