The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks is home to diverse native habitats, iconic geological formations, and rare animal species. Many threatened or endangered plants and animals and species of special concern depend on the natural resources of the open space to survive. For example, the coastal cactus wren, a bird species of special concern, depends almost exclusively on coastal cholla and coastal prickly pear cactus found in coastal sage scrub habitat, and the entire world’s population of California gnatcatchers – federally listed as a threatened species in 1993 – lives only in Baja California and coastal Southern California, including on the Landmarks. Restoring and enhancing native habitat on the open space directly helps protect local wildlife, and ongoing support from the public is crucial to these stewardship efforts.
“National Public Lands Day is an important chance for the community to care for our local wildlands, but there are opportunities every single day to steward the Landmarks,” said Michael O’Connell, Irvine Ranch Conservancy Executive Director. “There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you’ve had a personal impact on protecting rare and endangered plants and animals, and we’re excited to connect more people to the National and State Landmark in their own backyard.”
Stewardship programs on the Landmarks are offered by landowners such as OC Parks, the City of Irvine, and the City of Newport Beach, and are managed by partner organizations including the Conservancy. Staff and volunteers help protect and restore the natural resources of the Landmarks by removing invasive weeds, planting native seedlings, harvesting seeds from wildflowers, and more. They also combat the adverse effects of off-trail use, and foster a love of the land by giving the public a direct, personal connection to the open space.
Stewardship programs on the Landmarks encompass a wide variety of interests, locations, and difficulty levels. Whether planting and caring for native seedlings or helping remove invasive weeds that steal light and nutrients from native plants, the versatile programs unite the community and help outdoor enthusiasts blossom into stewards of the land.
Example of programs include:
- Adopt A Canyon – Agua Chinon is a long-term recurring program in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve that connects the community to a local canyon across four seasons. Volunteers engage in plant identification, invasive weed removal, and help plant native seedlings throughout the year, allowing stewards to watch their efforts come full circle.
- Native Seed Farm activities give volunteers hands-on interaction with native plant species. Volunteers plant native seedlings, weed, and harvest seeds from native wildflowers, all of which directly benefit habitat restoration sites throughout the Landmarks.
- Santiago Oaks Stewardship programs in OC Parks' Santiago Oaks Regional Park offer those who enjoy the outdoors an opportunity to leave their local parks better than they found them. Volunteers work closely with Park Rangers to combat the effects of off-trail hiking, biking and riding have on native flora and fauna.
A complete list of all stewardship programs offered on the Landmarks can be found here.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy will celebrate National Public Lands Day further with a social media photo-sharing contest. The community is invited to "like" Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks on Facebook, and then share a photo of themselves caring for or giving back to the open space in the comment section of the contest post here. One winner will be chosen at random to win a one-of-a-kind 11"x14" canvas portrait of The Sinks in Limestone Canyon.
All docent-led stewardship programs on the Landmarks are free and open to the public with required pre-registration. No experience is necessary, and all tools and training are provided. For a list of all upcoming stewardship opportunities on the Landmarks, please go to letsgooutsi.de/septstewardship, or for more information, visit LetsGoOutside.org/activities.