WILDLIFE ACCESS MONITORING
Challenge: At the core of our mission is finding and effectively managing the dynamic balance between the public’s desire to enjoy the land and preserving the special natural resources it contains for future generations. To do this, it is important to better understand how wildlife and habitats respond to different types and levels of public access.
Strategy: The IRC science team is partnering with researchers at Cal State Long Beach and UCLA to study the effects of public access on different wildlife and habitats. One way is by using remotely-triggered cameras placed throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. These candid photos (and sometimes even video) allow researchers to observe wildlife and how it responds to people. Early results show, for example, that deer respond very differently to disturbance than nesting hawks. And what’s more, wildlife reacts differently to varying types of access. For instance, a speedy group of mountain bikers has a different effect than a solitary hiker or several equestrians.
Goal: Knowing how wildlife and habitats respond allows us to adapt both public access and land management to achieve a sustainable balance. Our ultimate goal is to maximize opportunities for the public to enjoy these unique lands, while ensuring that it doesn’t have long-term impacts on habitats and wildlife. In this way we can make sure that people connect to the land while knowing that future generations will also experience its wonders.
OAK WOODLANDS MANAGEMENT
Challenge: The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are made up of a mosaic of habitats including oak woodlands, which are generally found along canyon bottoms. Oak woodlands are very important for a variety of reasons such as providing food and shelter for animals; nesting areas for many birds; and helping keep wildfire from spreading - not to mention cool, shady places for a refreshing summer hike or ride. Due to many decades of grazing and other management practices, oak woodlands are much less abundant than they once were.
Strategy: Restoring oak woodlands requires a long-term approach. IRC is surveying the current status and condition of this habitat and is identifying areas that have the potential or need for restoration. We are also looking at factors that may be preventing oaks from recovering and thriving. The data collected from this project also turned out to be priceless in evaluating change due to the 2007 Santiago Fire.
Goal: Our goal is to return robust, healthy oak woodlands to the canyons where they once flourished. We plan to work with our partners and other managers to begin oak woodland restoration in key locations. All restoration projects will be carefully planned to consider other important habitats and species such as native grassland and streamside habitats. And if successful, your and our great-grandchildren will be able to enjoy spectacular oak-filled canyons and the wildlife that live there.
Challenge: Science and Stewardship on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks is a never-ending assignment. There is always a need to gather and assess scientific data and use it to better inform decisions about protection and recreation. At the same time, IRC’s dedicated volunteers are eager to contribute their work and energy to our mission. To combine the two, IRC has begun a "Citizen Science" program to allow volunteers to become involved in real-world science.
Strategy: Volunteers are trained and guided by IRC’s scientists and get involved in many projects including the access monitoring and oak woodlands projects described above, as well as post-fire surveys and monitoring of species and habitats. You don’t have to be a scientist to participate - anyone who is interested may sign up here.
Goal: Well-trained, active Citizen Scientists allow us to greatly increase our ability to do the excellent science that underlies all our activities. It is also a way to strongly connect people to the land. And the ultimate beneficiary of both is the spectacular wildlands and parks, the wildlife and habitats that live there, and the human communities that surround it.