Skip to content

Ten-Year Bee Flat Canyon Restoration Project Receives Sign-Off

Picture

Bee Flat Canyon today
​Irvine Ranch Conservancy, in partnership with OCTA and OC Parks, recently completed a ten-year landscape-scale habitat restoration project in Bee Flat Canyon, revitalizing degraded lands in this 293-acre subwatershed of the Santa Ana River.
 
Tucked away in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon, Bee Flat Canyon ranges from Limestone Meadow near Santiago Canyon Road up to Loma Ridge in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. IRC conducted intensive restoration of 84 acres and removed invasive weeds throughout the entire subwatershed. Bee Flat Canyon was selected as a high priority restoration zone due to its ecological value and strong potential for success.
Picture

Before and after
“The Bee Flat Canyon restoration project is one of Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s largest and oldest restoration projects,” said Irvine Ranch Conservancy Project Manager Robert Freese. “With planning starting in 2010, the project spanned ten years, which included initial site reconnaissance and surveys, restoration planning, about two years of site preparation, followed by direct seeding of native species, and five to seven years of maintenance.”

Site preparation involved removing invasive weeds like black mustard and milk thistle using Bobcat mowers, brush cutters, and even goats to graze steep slopes of the canyon. Once the majority of weeds were cleared, plant palettes were created to reflect the variety of habitats at Bee Flat including coastal sage scrub, oak woodlands, chaparral, and native grasslands. Initial work was conducted during a severe drought from 2012 to 2017 during which no irrigation was used.

Picture

Before and after
​The Bee Flat Canyon restoration project was funded by a grant from OCTA’s Measure M Environmental Mitigation Program. The goal was to reestablish a diverse, resilient, self-sustaining ecosystem. The benefits included improved wildlife habitat, new corridors for wildlife movement, reduced wildfire hazard, improved soil health and water quality. 

“With this restoration project, we wanted to fill in the missing pieces and create connections across the landscape,” said Freese. “Over the years, the land had been degraded due to overgrazing, wildfire frequency and invasive species. Ten years later, we were able to re-introduce native plants and wildflowers like California Sagebrush, Purple Needlegrass, California Poppies and a variety of sage and lupine species, most of which came directly from IRC’s Native Seed Farm.”

The success of the restoration site was evaluated using ecologically-based performance standards, including arthropod community diversity and plant functional groups. After the evaluation was completed, the Bee Flat Canyon restoration project was deemed fully successful by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For more information about Bee Flat Canyon and the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, visit LetsGoOutside.org.