In June 2015, UC Berkeley and the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) began a multi-stakeholder process to discuss ways to combine stakeholder input and geospatial tools to find areas of mutual agreement for development of utility-scale solar energy projects and associated transmission in the San Joaquin Valley. Beyond the siting of solar projects, this work will lay the foundation for planning of transmission lines necessary to connect future valley projects. Directing utility-scale projects and transmission to marginal and unusable valley agricultural lands can reduce the stress from solar projects currently placed on intact desert lands.
Succulent owl's clover photo by Neal Kramer.
Using online mapping tools available at DataBasin.org, separate working groups have developed maps based on each subgroup's goals and priorities. For example, the solar industry identified lands within the San Joaquin Valley where slope and geology are suitable for siting large projects. The agricultural subgroup is attempting to identify least-conflict lands where solar development would not impinge upon lands with arable soils, groundwater recharge capabilities, or that represent priority rangeland conservation areas.
CNPS is part of the environmental subgroup whose map of least-conflict lands attempts to identify San Joaquin Valley areas with least conservation value based on an intricate model of wildlife and landscape variables, including avoidance of rare plant habitat, vernal pools, and rare vegetation alliances known to occur in the San Joaquin Valley.
Kern mallow photo by Neal Kramer.
Any future San Joaquin Valley solar project applicants using the products of this process will still need to go through project level California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and/or National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, but presumably such review would encounter fewer environmental obstacles having been vetted, albeit at a very coarse scale, through this process.
The OPR plans on publishing a white paper summarizing the work of this effort by the end of 2015. Earlier this fall the California Energy Commission, along with the California Public Utilities Commission, announced plans to initiate a new round of statewide transmission line planning (a.k.a. Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative 2.0, or RETI 2.0). The products of the San Joaquin Valley least-conflict solar workgroup will feed into RETI 2.0 planning. For more information about this process please contact CNPS Conservation Program Director Greg Suba. (916-447-2677 x-206).
San Joaquin Valley woolly-threads photo by Neal Kramer.
You can view the details of the environmental conservation subgroup's map of least-conflict solar lands in the San Joaquin Valley (Version 8) here.
Forest Plan Revisions: Sequoia, Inyo, and Sierra National Forests
White fir and sugar pine forest - Julie Evens
There are 19 National Forests in California. Each has a Forest Plan that guides its management over time, and Forest Plans must be revised on a regular basis - typically within 10-15 year cycles.
The current revision cycle is the first to use new US Forest Service planning rules established in 2012. “Early adopter" Sequoia, Sierra, and Inyo National Forests are the first three to employ the new rules. Through the forest plan revision process, native plant conservation opportunities include establishing increased representation of complex early seral forest across the Sierra Nevada, designating additional wilderness areas where important plant habitats can be conserved, and ensuring each forest's Species of Conservation Concern list includes all rare plants eligible for the list.
The draft Plan Revisions and associated Draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents are scheduled for public review sometime this November or December, but this could get pushed into 2016. The draft Plan will include proposed management actions related to complex early seral forests, lands considered for wilderness designation, and a new Species of Conservation Concern list for each forest.
A dedicated coalition of forest conservation groups led by Sierra Forest Legacy has been developing a conservation strategy for Sierra Nevada forests for over a decade. In preparation for the current cycle of Forest Plan Revisions the coalition published National Forests in the Sierra Nevada: A Conservation Strategy (2012). The strategy offers the Forest Service science-based conservation alternatives to consider and incorporate into forest plans.
The Forest Service has opened the management plan book for the Sequoia, Sierra, and Inyo forests and invited the public to weigh in. The CNPS Conservation Program is engaged in the process to ensure there will be appropriate management of native plant species and communities on lands managed by the Forest Service, and to advocate effective application of the new planning rules to the Plan Revision process. What unfolds with the early adopter forests will be carried forward in subsequent plan revisions. The next batch of forest - the Plumas, Lassen, and Modoc National Forests - are scheduled to begin their revision process around 2016/2017.
2015 Legislative Year in Review
Vern Goehring, CNPS Legislative Analyst
In a legislative year heavily dominated by "Death with Dignity" and vaccines in the media, one might be forgiven to think that the environment didn't get much attention, but that'd be wrong. While the environment wasn't at the center of everyone's attention, it was on the minds of members of the California Legislature. The usual range of anti-California Environmental Quality Act bills were introduced but luckily none went very far. Of course, SB 350 received a lot of attention. The energy measure pushed by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin DeLeon and the Governor was dubbed the 50/50/50 bill due to its triple aims to generate 50% more energy from renewable sources, reduce energy use by 50%, and reduce oil use by 50%. As you can imagine the oil industry did not like this, working triple time and spending accordingly to oppose the bill and get the oil provision stricken.
The drought and increased focus on water conservation got the attention of the legislators and the artificial turf industry who didn't want to be cut out of the landscape conversion push. Two bills were enacted prohibiting home owners associations and local governments from completely banning artificial turf while allowing some regulation of its use. Three bills were introduced to give financial incentives to converting landscaped areas to water efficient designs, including artificial turf. All funding for artificial grass failed.
Fortunately, a bill by Assemblymember Mark Levine (San Rafael), mandating that State agencies use "drought tolerant plants with an emphasis on native plant species" when landscaping or upgrading landscaped state facilities and property was signed by the Governor. We hope that native plant nurseries are already ramping up production.
A non-native plant got a lot of attention as well. Three bills putting into place a statewide regulatory program for the production of medicinal marijuana were enacted. These benefit native plants and natural resources with clearer laws and more funding from fees for environmental protection enforcement to protect water quality, riparian habitat, and reduce illegal forest clearing.
A related effort via the Legislature and a public initiative will seek to create an excise tax on marijuana to generate general funds that could be used to restore thousands of acres of natural resource lands already damaged by years of illegal growing. A unique feature in state law prohibits regulatory fees from this use. Assemblymember Jim Wood (Healdsburg) is leading this effort in the Legislature and several groups are working on an initiative for the November 2016 ballot.
And finally, CNPS was the lead organization working with freshman Assemblywomen Patty Lopez (San Fernando) on AB 559, an important reminder of the connection between wildlife and native flora. The bill directs the California Department of Fish & Wildlife to undertake monarch butterfly conservation measures along with other public agencies, community groups, landowners, and non-profit organizations. The bill identifies several best practices, including restoring habitat using "appropriate native milkweed species", controlling weed and pests using integrated pest management practices instead of chemical sprays, and using a variety of tree species that best meet a range of monarch butterfly needs.
In all it was a pretty good year in the Legislature for CNPS, and of course we get to start all over in January 2016.
Upcoming CNPS Plant Science Workshop
Further details, pricing, and registration information for upcoming workshops are posted on the workshops webpage. Please contact Becky Reilly, CNPS Events Coordinator, for more information.
Instructor: David L. Magney, Botanist/Certified Arborist. This workshop will focus on how to read and analyze the biological resources section of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) or Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) prepared to satisfy the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Registration open now.
Chapter Events - A Sampling from Around the State
To connect to your local chapter, or to find other events in your region, see this page for a list and map of CNPS chapters. Even more events from CNPS chapters and partners can be viewed on the Horticulture Events Calendar.
Bart O'Brien, co-author of "California Native Plants for the Garden" and "Reimagining the California Lawn and Garden" will be presenting this special program. Bart is a fifth generation Californian who received his BS in environmental planning and management at UC Davis and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University. Considered by many to be THE native plant guru, this is a program you will not want to miss. Del Mar Center, 40600 Leeward Rd, The Sea Ranch, CA.
The annual Bristlecone Chapter potluck begins at 5:30 PM this year. Bring food, drink and conversation to share, bring utensils and plates for yourself. Members and non-members welcome. We'll follow the potluck with Chapter Elections at 6:45 PM, followed immediately by the Chapter Program at 7:00 PM. Sophie Winitsky will present her observations on sagebrush regeneration throughout the Inyo National Forest. Sophie has spent the last five months helping the Inyo National Forest with rare plant monitoring, assisting Jeff Holmquist and Jutta Schmidt-Gengenbach with aquatic insect studies, and conducting her own research project on the various factors leading to sagebrush success on the Inyo. Sophie has made a tremendous ecological contribution to the Bristlecone Chapter and Inyo National Forest, and her enthusiasm and curiosity are contagious! White Mountain Research Center, 3000 E. Line St, Bishop.
Come join us for our monthly work day at the Point Vicente Interpretive Garden. A hub to the local area for its spectacular views and whale watching platform, the garden is in a prime location for visitors to see the beauty of California native landscapes. We work with and depend on volunteers like you to keep this garden looking beautiful. Whether you are an expert gardener or can't tell a weed from a native, come join us and we will find the right task for you. Make sure to bring a hat, closed-toe shoes, plenty of water, and a camera for the spectacular views. Point Vicente Interpretive Center, 31501 Palos Verdes Dr W, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
With no flowers to look for and with two new shrub books in hand, it's a good day to see how many species of shrubs we can find in one day while still having a good time. The route could include dune forest, Azalea State Reserve, Blue Lake Hatchery or Industrial Loop, Chezem Rd., Lord Ellis Summit, Vista Point, Berry Summit, Horse Mountain, and East Fork Willow Creek. We can decide as we go. Dress for the weather; bring lunch and water. Meet at Pacific Union School (3001 Janes Rd, Arcata) at 8:30 a.m. to carpool, or arrange another place. Return late afternoon. Carol 822-2015.
Approximately 1900 reasonably priced California native plants and wildflower seeds appropriate for gardens in the Los Angeles basin will be available, including plants for attracting birds and butterflies to your home garden. Knowledgeable chapter members will be on hand to answer questions. See the Chapter's plant sale page for a plant list. Eaton Canyon Nature Center, 1750 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA.
The Kern Chapter of CNPS will offer a workshop on lawn removal techniques and how to plant a garden. Consideration will be given to soil types, amount of sun/shade, and non-native plants in the yard. It is an opportunity for residents to learn how to modify their landscapes in addressing the drought and increasing cost of water. Kern County Superintendent of Schools building at 1300 17th St, between K and L Streets, Bakersfield. Parking is accessible from 18th St. Presented by members of the Kern Chapter who have removed their own lawns!
The Vacaville Museum and Willis Jepson Chapter present: An Afternoon Among the Oaks, Exploring the Ecology of Solano County's Oak Trees. Free admission and refreshments. Featuring oak experts Pam Muick, Liz Bernhardt, and Ted Swiecki speaking on local oaks, restoration, and pests. The Vacaville Museum, 213 Buck Ave, Vacaville, CA.
Presented by Jim and Catie Bishop. Seemingly delicate, beautiful and beautifully-adapted plants grow on high mountain summits…above the life zone of any tree. It's not easy… it's always cool, sometimes bitterly cold. A plant's leaves might be fairly warm while its roots are near freezing. The wind howls, and ultraviolet radiation is intense. The cold air carries little moisture. Why are there alpine plants anyway? How do they manage to survive where trees cannot, and to handle the severe environmental stresses? We'll consider these questions and others, and we'll look at the varied microclimatic conditions that shape the habitats for alpine plants, along with adaptations that suit them to this demanding world. And in the process we'll see some lovely plants and spectacular places. Shepard Garden and Arts Center, McKinley Park, 3330 McKinley Blvd, Sacramento.
The trees growing on the Monterey Peninsula are one of the most important features of our unique habitat for plants, animals, and humans. Urban Forestry attempts to manage our trees and open space areas to balance the needs of people and the natural world. We have stewardship of an amazing urban forest and tree species which range from primeval natives to spectacular exotic and introduced varieties. But we face many challenges to protect and preserve our local forests, and neighborhood and backyard trees. This presentation will illuminate some of the issues with regard to trees, and will hopefully stimulate interest in the opportunities we have to help keep our wonderful human habitat green and sustainable. Steven Morton, Assistant Urban Forester for the City of Monterey, will discuss his experiences and provide information and practical knowledge about local trees and their care and maintenance. Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, 165 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove, CA.
Leader: Rick Burgess. Accomplished botanist Rick Burgess will show us what the trees, shrubs, and other flowering plants are in this colorful wooded stream canyon at the base of the Topatopa Mountains in the Los Padres National Forest next to the Upper Ojai Valley. Meet at the convenience store parking lot on Hwy. 150 (Ojai-Santa Paula Rd.) just east of Sisar Rd. in the rustic little town of Summit at 9:00 AM for carpooling. Carpooling is necessary because parking is very limited at the trailhead. The Fall colors here are outstanding, and different plants will be flowering than those seen on the June 2015 Sisar hike. Bring lug-soled boots/shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, lunch, and a camera. Children welcome. Be warned: no restrooms on the hike. Anything more than light rain cancels. To RSVP, call (805) 794-5334.
Catch the Riverside/San Bernardino fall plant sale at Western Municipal Water District's water efficiency garden, "Landscapes: Southern California Style," at 450 Alessandro Blvd, Riverside, CA 92508. CNPS members get a 10% discount on native landscape plants, seeds, books, posters, and other items. Not a member? Join on site! Featuring a free program, California Gardening with Native Plants by Kate Kramer, PhD. Plant list coming soon, here.
Dairy Ravine and Cable Ravine form the north-facing slopes across from the main park entrance. Both feature coastal scrub plant communities and endangered butterfly habitat threatened by eucalyptus plantings. We'll walk the Dairy Ravine and Summit Trails to the top of the mountain, then to Kamkatcha Point for a look at two lovely manzanitas, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi forma suborbiculata and the endemic Arctostaphylos imbricata. We'll also see two huckleberries: not only the well-known evergreen (Vaccinium ovatum) but also dwarf (V. cespitosum), which is rare on the coast. $6 per vehicle at the entrance, then turn right at the stop sign, follow the road under Guadalupe Canyon Parkway, and meet in the small parking area. Heavy rain will postpone to November 21. Heavy rain November 21 cancels. San Bruno Mountain State Park, 555 Guadalupe Canyon Pkwy, Brisbane.
Field Trip: Lichens of Rock Spring Saturday, November 21, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Join Kristin Jakob and Shelly Benson to see the lichens of Rock Spring. In addition to our California State Lichen, lace lichen (Ramalinia menziessi), other lichens of interest we'll likely see along the way include three species of rag lichen - Platismatia glauca, P. herrei, and P. stenophylla—a relatively uncommon foam lichen (Stereocaulon sterile) on a serpentine rock outcrop, and several types of cyanolichen growing in the chaparral. We will also point out vascular plants of interest along the trail. The route will start with the Simmons Trail to Barth's Retreat, from where we'll return via either a westerly loop up the Cataract Trail, or an easterly one via Potrero Meadows. Meet at the Rock Spring parking lot (no fee) on Mt. Tamalpais, at the intersection of Ridgecrest and Pantoll Roads, about a mile uphill from the Pantoll Ranger Station, which is on Panoramic Hwy between Mill Valley and Stinson Beach. Heavy rain cancels.
El Dorado Chapter
Chapter Program: Problematic Invasive Weed Problems in the CA Foothills Tuesday, November 24, 7:00 PM
Dr. Joseph DiTomaso will discuss some of the more problematic invasive plants within the California foothills. He will emphasize the impact of invasive plants on wildland ecosystems and native plant communities. The talk will address widespread problems such as yellow starthistle and other thistles, tree-of-heaven, perennial pepperweed, brooms, and others. Dr. DiTomaso is Director of the Weed Research and Information Center at UC Davis, past president of the Weed Science Society of America, and senior author of "Weeds of California and Other Western States". Planning Commission Room, Building C, 2850 Fairlane Court, Placerville.