Quarterly Report 1: Jan – May 2016

We had a very successful first quarter with lots of support from our 50 Stewards and the Mojave Desert Land Trust. Here’s some of what we accomplished…

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STEWARDS WORKSHOP #1 (LAND RESTORATION)

The Land Trust facilitated our first workshop on Land Restoration at the MDLT’s Coyote Valley conservation property. Frazier and Monica led about 20 attendees as we used restoration techniques like boulders and vertical mulch to “disappear a road” and build a barrier to illegal off-road vehicle use. Monica and Frazier then led a group discussion on other strategies we might use in our project zone to protect large, untended parcels of land.

INTERNAL KICKOFF MEETING

We held an agenda-setting meeting in early January attended by about 15 Stewards to come up with ideas for events, workshops, projects, lectures and so on. An early goal was to develop cohesion within the group, and solidify communication and cohesion among neighbors, many of whom don’t already know one another.

We then implemented the following…

ACTIVITIES

Email Bulletins

About once a week we send a bulletin to our mailing list with key dates, reminders and other topics of neighborhood interest.

iNaturalist Database

We’ve established a Coyote Valley project group on iNaturalist, a wonderful database that allows us to share and store information on plant and wildlife species in our area. Whenever Stewards encounter a plant or wild animal in our area, they can snap a photo and upload it to our page, even if they’re not sure exactly what kind of plant or animal it is. The system helps with ID-ing. We’ve got Mojave Desert Land Trust experts Marinna (native plants) and Kelly (wildlife) in the group also, to help, and to benefit from our sightings.

Weekly Hike

We’ve established a persistent, on-foot presence in a very large, troubled BLM parcel (off-roaders, shooting, trash dumping) via regular group hikes, seasonal seed gathering, and de-trashing.

Neighbor Skillshare Workshop #1 (Plant Propagation)

Stephanie led a native-seed starting/plant propagation workshop that covered:

  • how to set up a cheap, simple propagation infrastructure
  • how to gather and store seeds
  • how to prep seeds for propagation
  • how to plant a seedling bed
  • how to transplant sprouts into larger containers

This was our first ‘skill-share’ event where Stewards share skills with other Stewards, and now we’re reaching out to others with Stewardship-related skills to share in this short (1 1/2 hour) informal format.

Potluck

One of our most successful events. A potluck, hosted by Stephanie & Jay. We plan to do one every quarter.

STEWARDS WORKSHOP #2 (CONSERVATION EASEMENTS)

Conservation easements are a way for private property owners to protect their land from development in the future. Stephanie & Jay hosted a well-attended two-hour Conservation Easement workshop organized by MDLT. Stewards learned how conservation easements work, what the tax benefits are, and how they benefit us, the community and the desert ecosystem. MDLT’s legal counsel, Ellen Fred, attorney at Conservation Partners, led the informative workshop.

LOOKING AHEAD

In Quarter 2 of 2016 we anticipate getting our hands dirty as now is the perfect season for it, focusing on disappearing roads, and cleaning up untended large parcels. We also aim to get a signage project up and running, including determining what signs should say, and where they should go.

More skillshare events are in the planning stages, as well as a quarterly potluck organized by a Stewards cooking club that focuses on recipes using native/foraged plants.

And we’ve been in discussion with scientist and tortoise expert Kelly about setting up a climate change study plot on land in Coyote Valley in tandem with an area university.

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Hike 1: Copper Mountains

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Today we did a group expedition/survey into the Copper Mountain area. Several Stewards had reported that this is a beautiful area, mostly BLM land (if not all), that has plenty of amazing vistas, wild plants and so on.

It is also an area frequented by ORVers, gun shooters, and trash dumpers. We decided to do a hike on a weekday (less gunfire going on then!) in the area and get an idea of what’s involved in saving the area from further damage. What a success. We hiked deep up into the area and explored mines, shooting sites and more. We also gathered quite a bit of trash. Stay tuned as we’re planning on doing these steward hikes once every two weeks or so. Thanks to all who joined!

Workshop 1: Land Restoration

This past Sunday Mojave Desert Land Trust‘s Frazier Haney led a workshop for gathered Stewards on basic desert land restoration techniques.

At left is what we started with: A Land Trust conservation property just off Cady Road between Winter and Coyote Valley. The goal was to “erase” the illegal road and restore the area to its natural state, before it had been used by vehicles.

beforeworkshop     afterworkshop

On the right is the result. Using shovels, picks and a couple other tools, we disappeared the road in less than 45 minutes. Strategic vertical mulching (using dead creosote branches) and simple pitting created a landscape in which re-vegetation of indigenous plants can occur, protected by a visual barrier discouraging any further disruption from motorized vehicles.

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Many hands and correct technique make for very light work.

Let’s back up and see some step-by-step. Here’s Frazier and the Land Trust’s Monica Mahoney unloading dead creosote branches from the Land Trust truck at the location…

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After digging a hole, we fit the creosote branches in, standing up.

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We fill up the hole with loose sand, and top off with topsoil we borrow from a nearby living plant.

Our other task was to make small pits across the disrupted land. Here’s Frazier showing us how:

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So, why did we do this stuff? How do these techniques work to restore the desert? Read the three-page informational packet that Frazier distributed at the workshop: Desert Rehabiltation Techniques PDF

Our thanks to the MDLT’s Frazier and Monica for coming out on a December Sunday morning to show us how easy these simple rehabilitation techniques are. Now we can do it on our own…