Eager crowds are flattening Southern California’s vibrant ‘super bloom’

If it’s not drought that’s keeping the flowers down, it’s the visitors

Source of this article: The Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2017

After a record series of winter storms buried the Sierra Nevada in snow and filled rivers and lakes to the brim, a “super bloom” of desert flowers has sprouted in long-parched Southern California and painted the landscape in swaths of bright red, orange, yellow and purple.

Visitors to Lancaster’s Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve stray off the trail and into the flowers. Park officials say heavy foot traffic has created new paths where grass and blooms once were.

The eruption of flora — perhaps the largest in more than a decade — has drawn a steady stream of eager flower-peepers, including naturalists, tourists and hordes of amateur photographers seeking the perfect trophy shot for their social media accounts.

Unfortunately, this extraordinary bloom has also caused many visitors to stray from established foot paths and sent them tromping through fields of California poppies and other flowers, crushing their delicate petals and stems.

Initially, state and local park managers viewed the spike in visitor traffic as a boon. Now, however, some are finding it a nightmare as they struggle to preserve the ephemeral blooms amid growing crowds.

At Diamond Valley Lake in Riverside County, park officials were forced to close a section of the mile-long wildflower trail because visitors were marching off the path to snap photos.

“We had literally thousands of people a day coming out to visit in a couple weeks. We’ve never seen it this busy,” said Wendy Picht, a senior environmental specialist with the Metropolitan Water District, which manages Diamond Valley Lake in Riverside County. “But at the same time, it was a little bit too much.”

The trail, opened Feb. 24, drew a trickle of visitors at first. But that rapidly grew as word spread of what this year’s historic rainfall had wrought. By March 29, operators ordered the trail closed because of wildflower losses.

The trail was reopened Wednesday — a week later. This time, however, signs were posted in four languages warning hikers to stay on the footpath, and volunteers were stationed along the trail to guide people.

The poppy fields draw the most eyes, Picht said. The flowers last the longest and are brighter than other area species, such as baby blue eyes, arroyo lupine, caterpillar phacelia and Canterbury bells.

“It happened sort of suddenly, people started disregarding the rules and trail guides,” Picht said. “You can’t really blame them, but at the same time, we couldn’t allow that.”

Flattened grass and flower beds at a California poppy preserve in Lancaster.

Her concerns were echoed in the high desert, where throngs of visitors have trekked to the California Poppy Reserve to get the best photographs, an employee said.

A search on Instagram for “#superbloom” turns up more than 50,000 results with recent photos coming from local and state-run parks.

Some photos show visitors holding plucked bouquets of wildflowers, while others show them striking poses within the blooms.

“Spent 3 hours in the car to take pictures for 30 minutes,” one woman wrote on Instagram. The post included an image of her sitting in a bed of poppies.

“’Bloom where you’re planted” wrote a man who was photographed lying on his back with crushed petals next to his head.

Lancaster’s massive field of golden flowers has been popular on social media in recent weeks, and the effects are starting to show.

At least two new “paths” have emerged at the reserve from people’s continuous steps, and workers have had to add signs telling visitors to stay on the trail and to watch out for wildlife, a park employee said.

Meanwhile, at Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, visitors have turned dusty highway shoulders into improvised parking lots. The area has few trails but offers plenty of flower-covered hillsides to amble through.

“We even had folks parking on the freeway,” Lake Elsinore city spokeswoman Nicole Dailey said. “The land abuts the 15 Freeway so they’re taking it upon themselves to pull over to the shoulder.”

Commuters have reported hour-long traffic jams because of the cars exiting into the canyon, she said.

A wave of visitors to Anza-Borrego State Park in San Diego brought similar issues last month, said Kathy Dice, the park’s superintendent.

“This was the first super bloom where we experienced the power of social media and the Internet,” Dice said. “This really drove our numbers beyond anything.”

At the peak of the rush, some guests parked their cars on the side of the road or private property and left trash behind, she said.

“That was the downside of the flower bloom,” she lamented. “The vast majority of people were great, but there are people who don’t behave properly.”

But not every park with a super bloom has shared the fate of those in Southern California.

Hillsides of wildflowers at the Carrizo Plain National Monument at the end of March 2017.

At the Carrizo Plain National Monument in the Central Valley, a record number of visitors swarmed the park over the last month to see the best bloom in recent memory — but they also managed to behave, said Serena Baker, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The visitor center had more than double its average guests over the weekend, and drivers eager to see the flowers filled the parking lot or stopped on side of the road leading into it, Baker said.

Despite the crowd sizes, people have been courteous and respectful, she said.

“People have been really good; we’re really proud of them,” she said.

Posted in California State Parks, Federal BLM, Southern California, US Forest Service | 1 Comment

Family that donated land to TO Open Space has lived in Newbury Park since 1963

Ranch on top of the world

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, March 30, 2017

PUBLIC VERSUS PRIVATE—The Los Robles Trail in Newbury Park, a hot spot for area mountain bikers, crosses a private road belonging to the Rasnows, a local ranching family that has owned land atop a 1,600-foot peak in Newbury Park since the mid-1960s. Plagued by intruders over the years, family members are guarded about their mountaintop property.

As dementia began to overtake Harman Rasnow in the last years of his life, the 80-year-old loved to sit on his ranch on a hill high above Newbury Park and count the hikers below.

“Counting gave him a lot of joy,” said Tina Rasnow, Harman’s daughter. “He loved to see people using the trail.”

It was fitting, then, that one of the Rasnow family’s final acts before Harman died in 2012 was to begin proceedings to transfer control of the land the trail passes through to the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency in order to preserve it into perpetuity.

The 82-acre donation was completed this month.

Map showing (outlined in blue) the 82 acres the Rasnows donated to the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency. The family’s remaining property— about 110 acres—is shown in the bottom half of the map.

Tina Rasnow, a retired attorney who has served as the president of the Ventura County Bar Association and coordinator of the Ventura Self-Help Legal Access Center, told the Acorn the donation was in honor of her father’s legacy.

“He never hesitated to let the public use the land,” she said. “It’s so consistent with the importance he placed on nature.”

Family history

Prior to a handshake deal with COSCA in 1983, only those willing to trespass on the Rasnows’ mountaintop property had access to the trail.

The family has called the top of a 1,600-foot peak at the southern border of Newbury Park home since 1963, when Harman—a civil engineer—agreed to take 7 acres in lieu of payment for survey work he had done in the area. The peak now carries the family name.

A LOVE OF THE LAND—Above, Harman and Eleanor Rasnow before Harman’s death in 2012.

When Harman visited the Ventura County assessor’s office to learn who owned the adjoining property, he discovered the hillside had been subdivided into cabin and campsite lots in the 1920s. Most lots were small—some just a quarter-acre—and steeply graded, making them unsuitable for development.

Property taxes were seldom paid on the lots, which then became available at county auction for the amount of the tax lien. Harman attended such an auction in 1964 and began piecing together what would eventually become a 193-acre property with panoramic views of the Conejo and Hidden valleys.

The family patriarch moved his wife, Eleanor, and three children to Newbury Park in 1970 to escape an increasingly urban San Fernando Valley. A Brooklyn native, Harman was deeply influenced by Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.”

“Dad moved us out here because he wanted us to live close to the land,” Tina Rasnow said. “He knew the value of a connection to the land.”

Her brother, Brian Rasnow, is a lecturer in physics at Cal State Channel Islands. He said the view from Rasnow Peak has changed dramatically over the past 47 years.

“We used to look at Running Springs Ranch and the Rancho Conejo Airport,” he said. “Now it’s nothing but earth-toned housing tracts.”

Living off the land

Three generations of the Rasnow family have lived on the hilltop. Tina said her father would often commandeer one of the radios used for communication on the ranch to make an announcement.

“Look at the sunset, everybody,” he’d say.

Despite the penthouse views, life on the Rasnows’ land, known as the U4EA Ranch, is a down to earth affair.

Harman Rasnow was an early adopter of organic farming. The ranch produces exotic fruits including pomegranates and guavas. Six thriving bee colonies help keep crops fertile. Sheep and horses roam the property.

Tina Rasnow said her father never predicted his hilltop ranch would be home to a major communication network. But Rasnow Peak leases its mountaintop tech site facilities to satellite, radio, television and cellular telephone companies. Two towers, 60 and 150 feet tall, can be seen on the north side of the peak.

The ranch also houses radio equipment for the Ventura County Fire Department and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

Desire for privacy

Though they have the most visible home in the Conejo Valley, the Rasnows value their privacy. For decades, the family has had encounters with wayward hikers and drug users who have wandered onto their private property and, on at least one occasion, knocked on the front door.

Their visibility has also made them the target of view protection advocates. In 2009, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks asked for a review of the county’s scenic resource protection zone and pointed to homes like the Rasnows as a reason to tighten the area’s open view shed rules.

“There have been some large houses that have been built on or near the ridgeline that have really dominated the hills,” Parks said. “You look at that hillside, and it is definitely scarred in some areas.”

Putting bad blood aside, Parks told the Acorn that donations like the Rasnows’ give the public access to the beauty of the outdoors and are a remedy to what she called “nature deficit disorder.”

“As our cities grow, having parkland will become more and more treasured and appreciated by future generations,” she said.

It may be beautiful, but life on Rasnow Peak is not for the faint of heart.

The ranch lies beyond the reach of paved roads. Water utilities don’t reach a high enough altitude to service U4EA, so the family survives off two deep water wells, which puts them on the front line of the battle against climate change.

The family has had to kill off two orchards of stone fruit since the drought began five years ago and uses clay irrigation pots called ollas to grow the family’s fruits and vegetables.

The sheep and horses—as well as a rescued burro named Filimón—serve as a natural form of weed abatement. But the undeveloped hillside is an important wildlife corridor, and five of the family’s sheep were killed by a single mountain lion in January.

TRAIL MOVING—The Los Robles Trail crosses a private road belonging to the Rasnows. The trail will be moved to public lands now that the donation of 82 acres by the family is complete.

More than 20 years after a fire destroyed much of their property, forcing them to rebuild, the Rasnow family is focused on the future. With the 82-acre donation complete, COSCA will begin work rerouting the Los Robles Trail away from the family’s private gate.

Once rerouted, the trail will still be visible from their hilltop perch, just in a different location. Tina Rasnow said that’s OK. She said her family has lived with a changing view for years.

Posted in Bicycle Riding, Conejo Valley, COSCA/CRPD, Development, Drought, History, Trail Access, Trail Building and Repair, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Family donates 82 acres to Thousand Oaks open space agency

The city’s ring of protected open space is one big step closer to being complete.

Source of this article: the Thousand Oaks Acorn, February 23, 2017

Earlier this month, the board of the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency voted to accept a donation of 82 acres from the Rasnow family of Newbury Park. The donation represents COSCA’s largest land acquisition in 15 years.

The Los Robles Trail crosses the road to Raznow’s residence.

The swath of undeveloped hillside at the southern end of Ventu Park Road links two existing open space areas and brings the entirety of the Los Robles trail into public hands.

Identified as an important wildlife corridor, the group of parcels running east and west was first targeted by COSCA in 1996. The open space agency is a partnership between the City of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Park District.

At COSCA’s Feb. 8 meeting, CRPD General Manager Jim Friedl said he couldn’t thank the Rasnow family enough for donating the high natural hillsides, which are visible from almost anywhere in the city.

“It’s incredibly generous of them,” he said.

The family, who live atop the mountain peak, will retain control of a road on the land that leads up to their property.

Link in the chain

The Rasnows have loaned the 82-acre portion of their 193-acre estate to COSCA since 1983, when family patriarch Harmon Rasnow and longtime CRPD GM Tex Ward struck a deal to allow the park district to build and maintain a trail access across the property.

The arrangement proved critical to future open space preservation efforts because there are no alternative links between the Rosewood and Los Robles trails, COSCA manager Shelly Mason said at the Feb. 8 meeting.

“That was a really important deal in 1983,” she said. “It was really forward thinking and a great gift to the community to allow that trail connection.”

Tina, daughter of the late Harmon Rasnow, said her family has continued to pay property taxes on the acreage even as the public enjoyed the area free of charge.

CONNECTION—A map rendering depicting the open space configuration upon completion of the proposed acquisition from the Rasnow family. Courtesy of COSCA

The Rasnows have even been willing to purchase additional parcels of land—acreage that was available only to adjoining land owners—at the behest of city officials, she said. Once the donation is finalized, those tax liabilities will shift to COSCA, and the Rasnows will be reimbursed for the additional parcels they purchased.

“I hope we’re finally at the last point,” Tina Rasnow said.

The Rasnow family first offered to donate the land in 2012, while patriarch Harmon Rasnow was alive. He died in December of that year, and since then, city and agency officials have worked with the family to hash out details over parcel boundaries as well as title and easement issues.

COSCA director Ed Jones said he knew Harmon Rasnow while he was in the process of purchasing the land originally.

“I know Harmon would be very pleased if he were here,” he said.

Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña was the first person the Rasnows approached about the donation. A member of the ad hoc committee that oversaw the transfer process, the council member expressed her deepest gratitude to Tina and Eleanor, Harmon’s widow, who also attended the meeting.

“Your father, your husband, had a vision,” she said. “And that vision seems, hopefully, now coming to fruition.”

Conditions of donation

The conditions of the acquisition include rerouting the Los Robles trail below the Rasnows’ existing gate, which would mean building 1.5 miles of new trail, some trail fencing, installation of signs and some minor brush clearance.

Because the trail will have to be rerouted through land on a very steep hillside, acquiring the land for free would still cost the City of Thousand Oaks $499,000, an expense that needs final approval from the City Council.

That would bring the acquisition cost for the land to $6,085 per acre, which is considerably less than the $40,000 it typically costs to acquire an acre for open space, COSCA officials said.

Another important reason for the acquisition is that the lease agreement, in place for more than 30 years, includes a clause that gives the Rasnow family the right to revoke public access with 90 days’ notice.

“It’s really been a gift to have it open,” Mason said.

With this acquisition, public access to the trail will be preserved in perpetuity.

Tina Rasnow said her father always wanted other people to enjoy nature like he did.

“I feel like we’re honoring him and his memory, too, to continue with the donation of the land.”

Posted in Budget and Spending, Conejo Valley, COSCA/CRPD, Hiking, History, Horse Riding, Mountain Biking, Trail Access, Trail Building and Repair, Trail Running | Leave a comment

A week in the life of P‑22, the big cat who shares Griffith Park with millions of people

Mountain lion shows the promise, peril of coexistance

Source of this article: The Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2017

The lion slinks through the chaparral, a blur of movement in the night. Head held lower than his shoulders, he scours the brush in a ravine just south of Travel Town in Griffith Park.

Hind paws land where the forepaws lift. No twig snaps, no crinkling leaf. He’s silent, an ambush predator, always hunting, always looking for opportunity.

Inside a small gray box on his neck, a microprocessor switches on to calculate and time stamp his location —  21:00, Dec. 2, 2016 — one of 56 readings made in the course of a week. The coordinates reveal the lion’s rambling course through this island of wilderness in the midst of the city.

As famous as he is, the mountain lion known as P-22 is a mystery, his day-to-day life hidden by his instincts for evasion.

The National Wildlife Federation has called the species a “nearly perfect predator,” and among the survival skills, fine-tuned over 40 million years of evolution, is a talent for invisibility.

What evolution did not prepare P-22 for is how to exist in an eight-square-mile urban park with more than 5 million human visitors a year. Most male cats have almost 20 times that space, nearly to themselves.

On this night, his ears twitch to a distant rustling, another creature’s lapse of caution. It comes from a steep gully, overgrown by willows.

P-22 turns his head in advance of the quick and deadly attack to come.

A few days before, in November, another lion had the same intention when he broke into the unsecured pens of two ranches in the Santa Monica Mountains, killing nearly a dozen alpacas and a goat.

The state wasted no time issuing a permit to kill P-45, and advocates rushed to champion the rights of the condemned cat.  At a public meeting a few days later, the crowd grew contentious.

When a man asked whether P-45 might be deviant or rogue for having killed so many animals in one night, the crowd booed and jeered.

When a woman proclaimed, “We are here because these animals cannot speak for themselves,” most in the group applauded.

An online petition — “Stop the permit to kill!” — drew more than 1,000 signatures from supporters as far away as Moscow and Cape Town.  The big cat was granted a reprieve.

The decision reflected the opinion of the biologist who matter-of-factly explained: “P-45 is a lion being a lion.”

The mountain lion’s offense would have met with less sympathy back when the cats ranged throughout Rancho Los Feliz and Elysian Park. It would have been seen as an opportunity for sport.

“There may be an element of excitement in stalking royal Bengal tigers in their native jungles, or pursuing the ivory tusked elephant in the sacred preserves of the Ahkood of Swat, but for exhilarating sport, lightly spiced with danger and possessing some other merits of consideration, hunting mountain lions within the city limits of Los Angeles stands preeminent.”

The Times’ account of the 1892 hunt continued with descriptions of the deep-voiced bay of the hounds, the cries and tootings from the tally-ho horn, the gunshots.

Mercy, let alone adulation, was not likely back then.

From the moment P-22 was discovered, he was a celebrity. His image soon adorned the cover of National Geographic. Writers opened at least six Twitter accounts in his name, feeding him lines with late-night flair: “I like free range organic kale-fed deer.” “Building a wall along our border with Burbank to keep out golden retrievers.”

The city honored him with a day of recognition (Oct. 22), and filmmakers are about to debut a documentary about his life with the grandiose title, “The Cat That Changed America.”

His residency, however, has not been without mishap.

He has ingested rat poison from eating smaller prey and contracted a bad case of mange.

Scientists recaptured P-22 in late March and, after noticing crusting on his fur and skin, treated him for mange.

He wandered into the crawl space of a home in Los Feliz and endured a day-long assault by authorities who peppered him with bean bags and tennis balls.

Months after turning up looking sickly and suffering from mange, Griffith Park’s resident mountain lion and unofficial mascot, P-22, is looking much healthier.

Then there was the incident a year ago with Killarney, the 14-year-old koala, who went missing from her enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo. GPS data and a surveillance video put P-22 at the scene, and most assume the koala became a meal.

Like the best L.A. stories, his debut was captured on a camera. A team of researchers had been studying the movement of wildlife in and out of Griffith Park, seeing plenty of deer, bobcats and coyotes. Then came the surprise.

Eyes fluorescing from the flash, P-22 is frozen in time — Feb. 12, 2012, 9:15 p.m. — on a game trail above the Ford Amphitheatre, gaze turned to the left, scouring the brush.

P-22, the mountain lion in Griffith Park, is photographed using a remote camera in February 2012.

Four weeks later, the young cat lay anesthetized in the pre-dawn darkness above Lake Hollywood. His captor, National Park Service wildlife biologist Jeff Sikich, put him at 120 pounds, nearly 6½ feet from nose to tail.

Sikich drew blood, tagged his ears, placed a GPS collar around his neck and let him go.

The collar calculates P-22’s location eight times a day when the receiver kicks in for up to 180 seconds and picks up the signals from orbiting satellites. They relay his location to one of 24 ground stations around the world.

A computer in Berlin, owned by Vectronic Aerospace, stores the information, which Sikich accesses from his office in Thousand Oaks.

P-22’s whereabouts arrive as numbered coordinates corresponding to locations in the park. The time stamp allows Sikich to trace his daily meanderings.

On this chill December night, P-22 continues to follow the rustling in the willows. The faint and primordial sound stands out from the city’s white noise.

Zoo Drive and the 134 Freeway are just a drainage away. Cars and trucks thrum the concrete and asphalt. Horns honk. Sirens bleat.

With ghost-like stealth, P-22 moves within striking distance.

This aptitude for ambush explains why the debate and fear over big cats are so raw.

The first recorded mountain lion attack on a human in California occurred near San Jose on July 6, 1909, when a big cat mauled Isola Kennedy, the daughter of a temperance worker, despite her attempts to fend off the attack with a hatpin.

She and a young companion died of injuries and infection.

In 1986, a lion attacked two young children in Orange County. Severely injured, they survived, but it was the first of nearly a dozen more attacks in the state.

With each assault came the question of whether these perfect predators and humans could co-exist. Yet many biologists feel that the success of P-22 in Griffith Park — and of other lions living in close proximity to other urban areas throughout the West — proves that we can.

This National Park Service photograph shows P-22. The mountain lion is believed to have come from the Santa Monica Mountains, which would mean he crossed both the 405 and the 101 freeways to get to Griffith Park.

Gullies and thickets conceal his circuit, a routine no different than any other male lion’s: sleeping by day and, by night, hunting, warding off rivals, looking for a mate.

Days earlier, he wandered along the western border. The lights of Universal City and Warner Brothers reflected in his eyes.

Dropping into Coyote Canyon, he skirted Hollywood Knolls, its homes looking out toward the eastern sweep of the Valley. He heard dogs barking and cars and motorcycles accelerating on Barham Boulevard and the 101.

Later he wandered among the dead at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, a celebrity among celebrities. Deer and other prey are drawn to the flowers left in the cemetery and to the willows and sycamores covering Sennett Creek, and the lion has killed there before.

That night, though, he crossed through Mount Sinai Memorial Park and out toward Oak Canyon. With his long hind legs and powerful haunches, he can leap as high as 15 feet and as far as 40 feet, so few fences or walls are an impediment.

In the morning, he settled himself in the brush, not far from the terraces and plantings of Amir Dialameh, the Iranian emigre who restored this fire-ravaged portion of the park.

How P-22 got into Griffith Park is anyone’s guess. Researchers believe he was born in the Santa Monica Mountains. His father was P-1, and by the age of 2, he had a choice: Stay and fight for this territory or find new ground for himself.

Some have him bounding across the 405, but he might have found a tunnel and sidestepped the freeway construction after Carmageddon in 2011. Then came the walled estates, the canyon parks and Mulholland Highway before he discovered the Lakeridge or possibly the Pilgrimage bridge across the Hollywood Freeway.

Once in the park, he found enough deer and smaller prey to sustain him.

He has tried to catch the attention of female mountain lions with scratchings in the dirt, raked piles of leaves marked by urine, feces, secretions, and with an occasional purr and chirp. But there has only been silence in return, not the coupling that researchers describe almost lyrically, when a male and female lion’s GPS coordinates nearly merge and stay together for a week or so.

Biologists are surprised that P-22 has remained as long as he has in Griffith Park and have concluded that the cat recognizes the risk of leaving. Still it is possible that one day his instinctual drive to mate will lead him out of the park.

The isolation and the wanderlust of Southern California’s mountain lions do not bode well for the species.

“Pumas in areas like the Santa Monicas, the Santa Anas and especially the postage stamp of Griffith Park, are betting against the house,” says UC Davis biologist Walter Boyce. “In the long run, the house always wins.”

Orion’s belt, three pricks of light not quite lost in the city’s luminous glow, clears the ridgeline to the east.

P-22 strikes. Flexor muscles extend inch-long claws into the soft tissue of a raccoon.

He bites into the back of the mammal’s neck, severing the spinal cord with a jaw strength that few other creatures can match.

With the limp body hanging from his mouth, he disappears into the brush, where he licks the fur off its skin, tears the flesh and gnashes through bone with his sharp teeth. He prefers the muscles, the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver — tissue and organs most rich in blood and fat — to the stomach and intestines.

He takes his time with the quarry, burying it and wandering off, then returning to eat.

By the time he is finished, there’s little left other than a mound of hair, a paw and the small Halloween mask of its face, remnants that Sikich and his colleague, Seth Riley, discover when they trace the lion’s route a week later.

While biologists marvel at P-22’s ability to adapt, they want to make it easier for other mountain lions. They hope that one day a wildlife bridge will span the 101 at Liberty Canyon, so that lions and other species can wander between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills and the Santa Susana Mountains. The goal is to connect these smaller enclaves with the Los Padres National Forest where there is greater genetic diversity.

There is an urgency to this hope.

On the second day after  P-22’s raccoon kill, a lion labeled P-39 tried to run north across the 118 Freeway near Chatsworth. A vehicle hit her. The impact knocked her collar off, and her body was recovered by Caltrans.

Within six weeks, two of her three blue-eyed cubs had also been struck down on that freeway.

At 01:00, Dec. 5, P-22’s collar switches on. He is south of Mt. Lee, heading toward Beachwood Drive.

To the west is the Hollywood sign, to the east the Observatory, and to the south, haze smudges the city streets and distant skyscrapers.

Wildlife ecologist Seth Riley, right, and Jeff Sikich, a biologist for the National Park Service, walk through a tunnel used by P-22 as the mountain lion makes his way around the north end of Griffith Park and neighboring properties. The pair use maps and data from a radio collar worn by P-22 to observe his travels.

He cuts southwest to Lake Hollywood and makes his way through a break in the 10-foot tall fence, reaching the secluded watershed. Pines, deodars, toyon and laurel provide cover as he waits for deer to wander close.

He’s completed a seven-day circumnavigation of the park.

Ingenuity in the name of survival isn’t unique to P-22, but he is the luckiest.

Since 2002 when National Park Service biologists started studying mountain lions in Southern California, eight have been killed by other mountain lions, six have been killed by cars or trucks, three have died of anticoagulant poisoning and three cubs have died of starvation and abandonment.

One cat, P-15, was found with his head and paws cut off. A promised reward never flushed out the hunters.

As for P-22, he is getting old, almost 7. Mountain lions seldom live longer than 10 years in the wild. His collar has a mortality sensor that alerts Sikich and Riley if he has not moved in 12 hours.

So far, the absence of that signal reassures them that the city still has room for the big cat to roam.

Posted in Environment, Federal NPS, History, Los Angeles, Mountain Lions, Santa Monica Mountains, Simi Valley, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Are you up to the 2017 Conejo Open Space Challenge this spring?

The Conejo Open Space Foundation is challenging mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners and equestrians of all ages to experience 14 of the best and most beautiful multi-use trails in the Conejo Open Space. This is a “virtual” event, where you take photos along trails and tweet, Instagram or e-mail them in for validation to show you have completed trail segments.  Alternatively, you can e-mail links to GPS tracks indicating completion. The Challenge starts March 1st and runs through to May 31st.

The goal is to create a unique fundraiser event to benefit the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA) on open space property that involves all trail users from people completely unfamiliar with the trails to long time veterans.  COSCA is the organization entrusted with the responsibility of preserving, protecting and managing open space resources in the Conejo Valley, and manages and maintains all of the trails featured in this event.  For more information about COSCA visit: www.conejo-openspace.org.  Please consider supporting COSCA by making a tax deductible donation to the Conejo Open Space Foundation www.cosf.org/website/html/support.html and by participating in one of their many volunteer opportunities available throughout the year.

And please remember…

  1. This isn’t a race, but a challenge to complete all of the segments during the specified time.
  2. Please follow all open space rules posted at trailheads.
  3. Please do not ride/hike when the trails are muddy as it damages the trails.
  4. How you experience the trails – on foot, wheels, or horseback, or any combination of the three – is totally up to you.
  5. Tweet photos to @COSchallenge or e-mail them to conejochallenge@gmail.com for validation. You are also welcome to e-mail GPS tracks to verify completion.
  6. This year we are adding an Instagram Contest – rules on the back of this flyer.
  7. All participants who complete the segments by May 31st will be entered into a raffle for prizes donated by our sponsors. There will be additional prizes for the three best overall photos (best photo winners don’t need to complete all segments to be eligible for prizes).

Prizes include a pair of shoes from RoadRunner Sports, products from REI and Newbury Park Bike Shop, and gift cards from JOi Café and Billy D’z BBQ!

How to Participate

  1. Get out your camera, smartphone, or GPS device (and hiking boots, running shoes, bike, or horse).
  2. Refer to the hyperlinks with each trail to get maps.
  3. Ride, Hike, Run or Horseback ride all of the trail segments in the challenge between March 1st and May 31st.
  4.  For validation, (1) tweet your photos with the tag @coschallenge, or (2) e-mail your trail photos, or (3) e-mail links to GPS tracks to Steve Bacharach at conejochallenge@gmail.com.
  5. Follow us on Instagram @coschallenge, Snap a photo on any of the featured trails in the 2017 Open Space Challenge in the Conejo Open Space, Share your submission(s) using #conejoopenspace #roadrunnersports #cosca40th #conejoopenspace40th and @coschallenge and be sure to tell your friends so you get more likes, Win a pair of shoes from Road Runner Sports. Entries are judged on a mix of creativity and number of likes… so spread the word about your submission(s).
  6. Please consider supporting COSCA by making a tax deductible donation to the Conejo Open Space Foundation http://www.cosf.org/donate/ and by participating in one of the many volunteer opportunities available throughout the year.
  7. Win awesome prizes donated by our sponsors.
  8. Attend our event post-party (more info later).

Download the 2017 Open Space Challenge flyer.

Posted in Activities, Conejo Valley, COSCA/CRPD, Hiking, Horse Riding, Mountain Biking, Trail Running | Leave a comment

3 Coyotes attack leashed mastiff in Glendora

City will provide funding to trap and euthanize the animals.

Source of this article: The Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2017

The city of Glendora will provide funds for the trapping and euthanization of three coyotes that attacked a leashed dog in a housing development tract this week, city officials said in a statement.

Officials said a Glendora resident was walking her mastiff on a leash near Snapdragon Lane and Elderberry Drive at around 8:15 a.m. Tuesday. The former Monrovia Nursery location is now the construction site for La Colina Estates, a development consisting of 121 single-family homes.

As the dog and its owner were walking, “a coyote attacked the dog seemingly without reason,” according to a city statement, and two other coyotes joined in.

“The coyotes were fended off by the resident, who threw rocks at the three coyotes, and a witness who assisted by clapping her hands and yelling at the coyotes,” the statement said.

The dog suffered minor puncture wounds to his neck and will be examined by a veterinarian and quarantined pending the results of blood tests, city officials said. The dog is expected to make a full recovery.

The coyote encounter was investigated by the Glendora Police Department along with the Inland Valley Humane Society, and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife has been notified, according to the city.

“As a result of this incident occurring in broad daylight, with a large pet and a human in close proximity, the City of Glendora has decided it is necessary to take reactive action,” officials said.

The city has contracted with a professional trapping company that will trap and euthanize the animals. The traps, which are “designed so that they will not harm unintended wildlife,” will be deployed Wednesday near the site of the attack and in other locations determined by the trapping company, officials said.

Posted in Los Angeles, Other, Southern California, Trail Hazard, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Respecting the force of Mother Nature

Commentary: When the rains come

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, January 26, 2017

Risk is a fact of life for outdoors enthusiasts, and smart people know they should always weigh the pros and cons when they venture into the wild.

In Southern California this winter—with an onslaught of powerful rainstorms arriving in rapid succession—residents are reveling in the abundant moisture.

But the running creeks, waterfalls, slick boulders, puddle-filled depressions, eroded slippery trails, rock slides and other hazards related to heavy rains have been absent for so long that it’s time to take a refresher course in confronting a natural world that has come explosively alive.

DANGER—Last week’s mega rainstorm brought flooding to local streets and fast-flowing volume to creeks and waterfalls. The National Weather Service says 5 inches of rain fell in Thousand Oaks last week. During the same period last year, 0.14 inches fell. This torrent, normally a trickle or even completely dry, blocks the Canyon View Trail below Sandstone Peak.

DANGER—Last week’s mega rainstorm brought flooding to local streets and fast-flowing volume to creeks and waterfalls. The National Weather Service says 5 inches of rain fell in Thousand Oaks last week. During the same period last year, 0.14 inches fell. This torrent, normally a trickle or even completely dry, blocks the Canyon View Trail below Sandstone Peak.

At the height of a storm, a dry stream bed can become a dangerous and unforgiving torrent, its frothing, tumbling water laden with visible debris as well as unseen submerged rocks. The deafening roar of water may thrill us, but it should not blind us to the extreme hazard posed.

Folks angling for a “memorable” photograph need to be aware of how slippery footing can lead to far more than a twisted ankle. Falling into these newly fledged waterfalls and rapids can cause serious injury, including broken bones, hypothermia, head trauma and drowning.

When National Park Service properties as well as community parks post a sign announcing, “Area closed due to wet conditions,” residents should heed, not ignore, the warning.

The signs serve a dual purpose— to protect natural resources and to safeguard the welfare of outdoors lovers. Trails may be compromised if not inundated by runoff, and usage by equestrians, bicyclists and hikers only compounds the damage. Trail users also pose a risk to themselves when they challenge these sodden, unstable conditions

Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks and Oak Canyon Community Park in Oak Park are among the area parks that have posted closure signs.

The park service wants hikers, bikers and climbers to know that just as “red flag” postings during fire season mean “stay off parkland,” the same is true for wet weather warnings.

During severe weather, be a responsible steward of our local, state and national parks and take a pass on going out.

There will simply never be enough rangers available to patrol all the daredevil-tempting attractions, many of which are located deep in canyon bottoms where creeks flow furiously through a maze of house-size boulders.

Trained swift-water rescue specialists and members of search and rescue teams are among the most heroic individuals, but they can’t be expected to be everywhere at once.

We need to use sense and exercise caution when out in the wet and wild.

Yes, it is undeniably exciting that rain has returned to our parched lives. But rain, and even more rain, is a powerfully transforming force.

When the thirsty earth can no longer absorb moisture, the moisture runs off—not in gentle dribbles but in gushing floodwaters.

Gauge the situation, wait for the worst weather to subside, and even then wait a few days longer before exploring.

Observe from a safe distance, always be aware of your surroundings as well as your footing, and be super diligent in monitoring the children and pet dogs in your party.

Best reminder to tape to your fridge or dashboard: Nature shows no mercy for reckless fools—and winter is not always a wonderland.

Posted in California State Parks, Conejo Valley, COSCA/CRPD, Drought, Federal NPS, Health and Safety, Hiking, Horse Riding, Mountain Biking, Santa Monica Mountains, Southern California, Trail Access, Trail Hazard, Ventura County | Leave a comment

NPS launches ‘bark patrol’ in Santa Monica Mountains

Pet etiquette on trails is the focus

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, December 15, 2016

A new pack of volunteers will soon hit the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains to show visitors and their dogs how they can safely enjoy the outdoors.

With hundreds of miles of walking, cycling and equestrian paths, the Santa Monica Mountains and surrounding backcountry are a magnet for people who enjoy communing with nature.

TEACH, SPOT, TEACH—Owners and their dogs can join the new Bark Rangers program. “What we want to do is build a group of role models who will demonstrate responsible dog walking in the recreation area,” says Zach Behrens, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

TEACH, SPOT, TEACH—Owners and their dogs can join the new Bark Rangers program. “What we want to do is build a group of role models who will demonstrate responsible dog walking in the recreation area,” says Zach Behrens, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

The Bark Rangers volunteer group will help educate visitors about proper dog etiquette on mountain trails.

“People love bringing along their dogs. But we do receive a lot of feedback from users, both dog owners and non-dog owners, about off-leash dogs and dogs not picked up after,” said Zach Behrens, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

“So what we want to do is build a group of role models who will demonstrate responsible dog walking in the recreation area. The ultimate goal is to protect everyone’s pets and the ecosystem at the same time,” Behrens said.

Leashed dogs are allowed in national parks and other public lands, but they are not permitted on state park trails such as those in Malibu Creek.

Besides making sure owners and their pets follow park rules, the trail volunteers may be called on to provide first aid to injured hikers and bikers.

Dog2Other volunteer opportunities are available for individuals and groups who want to donate their time and talent to help preserve open space and assist visitors.

The volunteers can contribute in many ways. They can patrol trails on horseback or mountain bike, help restore native habitat or volunteer to work at the park service visitor center. They can also assist with administrative duties and educational programs for youths.

David Szymanski, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said local residents are devoted to safeguarding open spaces and helping others make the most of their outdoor adventures.

About 7,000 volunteers donated almost 100,000 hours in 2016.

“People love their Santa Monica Mountains, and it really showed this past year when we broke records in number of volunteers and the hours they put in,” Szymanski said.

Those numbers translated to a 35 percent increase in volunteers and a 20 percent increase in donated hours over the previous year. If those volunteer hours were performed by paid staff members, the estimated cost would be $2.3 million.

A mandatory basic training for all the new volunteers will take place Jan. 21, followed by Bark Ranger training on a date to be announced.

Applications must be submitted online before Jan. 7 at https://www.nps.gov/samo/getinvolved/volunteer.htm.

Newcomers will get free training as well as park tours and off-site field trips to broaden their knowledge and enhance their volunteer experience. They are also expected to build upon their own knowledge of parklands and trails, agency philosophies, operations and policy.

Posted in Federal NPS, Hiking, Santa Monica Mountains | Leave a comment

Access now legal to Matilija Falls

The Matilija Canyon Trail, closed since the Spring of 2010, is open again for hiking.

Source of this article: Condor Call, Journal of Los Padres Chapter Sierra Club, Oct-Nov 2016

IMG_3108adjThe highly popular trek to the seven Matilija Falls is now legally open and the Sierra Club has an outing planned on Nov. 19 so you can see this amazing area.

After many years of trying, a coalition of local trail users and conservation groups announced an agreement on Sept. 21 to restore permanent public access to the falls, which also launches the possibility to buy an 80-acre parcel along Matilija Creek for eventual transfer to the U.S. Forest Service.

National forests are a public resource that should be accessible to all of us, and the community will now be able to access this majestic canyon in perpetuity,” said Los Padres ForestWatch executive director Jeff Kuyper.

The pact was signed by the landowner, the Bonsall family, and members of a community association called Keep Access to Matilija Falls Open (“KAMFO”) and filed in Ventura County Superior Court.

KAMFO will reconstruct one mile of the trail along its historic location east of the creek, install signs and remove illegal campfire rings on private property outside of the trail easement. The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy has agreed to hold the easement.

IMG_3149The public has traveled the route for nearly a century, but in 2009, the landowner discouraged public access, leading to a 2015 lawsuit by KAMFO, represented pro bono by the firm Slaughter Reagan & Cole LLP.

Thousands of people visit the three big waterfalls in Matilija every year, you say? Okay, but do they visit the seven big waterfalls in Matilija?” asks David Stillman on his blogspot He then goes on to reveal “at least four more major waterfalls further upstream, including the grandest of all, the Lost Falls.”

The popular route that ends at the third waterfall, with its sheer surrounding amphitheater, is about a 9-mile round trip. After that it’s really hard and hikers will encounter dangerous terrain, so don’t hike it alone (very few people ever go beyond the third fall because of that).

The trailhead is nearly five miles along the Matilija Canyon Road off of Hwy 33 behind Ojai.

See the Nov. 19 Matilija Falls write-up in our outings section for details, which considers it a “moderate to strenuous 9 mrt hike.”

Posted in Hiking, History, Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, Trail Access, Ventura County | Leave a comment

To help cougars cross busy 101 Freeway, Annenberg Foundation promises to match donations for bridge

A push to raise funds for a wildlife overpass

Source of this article: The Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2016

Building a cougar crossing over one of Southern California’s busiest freeways will cost tens of millions of dollars — funding that is unlikely to come any time soon from the state’s transportation kitty.

National Park Service researchers discovered two litters of mountain lion kittens in the eastern Santa Susana Mountains in June 2016. A total of five kittens, three females and two males, were ear-tagged and returned to their respective dens.

National Park Service researchers discovered two litters of mountain lion kittens in the eastern Santa Susana Mountains in June 2016. A total of five kittens, three females and two males, were ear-tagged and returned to their respective dens.

So advocates have launched a campaign to raise private donations for a span over the 10-lane 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills that would provide safe passage to mountain lions and other wildlife moving between the Santa Monica Mountains and inland habitat.

The effort got a jump-start from the Annenberg Foundation on Wednesday when the philanthropy announced a challenge grant that will match every dollar, up to $1 million total, donated by other foundations.

Although best known for its education and arts funding, the foundation has supported animal-protection causes around the world and views the wildlife crossing as a way to improve the overall ecosystem, said foundation Executive Director Cinny Kennard.

The roughly 15 mountain lions that live in the Santa Monica range desperately need new blood. Isolated by freeways and urban development, adults are breeding with close relatives and losing the genetic diversity necessary for population survival.

A recent study by UCLA and National Park Service scientists concluded that the inbreeding leaves the local cougar population at risk of extinction within the next 50 years.

“It’s easy to think of Los Angeles as a concrete jungle. The truth is, we’re home to one of the most richly diverse ecosystems in the entire world,” Annenberg President Wallis Annenberg said in a statement. “We need to do more to protect our mountain lion population, to help them breed and thrive.”

A 2015 Caltrans report presented two alternatives for the 101 crossing, which would rise immediately west of Liberty Canyon Road.

A bridge that’s 165 feet wide and 200 feet long would cost $30 million to $35 million. A longer span over the freeway and Agoura Road —  the choice of wildlife advocates — would cost $50 million to $60 million.

“This is a capital campaign, just like a hospital,” said Molly Judge, the West Coast philanthropy director for the National Wildlife Federation, which is helping spearhead the drive for public and private funding.

Given California’s highway construction backlog, Judge said proponents are seeking state conservation money, rather than transportation funds. Last year, they obtained a $1-million grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy.

Backers want to raise $10 million from public and private sources by the end of next year to advance the project, which they hope to build by 2021.

The crossing would not help Southern California’s most celebrated mountain lion, P-22, who took up residency in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park after managing to cross not only the 101 Freeway but the 405 Freeway as well.

“What he’s accomplished is pretty powerful,” Judge said. “He’s become a figurehead for the movement to coexist with wildlife and to protect habitat.”

To call attention to the bridge initiative, which is part of the federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign, a team of advocates, scientists and government officials on Wednesday are beginning a four-day, 40-mile walk that will retrace P-22’s likely journey from the Santa Monicas to Griffith Park. The starting point is the site of the proposed cougar crossing.

Posted in Budget and Spending, Mountain Lions, Southern California | 1 Comment