Volunteer effort bringing oaks back to Rancho Sierra Vista

Hundreds of trees being planted along Potrero Creek

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, March 19, 2015

A Conejo Valley area that’s been missing indigenous oak trees since ranchers flattened it for grazing cattle will soon have roughly 2,000 new saplings, the result of a county grant and the work of two conservancy organizations and plenty of volunteers.

The Mountains Restoration Trust and National Park Service have partnered to use a Ventura County tree mitigation fund grant to restore coast live oaks, valley oaks and even some walnut and bay laurel trees to a 24-acre area lining the Potrero Creek portion of Rancho Sierra Vista-Satwiwa in Newbury Park.

Oak Restoration 1

NEW LIFE— Robert Householder, a restoration technician with Mountains Restoration Trust, plants oak trees in an area of Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa on March 13. The next planting session will be Sat., March 21.

“This 24 acres connects to another 10-acre restoration project we’ve already completed, so that’s 34 acres of restored land,” said Irina Irvine, NPS parks restoration specialist. “In anybody’s book, that’s pretty cool.”

The work to plant all those saplings began in mid-February and will continue through the end of April, which marks the end of this year’s planting season. The hope is to get 900 new plants in the ground by then.

Though the park service has some irrigation in the area, the trees don’t do well when they’re planted later in the year because of the heat, Irvine said.

Overseeing much of the planting on the federal land is the Mountains Restoration Trust, a nonprofit land trust dedicated to preserving natural land in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Along with the trees, NPS will plant about 3,000 “support species” said Betsey Scheets, project manager.

“When we do restoration, we don’t just plant trees because you need other plants to create a healthy habitat environment,” Scheets said. “In theory, the animals will go back and forth between the plants and spread seeds to fill out the area.”

After this round of planting is over, MRT will continue to do work in the organization’s nursery, raising saplings for next year’s effort.

“We try to collect seeds from the areas where the planting will be done so we know they’ll have a high chance of success,” Scheets said.

Volunteer Rob Thorp of Camarillo lends a hand. The planting project will continue through April.

Volunteer Rob Thorp of Camarillo lends a hand. The planting project will continue through April.

But to get all those saplings, which range from 1 to 3½ feet tall, in the ground, the organizations need volunteers. The next volunteer day is this Sat., March 21. Those who would like to participate can meet at 9 a.m. at Potrero Road and Briar Avenue on the south side of Potrero in Newbury Park.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., but volunteers can work for shorter periods, Irvine said.

“There’s something for every volunteer,” she said. “Restorations are such a wonderful way to engage people in all walks of life. If you plant an oak in a national park, I think in the karma department you’re golden for a year.”

Organizers suggest wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and bringing water and snacks.

Most of the holes for the trees are already dug, so volunteers primarily put the trees in the holes, mulch the saplings and build cages to protect them from animals who might nibble on them before they’re strong enough to support the wildlife.

Weeding is also needed to eliminate neighboring invasive species that might otherwise overtake the new plants.

According to Tom Hayuk, MRT restoration manager, interested parties can come on days other than designated volunteer days.

“We’re looking for volunteers every day we’re out here,” he said, adding that the organization would particularly like to get those in nearby neighborhoods involved.

For more information about volunteering, call Mountains Restoration Trust at (818) 591-1701.

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