Friday, May 11, 2012

habitat ~ 05/11/12 ~ Fort Ord National Monument

Fort Ord National Monument
aka on Nature ID as Fort Ord - BLM InterGarrison and Fort Ord - BLM Creekside
and eventually parts of Fort Ord - Army Lands
May 11, 2012

This was a most unusual excursion for me, hence why I'm publishing this habitat post before the specific IDs. The IDs will follow in the coming days and will be linked in the section above or scrolled down to be read below.

On April 20, 2012, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation to designate the Fort Ord BLM and Army Lands (only the areas set for open space) as a National Monument. I've linked to all my location posts above that will be included in this new moniker. Plus, there's already a 3-year-old Fort Ord Dunes State Park, and the local California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) has been around for 17 years on former Army Lands. And as I learned recently, there's a University of California Fort Ord Natural Reserve (UC Natural Reserves) managed by the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). However, the rest of the former Fort Ord Army Lands (almost half; it was a very big place) is set for housing and commercial use across city borders and county lands, which continues to create endless local controversy.

Then, yes, despite my protests over the years, I have finally joined a group - the Monterey Bay Chapter (MBC - my acronym) of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). I've already been to my first monthly meeting and found the people to be very sociable, knowledgeable, and (pardon if I offend anyone) not all as old as I thought they'd be. They threw out scientific names that left my head spinning, but I was surprised at how much I already knew from doing Nature ID. I've thought about why I decided to join this "society" as affable Brian LeNeve pointed out while I proclaimed my hesitation to join any group. Truth be told, thanks to webmaster Chris Hauser, who redesigned the local chapter's website, I easily discovered the calendar of the hikes local CNPS members have, often on private land. Oooh! As you'll notice, about 95% of my locations on Nature ID are from publicly accessible lands. Private access and discount on books convinced me to throw in my $45 for the year. So, there you have it.

As a result, this hike was posted on the calendar as being led by California State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO; there's also a Cal Poly Pomona) professors David Keil and Matt Ritter. I signed up and was told that Bruce Delgado (BLM Botanist and Marina Major - hmm, he'll readily admit that he tries to stay out of conflicts of interest since the city of Marina gets part of the Fort Ord lands) would lead us to the current best vernal pool spots. Little did I suspect that at least 20 Cal Poly undergrads, numerous UCSC grad students, and various other professional folks would also be in attendance. We all rode in a big red fancy bus during the tour with a couple stops here and there. I didn't speak to Dr. Keil (Emeritus Professor), but he is admired by many. Dr. Ritter (Associate Professor) seemed to be absorbing all the information presented as if he were a student. Most of the plant information came from 9-year+ volunteer David Styer, who, in his words, "keeps the official plant list for Fort Ord", which numbers at around 900 species so far. Unfortunately, it is not all included in the official 2012 MBC CNPS Fort Ord BLM Area, Seaside and Marina plant list. I happened to meet Dr. Styer (a former math professor) previously while hiking from the InterGarrison entrance on April 1, 2012 (posts not up on Nature ID, yet).

Matt introduced this tour as the 100th year inaugural phytogeographical excursion of the California Botanical Society (CBS), which are also known as phyto-jogs. There will be 5 phyto-jogs this year across CA. Although, I believe there's already been a joint SoCal chapters' CNPS phyto-jog done down in Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden this past March 10th. I'm still trying to figure out the difference between CBS and CNPS.

Butterfly Valley
the most diverse vernal pool and mima mound area at Fort Ord

I believe this mima mound area of Butterfly Valley is off-limits to the public and is on cleared Army Lands. The trail down to it is covered with branches to keep the mountain bikers out. It's also where they trap wild California pigs. I'd hate to be the volunteer who has to carry the several hundred pound dead pig up the hill over the bramble of branches. I'll post special IDs from this location later.

Engineer Canyon Road

David Styer said through his many years of taking inventory, he's found the north-facing slopes seem to have more diversity. He's separated out Fort Ord into around 70 sectors merely based on divisions by roads, not habitats. According to Dr. Styer, this part of Engineer Canyon Road (which is close to where Andy and I used to access Fort Ord before the Creekside entrance was built) has the most plant diversity than any of his other sectors. One of the grad students is hoping to describe a new Fritillaria sp. from here. I'm going to contact him to see if it's okay to post pictures of a plant he's yet to officially describe. If you click on the picture above, there's a fellow with a large white plastic bag filled with collected plants. While some were picking and pressing plants for additions to herbaria collections, I noticed several students simply making cute little bouquets of rare flowers. Seeing the quickly wilting bouquets disturbed my sensibilities, because I was taught never to pick wildflowers.

view of Toro County Park and Mt. Toro

Several of my Fort Ord habitat posts feature vistas of Toro County Park and Mt. Toro in the distance. I have yet to visit either place. Once or twice a winter, including late this past dry winter, Mt. Toro is dusted with snow, which is quite beautiful. It can best be seen from a boat on the Monterey Bay but also from the Hwy 68 ramp off Hwy 1 towards Salinas and, eh-hem, our kitchen window. My favorite view is during peak spring green, like it was on March 14, 2009.

Um, have you read this far, yet? So, I have a dilemma, and I hope to hear some feedback. We signed up for another Fort Ord Army Lands tour for this next Saturday, like we did last year. Unfortunately, the dedication ceremony for the Fort Ord National Monument will be held within the same time and almost at the same place (map to ceremony, but reservations were needed). This seemed like poor coordination between all the different agencies involved. Oh, did I mention it will also be CSUMB's graduation ceremony day? The traffic will be unusually heavy. Andy and I are undecided about which event to attend. We've done the Army Lands burned area tour already, but it would be nice to see the changes after a year, especially after an unusually dry winter. Then, again, how often is a place designated as a National Monument? The ceremony could be really boring with a bunch of endless speeches without any real information. Your opinion?


Imperfect and tense said...

You'd leave a big decision like that to a bunch of wildlife bloggers?!

I'd say tour, all the way. Unless there's tea and cake at the dedication ceremony!

I'm glad you've found a group with whom you can venture into normally inaccessible places. Neat.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Ha! Thanks, Graeme. Tea and cake is tempting. We've decided to do the tour. There'll be 40 high school students on the hike, which should be interesting to watch what they like. It's too bad that they'll miss the historic dedication ceremony.

randomtruth said...

Ha! I told you CNPSers were cool. And they certainly do get access to great spots. In fact, I just took 15 of our folks onto the Chimineas Ranch for a day and 1/2 of botanizing and camping. :)

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Ah, Ken, you finally got me. I'll stick with it for a year and see how activities are when it's not the tail-end of spring blooms. Summer looks pretty dead on the calendar. Will have to see if you've posted anything from your Chimineas Ranch excursion.