Planting native grasses with community volunteers at Albany Hill Park, organized by Margot Cunningham. Photo courtesy Tending the Ancient Shoreline Hill.
Behind a barbed wire fence where cattle do not access, a native Idaho fescue bunchgrass and Tolmei startulip thrive at Point Reyes--a reference site for restoration.
An important alternative to seriously consider for how Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area are managed into the future, is a gradual restoration of the Pastoral Zone back to its native plant vegetation and habitat for native animal species. At present, only relict areas of native coastal prairie exist. These relicts hang on in areas that cattle do not access, whether because these are on pasture edges too far from dairy operations, or because they are outside fenced pastures along roadsides or other small
exclusions. Tule elk should be allowed to naturally return to these restoring native plant communities.
All relict native grassland patches should be inventoried by the park, mapped, and fully protected from all livestock grazing and disturbance. These can be used as reference sites and seed sources for future restoration efforts.
Using standard native plant restoration techniques, these reference sites can be used to increase plants for plantings and re-seedings using local genetic sources, to disturbed areas of the Pastoral Zone where livestock impacts have removed the native plant communities and caused soil removal and erosion.
In California introduced annual grasslands--which currently dominate the Pastoral Zone--continuing disturbance causes declines in palatable species and an increase in non-native early seral weed species. Livestock grazing must be removed to allow the recovery and increase of
sensitive coastal prairie and wet meadow species.
After native herbaceous plant communities have begun to take a foothold in impacted livestock pastures, and are increasing and well on the way to recovery, methods for balancing coyote bush and bush lupine can be considered. Prescribed burns and tule elk grazing can maintain coastal prairie and other native plant communities in restored areas.
Left, native plants collected from seed at reference sites, and grown in a nursery. Below, volunteers planting the natives back into their habitat to restore the coastal prairie. (Photos courtesy Tending the Ancient Shoreline Hill.
Less than one percent of California's native grassland is still intact today. The ideal conservation strategy is to collect seed from local grasses, send it to a nursery, and have it grown out on a landscape scale to create a supply for restoration projects. This is being done in the East Bay. It is long past time for Point Reyes National Seashore to be fully restored.
Margot Cunningham collecting native seeds to grow in a nursery, and replant in Albany Hill Park.
Native bunchgrasses purple needlegrass and California oatgrass dry in the late summer, planted along a sidewalk in urban Richmond CA. Native plant gardens provide bird and pollinator habitat.
Coastal prairie restored along the Richmond Greenway, a former railroad track in the midst of urban Richmond.
Native plant restoration is a fun group activity, and produces beautiful flowery results!