To Our Ojai Community:

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we recover from the damage from the Thomas Fire on our trails. In the coming months trails will likely open and close depending on rain and changing trail conditions. Click here for current information and trail notifications »

FROM THE DIRECTOR / December ’20

By on December 22, 2020 in Featured, News, Newsletter

It has been said that the only constant is change, and like our society at large, 2020 has been a year of change at OVLC. In addition to the staff changes detailed on page 4 of this newsletter, the organization has a newly streamlined mission statement, a new July 1 fiscal year, and a new finance and accounting structure. Our improvements in internal oversight and management are part of our continuing response to the embezzlement that occurred in 2019, and represent strategic steps to strengthen our resolve to protect and restore the Ojai Valley. 

OVLC was founded in 1987 out of a community reaction to development threats. Thirty-three years later, we find ourselves uniquely positioned to work with the Ojai Valley community to address the threats from a changing climate. Indeed, much of OVLC’s current conservation and restoration work already enhances the valley’s natural resilience. 

For more than a decade, OVLC has been working to restore riparian function and biodiversity in the Ventura River and its tributaries by removing invasive giant reed (Arundo) and replacing it with native species. In doing so, we are restoring the landscape’s natural response to wildland fire and flood. Arundo is highly flammable (as we witnessed during the Thomas Fire) and its removal can protect life and property. And with more extreme weather events predicted, removing the dense and shallow-rooted Arundo will help prevent catastrophic flooding of our creeks and the homes along them. 

Having a clear urban-wildlife interface, or in other words protecting our open spaces from further development, is another way that Ojai can be more resilient to wildland fires. This is because firefighters can plan for and defend property much more readily when the wildland-urban interface is clearly defined and easily accessible. The OVLC’s Valley View Preserve and parts of the Ventura River Preserve served to form these defensible spaces during the Thomas Fire. We are eager to acquire more lands in the urban wildland interface. These lands (like OVLC’s Valley View Preserve) often border the Los Padres National Forest, and therefore provide wonderful scenic and recreational amenities as well.  

One thing that was made clear during the pandemic is that access to nature is critically important to being resilient! 

As climate change increases drought and heat stress, we need to consider the benefits of habitat and “nature-based solutions.” These benefits are often referred to as “ecosystem services” and in a time and place when the effects of climate change are undeniable, these ecosystem services provide guideposts for OVLC’s conservation work. 

Our long-term plans for the Ojai Meadows Preserve and the uplands of the Ventura River Preserve are to restore them to native oak woodland. To date, we have planted oak circles on 36.5 acres. While labor intensive, the carbon storage benefits of planting a coast live oak can live on for over 200 years! If you visit the Ventura River Preserve near the Oso Trailhead, you can see the success of our oak circle plantings. Oak circles, in addition to containing saplings of our native oaks, also include native plants that support the growth of the young oak trees. These plants increase biodiversity, improve soil function, and create critical habitat for vital pollinators. We have also used a no-till drill to plant a variety of native seeds to try to increase the native biodiversity. 

Here in the Ojai Valley, natural habitats provide no more important ecosystem service than clean water. Much of OVLC’s land acquisition and restoration work is targeted to enhance the landscapes natural ability to recharge aquifers and protect aquatic wildlife. Concerns over water supplies for homeowners, agriculture, and nature was dramatically elevated when the City of Ventura counter-sued every water user in the Ventura River watershed. While distressing, this legal maneuver also presents a potential opportunity to more clearly define the river flows needed to sustain the natural systems on which we all rely. 

Between the pandemic, an extraordinary national reckoning on racism, a divisive election, and record setting wildfires, this year will go down in history. You, our steady supporters, have enabled OVLC to weather all of the upheaval. We are confident that with your continued strong support, OVLC will find more innovative ways to help the valley cope with climate change and its ecological impacts. As we near the end of this difficult year, please consider a higher level of support to enable OVLC’s more comprehensive approach in protecting what you love. 

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