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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 / February ’20

By on March 4, 2020 in News

Ojai is an extraordinary place filled with remarkable people in an amazing natural setting. It seems that the valley exerts a persistent pull on anyone who has spent any time here. In addition to these distinctive qualities, increasingly the Ojai Valley faces many challenges all too familiar to communities throughout California and the West. 

Perhaps nothing epitomizes these shared challenges more than the recent adjudication of water use throughout the Ventura River watershed. As others have pointed out, the recent passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) by the California legislature was an overdue but vital first step for California to get a handle on the over-drafting of our groundwater basins. (For instance, in the nearby Cuyama Valley, groundwater levels have dropped over 400 feet from irrigation pumping!) SGMA requires consideration of nature’s needs—particularly “groundwater dependent ecosystems,” like rivers. How the planning for this interacts with the adjudication of water use is impossible to predict, but the adjudication places the Ojai Valley at the crossroads of water planning statewide. 

Meanwhile, the catastrophic Thomas Fire is the regional embodiment of shifting fire regimes statewide and across the West. The effects of climate on fire behavior are demanding more proactive planning and management. Also, how natural communities respond to more intense fire in a drier climate is also a concern. Innovative planning to protect our communities (human and natural) is imperative in response to the shifting conditions. 

Thankfully, proactive land conservation with willing sellers can be a highly strategic, cost-effective and lasting strategy to advance water sustainability and mitigate fire concerns. The OVLC has been, and will continue to be, a leader in the broad partnership to protect and restore the Ventura River and its tributaries. Targeted land protection can also help with groundwater recharge. Similarly, in addition to providing critical recreational linkages, protecting land in the wildland urban interface can bolster the protection of life and property in the face of wildfire. 

The staff and board of the OVLC are eager to work with more landowners to accelerate our land conservation program to enhance our collective response to climate challenges that are increasingly acute in Ojai, and emblematic of issues across the American West. Together, as a community, Ojai can be a leader in planning for resilience by pairing land conservation with community adaptations in this changing climate. 

Executive Director, Tom Maloney
February 2020

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