Making Our Properties Beautiful and Fire Safe for the Summer

balcerzak inholding
Photo by Haley Sutton

Stewardship Update

Written by Haley Sutton, Land Stewardship Associate and Kendra Smith, Education & Outreach Coordinator

Balcerzak Beautification

balcerzak inholding

Photo by Haley Sutton

Volunteers with our corporate partner, AXA XL, joined staff at the Balcerzak inholding (which is surrounded by Mount Diablo State Park) to keep removing debris and beautify the canyon.

So far, staff and volunteers have primarily removed metal debris for recycling. During this workday, we filled up our dump trailer with all other types of debris for offsite disposal.

The team of 10 filled up the whole trailer with a variety of plastic and paper trash, including ropes and hosing, bins and containers, and smaller bits and pieces of refuse.

We are grateful for AXA XL’s sponsorship of our educational programs and their help with our cleanup efforts in the field!

Staying Safe for Fire Season

fire abatement

Photo by Haley Sutton

Staff spent most of the month completing our annual fire abatement work!

We follow Contra Costa County Fire Protection District guidelines to create defensible space—or buffers between urban and wild land spaces—around structures and property boundaries, and along roads, using our tractor and weed whips.

Fire abatement

Photo by Haley Sutton

Each property is unique and requires different levels of effort depending on terrain and the structures and vegetation present.

Prescribed fire at Mount Diablo State Park

Prescribed fire at Mount Diablo State Park. Photo by Haley Sutton

Cattle grazing is another element to our fire abatement strategy because the hungry cattle also keep fuels under control.

This year, we built defensible space on 16 properties and for the first time at the Balcerzak inholding before the deadline in early June.

Another fire abatement measure that Mount Diablo State Park implemented this year is prescribed (Rx) fire.

Prescribed fire has multiple benefits including management of invasive weeds while supporting biodiversity, fuel load reduction, and restoration of the natural fire regime.

Trained staff volunteered to join the prescribed fire crew in early May to burn the first plots totaling about 46 acres in the Mitchell Canyon area of Mount Diablo State Park.

Stewards in the Field

This month we observed the grass transition from green to gold!

Property stewards observed many wildflowers, especially Calochortus lilies, at Young Canyon, Wright Canyon, and Curry Canyon Ranch among other locations.

A high school student at Northgate High School completed her senior project volunteer hours tackling weeds at the Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve pollinator gardens and an artichoke thistle patch, as well as weeds at Lot 25.

student pulling out weeds at Mangini property

Photo by Nadia C.

Discover Diablo

group photo at smith canyon property

Smith Canyon property dedication. Photo by Mary Nagle

Mitchell Canyon Medicinal Herb Walk, May 4. Canceled because of rainy weather.

Reptile Ramble, May 6. Participants joined East Bay Regional Park District Naturalist Kevin Dixon for a ramble out at Save Mount Diablo’s Curry Canyon Ranch in search of reptiles.

Though the weather was too mild for most reptiles to be out, a few western fence lizards were spotted at the Balcerzak inholding, and participants were treated with a beautiful array of wildflowers and even a bobcat sighting!

Del Puerto

Del Puerto Canyon. Photo by Kendra Smith

Exploratory Hike: Del Puerto Canyon, May 9. Participants were invited to explore the heart of the Diablo Range at Del Puerto Canyon.

Led by Sean Burke, Save Mount Diablo’s Land Programs Director, participants crossed the creek and climbed to the top of the ridgeline for a stunning vista of the canyon and surrounding area.

Numerous fire following species were seen as the area continues to recover from the SCU Lightning Complex wildfires.

Hit the Trails: Mountain Biking, May 17. Canceled because of low registration.

Smith Canyon Property Dedication, May 23. Save Mount Diablo staff hosted this highly anticipated property dedication with one of the most stunning views of Mount Diablo.

Participants hiked through bay oak woodlands into the rolling grasslands found on the hilltops of the Smith Canyon property.

This 27.75-acre canyon was purchased by Save Mount Diablo in April 2020, and is a magnificent addition to Curry Canyon. A beautiful outing was had by all who attended.

rock climbing On belay! Photo by Sean Burke

Rescheduled On Belay: Rock Climbing, May 25. After the event was postponed because of rainy weather, participants were able to get up on the rocks at Pinnacles National Park.

Our rock-climbing events are perhaps the only free guided climbing opportunity in the state.

With Save Mount Diablo Land Programs Director Sean Burke leading the group and sharing his knowledge of the region, participants were treated to an amazing day of climbing.

smith canyon dedication

Cutting the ribbon at Smith Canyon. Photo by Mary Nagle


tule elk

Tule elk. Photo by Sean Burke

This year’s 24-hour BioBlitz event featured the San Antonio Valley Ecological Reserve (SAVER).

Scientists and researchers were invited to camp out at Frank Raines Regional Park and head out into SAVER to collect observations of species diversity over a 24-hour period.

Participants were not disappointed in what they found.

Among up to 40 scientists, researchers, and Save Mount Diablo volunteers and staff, more than 400 species were recorded within the reserve, including rare and charismatic species like golden eagles, bald eagles, and a herd of 30 or more tule elk.

A mountain lion was even spotted near SAVER, the first time one has ever been recorded during one of our BioBlitz events.

For more highlights of our Bioblitz events, check out our BioBlitz blog post.

Joaquin Moraga Field Trip to Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve

drone photo of students hiking at mangini preserve

Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School students at Mangini Preserve. Photo by Sean Burke

Sixth and seventh grade students and parent chaperones from Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School joined Save Mount Diablo staff and volunteers at our Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve for a modified Conservation Collaboration Agreement (CCA) program.

Students went on an interpretive hike through the preserve, observing the native flora and fauna found along the way, such as seeing California buckeyes in full bloom and hearing the gobbles of a turkey.

They then took part in both a solo experience and learning the art of field drawing leaves.

After a picnic lunch, students participated in a service project weeding and adding mulch under and around the picnic tables at the pavilion to help maintain the area as an accessible educational space for future visitors.

Thank you to all the students and parent chaperones for their hard work and positive energy!

Upcoming Tabling Events

Want to show your support for Save Mount Diablo? Come out to one of our upcoming tabling events to say hi! Find us at Lord Richard’s 50th Birthday at Lindsay Wildlife Experience on Saturday, July 13 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

Join us to save the remaining natural lands of Mount Diablo!

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