“Volunteer” Trees and Trail Blazers: Stewardship Update

Stewardship Update July 2021

Written by Haley Sutton, Land Stewardship Associate


Volunteer standing under tree

Photo by Haley Sutton

Trekking towards 10,000 Trees

We hosted two workdays this month focused on protecting young tree seedlings. Volunteers trekked around the sloped wooded hillsides behind the field station at Curry Canyon Ranch, identifying, tubing, and watering the oak, bay laurel, and pine seedlings sprinkled among the grasses.

This is a particularly advantageous year to jump start this project because the non-native grasses all over our properties are less bountiful from the current drought, giving the seedlings more room to grow in an environment where they’re well adapted. All the trees protected so far are called “volunteers” because the seeds established in the soil on their own, without any human assistance, giving them a better chance of survival.

By staking tubes around each tree, we encourage vertical growth to the opening of the tube, deter wildlife from munching on the trees, and provide added moisture around the tree.

Volunteers set up a tree tube

Volunteers set up a tree tube. Photo by Haley Sutton

There will be many more workdays focusing on protecting native trees and plants as part of Save Mount Diablo’s 10,000 Trees and Plants project. This past year, Save Mount Diablo created a Climate Action Plan that addresses many ways our organization can reduce our carbon footprint and increase climate resiliency in the conservation work we do.

For the stewardship department, that includes the goal to protect 10,000 trees and plants on our properties. This effort will help enrich biodiversity and wildlife habitat, purify air and soils, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Future workdays will involve watering of protected tree areas as well as acorn collection and planting in the winter.

Volunteers strike a tree pose

Volunteers strike a tree pose. Photo by Sean Burke

Thank you to all volunteers who joined us and shared creative ways to make the tubing process more efficient. Together we protected more than 179 trees!

Chip, Chip, Hooray!

Staff held a chipping training at Marsh Creek 6 to process downed pine and oak limbs that had fallen on roads or fences on the property. The property burned during the 2018 Marsh Fire and weakened or dead pines on the property have been falling or sliding during windy days.

Chipping is an easy option to remove large branches without taking them off-site with the added benefits of mulching the property.

Pile of branches for chipper. Photo by Haley Sutton

Staff also sheet mulched at Marsh Creek 4 with the help of a neighbor volunteer. Sheet mulching involves removing surface vegetative growth from the target area, laying out sheets of cardboard, and then covering with a thick layer of mulch.

The mulch pile on the property was created from fallen trees after the Marsh Fire in 2018 that swept over both Marsh Creek 4 and 6 as well as neighboring properties.

We have a solar powered water pump that sends water up the volcanic dome of Marsh Creek 6 to fill up a storage tank for watering restoration plantings up top.

Staff noticed that the pipe and power line was severed at a point between the water source and the tank, so a few superstar volunteers that were part of the initial project design and installation repaired the pipe and power line. Our hypothesis is that thirsty wildlife are getting creative to get access to water during the drought.


Bare ground prepared for mulching

Step 1: Remove surface vegetation. Photo by Haley Sutton


Cardboard laid over bare ground

Step 2: Lay out cardboard. Photo by Haley Sutton


Mulch being poured on cardboard

Step 3: Mulch. Photo by Haley Sutton

Watering Crew Members Wanted!

The watering crew visits Ang, Marsh Creek 4, and Big Bend annually during dry months to help restoration plantings establish during a stressful time. The task involves carrying 2-gallon jugs of water to plantings, sometimes navigating uneven or sloped terrain.

Watering occurs on Monday and Wednesday mornings and continues through November. As we protect more trees, we will expand watering efforts to include those at Curry Canyon Ranch as well. We need more hands! If you are interested in joining our crew, please reach out to Haley.

The water crew posing for a picture

Join our watering crew! Photo by David Ogden

Hitting the Trails

Over two workdays, the Trail Dogs and community volunteers gathered to maintain trails at Mangini Ranch. Trail stewards utilized McLeods, hoes, and rakes to widen trail pathways and remove overgrown vegetation to re-establish existing trails on the property. This work helps us get closer to the opening of our educational preserve!

Volunteers posing for a photo

Mangini workday trail crew. Photo by Joy Dardin

Eating Invasives

Odds are, many folks have eaten an invasive species before, whether they were aware or not. On land in California, some common forage includes dandelion and mustard greens, prickly pear, Himalayan blackberries, and artichoke thistle. In the West Coast aquatic environment, there are common carp, striped bass, watercress, and catfish, to name a few.

The wild pigs that roam around public lands in the area are also invasive, and some chefs are exploring the use of them and other species in cuisine. Please do your research before attempting to eat any foraged meal and be mindful of what land you’re on and the rules around harvesting. This month’s question: What is your favorite restoration activity? Let us know here!

Birds in Flight

This month staff supported Lindsay Wildlife Experience in the release of 12 rehabilitated American kestrels between Save Mount Diablo’s Curry Canyon Ranch and Walnut Creek Open Space’s Borges Ranch. The kestrels were previously injured or orphaned, and now have a chance to thrive in the Diablo foothills and contribute to its rich biodiversity.

Kestrel being released

Kestrel release at Borges Ranch. Photo by Sean Burke

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

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