I never imagined when interviewing for this position just a few short months ago that I would come away with the knowledge I now have about the Orange County wildlands. This summer internship has taught me not only a lot about the various native plants of the Orange County area, but additionally about the operations of a non-profit. When first applying for this internship, I did so because I really bought into the message of restoring and conserving the area that I grew up in through restoration and conservation techniques using native plants and biodiversity. Following my 100 hours with Back to Natives, I have come away with a better idea of what kind of plants are more suitable for this kind of environment to lower water usage, prevent wildfires, as well as the native plants that are the most aesthetically pleasing.
What I enjoyed most about this position was having the chance to have conversations with so many people that are all dedicated towards one common goal. In talking to members of the board as well as the other interns, I was able to come away with a better understanding of what it takes to make a program like this successful. I was very impressed with the dedication of the other interns that I worked with, which in turn made me want to put in the time and commitment to working hard every time I had the chance to do so. So many great people are involved in this operation, and it allowed me to come away with a very positive outlook on the environmental movement as a whole.
In conclusion, I want to thank Back to Natives for the opportunity that you have given me to further expand my knowledge on environmental management and protection. The things that I have learned this summer will most definitely stick with me as I head into the last few years of college in San Luis Obispo. Additionally, I want to thank all those that answered all of the questions I had, whether it be about the grant writing processes or about fire management and policies. I never felt uncomfortable to try and learn something new each and every day that I spent at the nursery or at the Cuesta Kato sight in Dana Point. I won’t forget this amazing position or all of the great people that I have met in my time with Back to Natives
by Reginald Durant, Executive Director, Back to Natives
Here at BTN we are asked all the time: “what College Major do we recommend?” This is not an easy answer on the one hand, but a very easy answer on the other.
First and foremost we recommend you major in specialty that YOU love and enjoy and can see yourself working in the rest of your life! That is the key to success and happiness. To love what you do, and do what you love. Be sure that you know what this is, as a hobby can become a tormented existence if you force it to be your career. Keep some things for play, and enjoyment and relaxation, but make your passion work for itself. Your passion will drive your actions anyway. Make it drive you to success and happiness. Don’t have a passion? Don’t worry, that is what your undergrad requirements are for. To expose you to as many topics and disciplines as possible before you decide to specialize in one. So don’t choose your major too early, or else you may never experience your one true career love, and are instead forced to settle for the discipline you have taken the most classes in. But not to worry, even if you majored too early. Associate’s degrees can still lead to a completely different Bachelor’s. And a Bachelor’s can lead to a completely different Master’s. Just recognize what you love, and what you love DOING! These are two different things.
We cannot tell you what you will love. We cannot tell you what you will succeed in. And we cannot tell you what will be easiest or most difficult for you. That is an individual thing that only you can decide as you experience life and your education. We can tell you to be honest and upfront with everything you do. Adhere to academic honesty. Cheating in school or college just sets you up to fail in real life, as you will have prevented your own success by removing the likelihood of acquiring the tools you needed to succeed in your discipline. Nobody likes a cheater.
What we can tell you is what Back to Natives Restoration needs! We need Biologists, (and all of the specialized areas of biology) because we perform habitat restoration for animals! We need Botanists, because habitat restoration is performed by identifying native versus nonnative plants and removing the nonnatives! We need geologists and soil scientists, because identification of plant communities are based on the soils! We need GIS specialists, because we need to map our project sites and establish master plans for restoration, trails, species conservation etc. We need Office Managers, (because we have an office!). We need communications specialists because we communicate with the community through social media, press releases and graphics! We need actors/teachers because we teach and perform in front of audiences daily. And not all scientists are up for that, so we need surrogates at times to bring the facts of our studies and research to the community!
What we don’t need: Environmental Studies or Environmental Science Majors. The Environmental Studies major prepares you with none of the science we need for you to be prepared with to be a biologist or botanist, nor the specialty of any of the others listed above. Instead it tells you what is wrong with the world and provides you with no tools to fix it outside of policy. And the Environmental Science major gives you enough science to really know what is wrong with the world and provides you with no tools to fix it. Everyone is an ES major now. So if everyone is an ES major, how many jobs require an ES major? None that we know of.
With a biology or botany major, you still may not know the locally native animals and plants, but at least you have the tools to key them out. And we can teach you them based on the skills you acquired in school.
So please, reconsider the Environmental Studies or Environmental Science major. We know of no organization, agency or company that is looking for these majors to recruit. And ALL of the colleges and universities are producing hundreds of thousands of these majors each year, and have scaled down or eliminated the biology spot recruitments, as it costs them much more money to teach those majors. But they are worth it! Take science! Chemistry, Math, Biology, Botany! They can be fun, all of them, with the right instructor! But mostly they can be fun if it is what you love and are passionate about.
If you do not like any of these subjects, then habitat restoration is NOT the career for you. We avoid applicants that say:
“I want to work with nature,” but don’t have interest in chemistry or ecological systems or interactions between plants and animals, or do not want to dig or get dirty.
“I love plants, but I hate math and chemistry.” Then you would hate Habitat Restoration. We must measure sites and plant growth, and count, and add/tally, and create percentages of cover, statistics of pollination, animal usage of sites and plants, identification of soils through texture, sight and chemical analysis, water quality studies through chemical analysis, and much more.
“I want to work with plants.” Great! We pull hundreds of thousands of weeds per year! How is that for working with plants? If we achieve our eradication goals, we hope we will have time to collect seed and potentially spread it at our site, or propagate it at our licensed nursery.
“I love hiking, but I don’t like to stay on the trails or clean my shoes between trails.” WHAT? BTN only goes off trail when performing habitat restoration. Just because we work with land managers to perform habitat restoration does not exempt us from the destruction that going off trails causes: erosion; biological boundaries for small animals; destruction of seedlings in creek beds or soft soils; compaction of soils and prevention of new flora volunteerism and much more. When you go off trail you are destroying the very thing you think you are loving. So stop it and stay on the trail! And not clean your shoes? Do you have any idea how many nonnative seeds one single shoe can carry? Or how many pathogens can now be spread just by walking through an infected area? Look at the new weed maps being created. And the people that are creating these new weed maps are actually SPREADING the weeds. The maps show that the first three times they visit a remote area the weeds were not present, but for some mystical reason the next time they went, suddenly the weeds were there! It is because these new, nonscientist weed mappers, are NOT sanitizing their shoes or tools between hikes to these areas, and so are spreading the weed seeds EVERYWHERE! It is so simple: You wash your hands to prevent spreading illness or becoming sick yourself. Then wash your tools and shoes to prevent spreading weeds and pathogens in the environment! Once again, these are science based realizations: pathogens, contagions, such as viral, fungal and bacterial vectors. These are taught in science classes, not policy classes.
So please, if you wish to perform habitat restoration as a career, major in a science relating to that specialty: Ecology, Biology, Botany, Herpetology, Zoology, Ornithology, Ichthyology, Entomology, Mycology, Evolutionary Biology, Marine Biology, Geology, BioChemistry, Oceanography, Soil Science, Cartography, Geographical Information Science, and more under these disciplines.
But also, we do need office people, and horticulturists and accountants, and much more. None of these require an Environmental Studies or Environmental Science degree. They require much more!
If you’ve never visited the Spring Garden Show, now is your chance! As South Coast Plaza enters their milestone year celebrating their 50th Anniversary, they present the 28th Southern California Spring Garden Show at the beautiful South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, themed “At Home in the Garden”. The Spring Garden Show showcases a number of organizations that contribute to “green living” in the community in a number of different ways. Back to Natives has been invited to participate for the 8th year.
The Spring Garden Show will be held from Thursday, April 27th to Sunday, April 30th at the South Coast Plaza. The venue will be bustling with display gardens, seminars and more surrounding a garden themed center piece all in tribute to the environment. Last year, Back to Natives presented seminars about the benefits of creating landscapes with native plants as it saves water and provides habitat for butterflies and birds. This year, the focus will be on which plants enhance a landscape’s aesthetic, meaning guests will learn which natives not only make their yards habitable but also appealing to the eye year round.
Back to Natives’ Executive Director Reginald Durant will be presenting three free seminars. On April 28 at 2 p.m. and April 29 at 11:30 a.m. our director will speak on “Native Foundation Plants.” In this seminar, Durant will show participants native evergreens that can serve as the basis of a landscape year-round. Native shrubs can add texture and height, and seasonal color to the topography, while foundation plants enhance it by giving it a welcoming feel that also ties in to its surrounding area.
On April 30 at 11:00 a.m. there will be a presentation on “Saving Water Using Micro Irrigation.” As one could see from the title, micro-irrigation is a great asset to landscaping as it keeps your native landscape flourishing through a system that also preserves water. Director Reginald Durant – also presenting this segment – has used this method in designing and installing the landscape design for the first Platinum LEED home in Orange County, as well as for the first home in OC to earn the Build It Green, GreenPoint Rated designation. Who better to deliver the message?
So mark your calendars for the last weekend of April as you will not want to miss out on this year’s Spring Garden Show at the South Coast Plaza. There is no cost to attendees, so spread the word and bring a friend! Each day of the show, Back to Natives will have locally native plants available for purchase on site. Plant sales raise funds for environmental education and habitat restoration programs. If you are unable to attend, plants are also available for purchase at the Back to Natives Nursery. For donation inquiries, visit our website to find out other ways you can make an impact. We hope to see you at the Show!
At Back to Natives Restoration we use only locally native species with no hybrids or cultivars in the mix. Cultivars and hybrids are two of the leading causes of species loss, right alongside habitat destruction and exotic species. California is one of 35 biodiversity hotspots, we are home to over 5,000 native species (and subspecies and varieties) within the California Floristic Province, with more than 2120 endemic to this floristic province. Most of these species are very much localized in the various parts of California, and taking those localized species to other parts of California is the same as taking other exotic species to those parts.
Hybridization with closely related nonnatives means the loss of the local species, not the spread of biodiversity as so many believe. This is not taking a “purist” point of view, this is being a scientist that performs habitat restoration. Being scientists means that we must acknowledge that the spread of exotics means heavy competition with local natives. Being scientists means that we must realize that pop tarts are a poor substitute, nutritionally, for breakfast food, just as nonnatives are poor substitutes for locally native species for our locally native animals.
If butterflies will NOT use hybrid Ceanothus, what else will not use them? And then, what about the animals that feed on the arthropod that are now absent because of the incredible numbers of commercially created hybrid Ceanothus?
This is where science comes into play, not purism. The ripples that commercially created hybrids, as in hybrid species that would not naturally ever come into contact with each other in the wild (because naturally occurring hybrids are cool, but just as volatile, and the next step in speciation), are untold but far spreading. They can cause numerous cascade failures in an already unstable eco system that is the California Floristic Province. There is no room for compromise on what is native to a region, area, county, etc. We must be true, scientifically speaking, to the species historically found here, or risk losing all.
Friends and Community members, please hear me when I ask you to please NOT purchase any “named’ plants. Quotes around their names indicate that they were named by their creators in the nursery or horticultural center. These are NOT California Natives. They are NOT native anywhere as they were created in a commercial nursery or propagation program usually crossing two or more species that would NEVER have come in contact with each other in the wild. Margarita BOP Penstemon is NOT native to California. It is biological pollution and doesn’t even perform as it is supposed. Just use the real species, if it is native to where you are, namely Penstemon heterophyllus, Foothill Penstemon (which by the way is special enough as it is ENDEMIC to California!).
In California, There are over 6,000 species of native plants, in the California Floristic Province (which excludes the eastern sides of the Sierra Nevada and Peninsular and Transverse ranges, and includes a small portion of Oregon and a small portion of Baja California) there are 5,000 native species of Plants.
The Californica Floristic Province is one of only 35 recognized Biodiversity Hot Spots in the world! To be a Biodiversity Hot Spot, as recognized by Conservational International, the floristic province in question must pass two main points:
It must have more than 1,500 species of vascular plants Endemic (found no place else on earth) to that ecoregion. California has 2,120 species of plants that are Endemic!
70%of the original habitat area must have already been destroyed. California has lost some 80% of its original natural areas. In Orange County alone we have less than 20% of our open space left, and less than 15% of that open space is still covered with native plants.
These endemic species, as mentioned above, are highly localized within our California Floristic Province. If you move them around to areas they were never found naturally, you risk causing the loss of another locally endemic species that is closely related to the endemic you moved. Hybridization is one of the main stressors causing loss of species, aka extinction. For instance, Laguna Beach Dudleya, Dudleya stolonifera, is found on only two boulders in the entire world, both in Laguna Beach. But all 38 species of Dudleya (all endemic to the California Floristic Province by the way) will hybridize readily, causing the loss of numerous locally specialized and endemic species and sub-species.
So no. We at Back to Natives Restoration are not being purists, we are being Scientists. I welcome your questions! Please send them to me via email and I may include my answer in this blog post for others to see.
– Reginald Durant, Executive Director, Back to Natives Restoration
Back to Natives is hosting a native plant tea workshop on, Saturday November 12, 10AM – 12PM. Craig Torres, a descendant of the Native American Tongva people who inhabited the Los Angeles Basin, will talk about the uses of different native plant teas, provide materials to make tea bags, and have sample teas to drink (bring a small cup!) Register and prepay at backtonatives.org.
During this workshop, Torres will focus on ways to use different native plants in teas, including white sage (and other sages), wild rose (petals, blossoms, and hips), elderberry (blossoms and berries), yerba santa, yerba buena, and California juniper. Participants should come prepared to sample (bring a cup). Torres will also demonstrate making reusable, recyclable tea bags. This workshop will help attendees identify, cultivate and care for native plant teas they can grow on their own.
“For thousands of years, the indigenous people of the Los Angeles Basin relied on native plants for food, clothing, shelter, and medicine to support their health,” said Craig Torres. “These days, however, many of us are out of tune with our natural, native habitat and we rely on synthetic supplements to support our health. Learning how to use native plants as food and medicine allows us to reconnect with nature the way my Native American ancestors did.”
Back to Natives’ Native Plant Teas workshop will be held on Saturday November 12, 10AM – 12PM at the Back to Natives Nursery at Santiago Park, located near 600 E. Memory Lane in Santa Ana. Register and prepay at backtonatives.org.
Back to Natives is joining the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to celebrate California Invasive Species Action Week. Beginning Saturday June 4 through Sunday June 12, multiple organizations will partner to raise awareness about invasive plant and animal species. Back to Natives Restoration will be one of the many organizations raising awareness and holding events during this year’s Action Week.
Back to Natives Restoration has placed Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) squarely in its crosshairs this year as summer approaches. Fountain Grass is a strain of African bunchgrass that is planted as an ornamental plant in many regions of the United States where warm winters are commonplace. Volunteers from a local Boy Scout Troop will be assisting Back to Natives in removing Fountain Grass from Santiago Creek in Santa Ana on Saturday June 11.
On June 5 and 12, BTN volunteers will remove invasive, non-native yellow star thistle from around Elsinore Peak in the Cleveland National Forest. You can sign up to help HERE!
To raise awareness of the threat of invasive non-native species, BTN has developed a “Plant this not that” social media campaign, as well. Each day during California Invasive Species Action Week BTN is posting a new infographic showing an invasive non-native plant commonly used in landscaping, as well as an alternative native plant that can be substituted.
“There are over 800 plants native to Orange County,” said BTN Executive Director Reginald Durant. “There is certainly a beautiful, drought tolerant, locally native plant appropriate for any landscape. And bonus! They attract birds and butterflies to your garden!”
California is no stranger to warm winters. The state has experienced some of the warmest and driest years in recorded history. This lack of rain and increased heat have lead the Governor of California to issue a severe drought warning and state of emergency. These conditions create the perfect environment for a plant such as Fountain Grass which is uniquely suited for surviving hot and dry environments.
Fountain Grass has no natural enemies in California. This allows the plant to out-compete native plants which are home to many insect and animal species. If you plant it on your property, you will soon have seedlings of Fountain Grass popping up wherever there is bare soil. It will even grow vigorously in the gaps between sections of concrete and bedrock of natural slopes.
Fountain Grass’ ability to reproduce virtually anywhere there is bare soil converts this invasive plant into raw fuel for wildfires when temperatures rise. It has shallow roots that do not stabilize soil like many of the plants that are displaced by this invasive species. When rain does fall, these shallow roots are not strong enough to stabilize slopes which causes mud slides and soil erosion.
Back to Natives Restoration will take the Fountain Grass situation head on this year as it hosts events aimed at offering sustainable solutions and alternatives to Fountain Grass. For more information regarding the Invasive Species Action Week 2016 please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov.
Back to Natives will be showcasing a drought tolerant native plant landscape on the 2016 California Native Plant Society Garden Tour on April 23 from 10AM to 4PM. The garden is located in Santa Ana’s celebrated Floral Park neighborhood. According to CNPS it is “one of 15 outstanding, successful, beautiful Orange County gardens on the tour.” Visit occnps.org to purchase tickets ($10), which include a guidebook with information and directions to all of the gardens.
The Back to Natives native garden is also being featured on the Floral Park Neighborhood Association’s Spring Home and Garden Tour on April 23 and 24, also from 10AM to 4PM. Tickets are $25 presale (www.floralpark.com/home-garden-tour)and $30 on the days of event.
Floral Park in Santa Ana is home to almost about 100 out of 600 vintage homes that are part of the Santa Ana Register of Historic Properties. Homes that are on the Santa Ana Historic Register but not necessarily on the home tour will be marked with signage and some information to view from the sidewalk.
The home tour will occur rain or shine. Porta Potties are available. Jerry’s Dogs is selling hot dogs, chips, and soft drinks. Families of Floral Park are selling homemade lemonade and baked goods. Pico de Gallo restaurant will have a Mexican food buffet.
The homes and gardens on the Floral Park Neighborhood Association’s Spring Home and Garden Tour are typically within a comfortable walking distance of each other. Present your tour book to the docents at the homes.
A percentage of the net revenues generated by the annual Home & Garden Tour are allocated to Santa Ana charitable organizations and scholarships. Last year there were around 1,000 tickets sold in presale and more than 400 volunteers were present at the Floral Park Home and Garden Tour 2015. – Alexandra Hong, BTN Communications Intern
Back to Natives and USFS offer hands-on training courses in Habitat Restoration and Volunteer Management
Successful habitat restoration program provides training for volunteers and agency staff for an eighth year.
Back to Natives Restoration, in a cooperative agreement with the United States Forest Service in the Cleveland National Forest, will lead a hands-on training course for restoration volunteers. This successful program is now in its eighth year. A new Volunteer Leader Training class will also be offered for those interested in improving their leadership skills, and helping others improve local wildlands.
Participants in the USFS Training class will learn how to remove invasive non-native plants using tools rather than herbicides. They will learn how to keep themselves and others safe in the field, how to manage restoration volunteers, and how to identify native and non-native plants. After passing a final exam, they will become a BTN “Green Shirt”. Once they fulfill a yearlong volunteer commitment they will be certified to lead groups of volunteers in the Cleveland National Forest.
Participants in the Volunteer Leader Training class will learn to lead groups of volunteers while learning a little more about native plants and how to protect their habitats. Successful students will attend at least five of ten scheduled Sunday volunteer events with Back to Natives in the San Mateo Wilderness in the Cleveland National Forest. After passing a volunteer leadership test, they will receive a certificate and become a BTN “Dirt Shirt”.
Individuals interested in attending either of these series of classes, which begin on January 24, 2016, can visit backtonatives.org/education for more information and to register.
Ecological restoration is a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and reestablishing healthy ecosystems. Successful habitat restoration ensures that native species are protected while non-native species are removed with minimal impact. Nationwide, invasive plants cost us an estimated $33 billion per year. Invasive plants degrade wildlife habitat – they are the second-greatest threat to endangered species, after habitat destruction.
Back to Natives strives to involve the community in the process of ecological restoration and conservation because it believes that a little “ecological enlightenment” and a chance to “get your hands dirty” is the best way to improve relations between people and nature.
My time as the communications intern for Back to Natives was well spent. It gave me insight in things I had no previous knowledge of; habitat restoration, biodiversity, invasive plants, etc. BTN also taught me how diligent you have to be to successfully run a non-profit organization. Both Lori and Reginald are incredibly dedicated to BTN. They showed me the effort one has to put forth if they really want to see things change for the better.
My favorite part of working with BTN was getting to see the high school volunteers participate in a volunteer event. I saw first-hand the positive impact BTN has in the community. A group of teens came together to improve the environment we live in. That’s something you don’t see too often these days. I will take the skills I learned during my tenure as an intern at BTN, and apply them to the real world.
As for my future, I hope to get accepted into a social work graduate program. I plan on applying to the Cal State University, Fullerton social work program for fall 2016. My ultimate goal is to work with kids who have been lost in the system. Juvenile hall, group homes, foster care, etc. I want to effect change, and the best way I feel I can do that is by working with the youth, because they are our future, and if we’re not investing in our future, there will be no future. Seeing how BTN worked hand-in-hand with the community, gave me profound insight on how to genuinely connect with people. I’ll take that with me on my journey. – Darrell King, BTN Communications Intern