By Arne Johanson, Co-chairperson Habitat Restoration Committee
I noted the following in Bob Byrnes' weekly restoration committee email: “Last week we noticed for the first time a large area of Goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii, I believe) and California sagebrush (Artemisia californica) interspersed with the endless artichoke thistle (Cynara cardunculus to us nerds) that I often mention in these emails. We treated the artichoke last week, leaving the natives to continue to thrive and spread. This is yet another encouraging sign that recruitment following the disastrous fire of four years ago is proceeding nicely.”
For those that haven't been involved, it may be hard to see how important a milestone this is. Why get excited by a few common native plants? First, just consider the weeds that needed to be removed. In this area the artichoke alone number 8,000 per acre. Now artichoke plants are fairly large and easy to see, except for the seedlings under the Bromus thatch or the 6-inch shoots pushing up in through the 12-inch grass. Impossible to see are the myriad seeds yet in the soil. Yet all have to be treated. This involves going back many times over a few years.
These repeated efforts are also important to deal with plants that are more resistant to treatment or that were simply missed. With each return visit new things have emerged. Bob and his team must distinguish which are undesirable and remove those as well, without harming the desirable ones. Not so easy when they are equally distributed, and each may be no larger than a quarter. But this persistent group of volunteers returns as often as it takes. This can be weeks, months or years.
Superhuman – perhaps. Bob is the reigning San Diego County COX Conservation Hero. He is a committee chair, lead trainer and a chapter board member. And he volunteers elsewhere. But perhaps not so superhuman. The team is made up of individuals that are trained or training. Each learns by hands on doing. They all do what they can when they can. With a just a little knowledge and patience along with some persistence they accomplish little milestones. They treat the infestation so mother nature can heal the wound.
Bob has the experience to see what this will become. Next year and the year after that, this patch will fill in with more bushes and forbs while expanding to join with another. With these little successive milestones the group has already restored over a thousand acres. And they have at least that many more on the mend.
You too can share his excitement. Arrange to visit or volunteer. Bob is a great teacher and the team consists of great people. There is no commitment required beyond doing what you can when you can. Mother nature takes care of the rest.