by Laura Childers, SRT Environmental Education Director
The James K. Herbert Wetlands Preserve is a special place. It is one of the few remaining pieces of the San Joaquin Valley grassland habitat that used to dominate our entire region. During the spring, vernal pools dot the landscape, housing rare species of plants and fairy shrimp. Burrowing owls are one of the rare wildlife species that abound in this habitat, along with the northern harrier and golden eagle.
Fire has long been a dominant force on the landscape here, and native plants have developed under its influence. The plants and their seeds are strengthened by the fire while the non-native plants from areas outside California are severely weakened or killed. Consequently, fires help propagate the California plants that we all know and love, such as the poppy and other native wildflowers.
The controlled burn at Herbert Preserve was organized by SRT’s biological consultant, Bobby Kamansky. With the aid of four energetic volunteers, we were able to successfully burn 150 acres of the preserve.
As you may imagine, the dry grass — dominantly non-natives originating from Spain and Italy — quickly caught fire. The fire crept along the grass, leaving behind a trail of scorched earth and the native spikeweed, which has lovely yellow flowers and thrives in the fire. It was very interesting to see the dry grass catch instantly while the native flower seemed almost untouched by it.
Many thanks to our wonderful volunteers! Teri, Jeanne, Luis, and Beth– you all are awesome!