New Year’s resolution: Become a volunteer

December 10, 2012

Is volunteering for you?

Do you like being outdoors in a beautiful natural setting or would you like to spend some time in a garden?

Sequoia Riverlands Trust would love to have you as a volunteer at Kaweah Oaks Preserve or Dry Creek Preserve!

If you’re thinking about doing some volunteering in the New Year, here are some tips for finding that perfect volunteer spot.

1. Identify the causes you’re passionate about.


(Kids at Kaweah Oaks Preserve)

Do you feel strongly about a particular problem or issue? Just to think, “Oh, well, volunteering would be a nice thing to do,” isn’t really enough. You might start, but will you stick with it? If you feel strongly about something, such as nature, open space, animals, homelessness or helping children, then that is a very good sign and the start of a great volunteer experience.

2. Determine how much time you have.

(Nature guides showcasing preserve on walk)
Do you want something that is short and infrequent? Or could you donate a certain amount of time each week or month? This is something you’ll want to share with the nonprofits you talk with. There are volunteer opportunities that can fit any time commitment, from being a Girl Scout leader for a school year to registering attendees at a charity event for a few hours.
Nonprofits have become quite adept at tailoring volunteer opportunities to fit our modern lifestyles. For instance, Sparked, a website that helps people engage in “microvolunteering,” matches volunteers who just want to devote snatches of time to their causes with nonprofits that have suitable projects.You may even be able to use work time to volunteer. Many companies have employee volunteer programs, days of service during which teams of employees help a cause, or even loan out “skilled” volunteers to help with sophisticated projects at charities. You can even find a way to use your professional skills to benefit others through a matching service like Catchafire.

3. Contact relevant organizations.

Look up the organizations in your locale that deal with the issues you care about. Contact them and ask if they have any volunteer opportunities. You can also get an idea of what volunteer opportunities are out there by visiting the many online volunteer matching services.Your local media are also great resources. Community newspapers and the websites of your favorite TV stations often have news or listings of volunteer needs right in your neighborhood. Be sure to encourage your neighbors and friends to tell you about their volunteer experiences and how they got involved.Contact one to three organizations and then visit them in person. Ideally, you’ll meet with a volunteer coordinator and get a good idea of how the nonprofit works, the kinds of volunteer opportunities that are available, and how good a fit it is for your goals. It’s a good idea to volunteer for a small project before getting extensively involved. If it doesn’t work out, you can move on. Finding your right volunteer match can make the difference between being a volunteer dropout or a happy, dedicated one.

4. Look for a volunteer opportunity that will be fulfilling.

(Getty Images”)

Volunteer work should not be entirely selfless. It is important that you enjoy what you are doing so that you will continue doing it. Think about what you like to do. Are you a “take charge” kind of person? If so, you won’t be happy knocking on doors or stuffing envelopes. Look for leadership opportunities at nonprofits, such as serving on a board of directors, helping with fundraising, or organizing an event.

On the other hand, you might not want something intellectually challenging. Perhaps you have enough of that in your own career and would like to so something simple but meaningful. Maybe you would enjoy cleaning up a vacant lot, planting a garden or signing people up for a charity run.

5. Match your skills to the volunteer opportunity.

Make a list of the things you are good at so that you can share them with the volunteer coordinators that you talk with. People who are sophisticated with computers, for instance, are in high demand at nonprofits. But your skills might be a facility with people, ability to do detailed work such as keeping meticulous records, hands-on ability such as carpentery or sewing, a talent with the written word, or public speaking.

6. Be prepared for a challenge.

(Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation”)

Boredom and impatience with the process are the biggest threats to a fulfilling volunteer experience. Some nonprofits will be disorganized and ill prepared for volunteers. Don’t stay with that kind of situation. If they deserve you, they will be ready to use you effectively.

If you work for a high-powered corporation, you may get impatient with the way things are done at a nonprofit. Try to refrain from telling them how to do their job.

If you work with things instead of people, you may have to rethink how you operate. Working with people and their problems takes a different and more patient mindset.

7. Expect personal growth.

(Getty Images”)

You may be challenged by having to deal with people who are less educated than yourself, from different backgrounds, and who have a different ethnic background. For sure, your stereotypes will crumble as you witness the dignity of all people no matter their circumstances.

These challenges are healthy ones and will result in your own personal growth if you persevere rather than run away at your first glimpse of life as others live it.


Holiday Portraits and Rare Plant Sale

December 7, 2012
Cactus sale and portrait fundraiser Saturday at Kaweah Oaks Preserve
Dec. 06

Kaweah Oaks Preserve will be hopping this Saturday as families dressed in their holiday best pose for portraits and a rare Christmas cactus sale takes place.

Both the portraits and plant sale benefit Sequoia Riverlands Trust, caretakers of this preserve located east of Visalia on Road 182.

Professional holiday portraits by CJHopper of PhotoMenage are by appointment only. Call now for an appointment as space is limited. Cost is $55 for the 20-minute photo shoot and one 8×10 print. To make an appointment, call CJHopper at 595-9691.

Sequoia Riverlands Trust is selling Christmas cacti collected by Andrew Frazier, SRT’s native plant nursery manager. This is not the typical Christmas cactus sold in nurseries. The sweet-scented, large blooms have cream colored petals with bright yellow highlights. They bloom at night about two nights a year in the spring and are called the Queen of the Night.

The bare-root cacti cost $5 to $25. Native plants and other cacti will also be available for purchase at the plant sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, call Kelly Ryan at Sequoia Riverlands Trust at 738-0211, ext. 105 or email

William Tweed, Guest Blogger

September 27, 2012

The beauty of Dry Creek Preserve


By William Tweed

Our culture changes over time, and we all too easily forget the efforts and dreams of those who came before us. Not knowing how we got to where we are now makes us misunderstand much that goes on around us.

Oddly, conservation has become a sort of dirty word here in Tulare County. It seems, for many citizens, to represent something negative that is done to us rather than something positive from which we benefit. Particularly, this seems to be true about how we think about Tulare County’s public lands – our national park and our national forest. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Today, the twin reservations of Sequoia National Park and Sequoia National Forest include almost all of the higher altitude lands in Tulare County, an area equal to almost half of the county’s acreage.  I often hear people say that this land “belongs” to the government, which is, in fact, a serious misrepresentation. These lands actually belong to the citizens of the United States – to all of us.

Moreover, these two large federal reservations were not imposed upon us by outsiders. Instead, local citizens campaigned very hard to create them. Both the national park and the national forest came into being because Tulare County residents worked with determination to bring them into existence.

Four Tulare County men – Tipton Lindsey, Frank. J. Walker, John Tuohy, and George Stewart – stand out in that long ago story, and they deserve to be remembered.

Their efforts began in Visalia in October 1889, when the four began a campaign to protect the mountains lands adjacent to the southern half of the San Joaquin Valley.

Each brought special skills to the movement.   Lindsey, because he worked in the United States Land Office in Visalia, provided his knowledge of federal lands. Walker and Stewart were associated with the Visalia Delta newspaper. Tuohy, a rancher, knew the mountains first hand.

They had two primary goals.  The first was to protect the watersheds that made irrigation agriculture possible in the southern San Joaquin Valley. They also hoped to preserve some of the region’s surpassing natural beauty.

Initially, they campaigned to protect the entire central and southern Sierra Nevada from illegal logging and destructive overgrazing.  Then, when it became apparent that the local giant sequoia groves were rapidly passing into private hands, they shifted their focus to a more limited and immediate goal – the establishment of a national park to protect the best of the giant sequoia trees. This effort gained energy over the summer of 1890, and President Benjamin Harrison signed a bill establishing such a park on September 25, 1890 – one hundred and twenty-two years ago this coming Tuesday.

Meanwhile, at the suggestion of Interior Secretary John Noble, Congress passed a law allowing the president to set aside lands already in public ownership as permanent forest reserves. This statute, signed in March 1891, gave the four Tulare County men a new tool to work with, and they now began to push for a large forest reserve in the Tulare County mountains.

Secretary Noble, responding to their interest, assigned a special land agent to the Sierra to determine how much land might productively be placed in such a preserve.  It took agent B. F. Allen a full year, but by January 1893 he had come up with a recommendation to create a reserve of over four million acres. President Harrison concurred and authorized the reserve on February 14, 1893. So was born the Sierra Forest Reserve.

It took another dozen years and a government reorganization before effective management came to the reserve, but the changes did come. In 1905, management of the reserve was transferred to a new agency in the Agriculture Department, the United States Forest Service. In 1907, the new managers renamed the southern portion of the forest reserve the Sequoia National Forest. The huge area has been managed under this name ever since.

Tipton Lindsey, Frank. J. Walker, John Tuohy, and George Stewart achieved their dreams. These four Tulare County residents, using their skills and working through one of the ancestors of this very newspaper, succeeded in creating two enduring institutions that still belong to the people of the United States. Today, a million visitors a year come to see Sequoia National Park, and the adjoining national forest continues to provide timber, grazing, hunting, and wilderness recreation to us all.  And most importantly, of course, the rivers of the southern Sierra still provide high quality water for irrigation.

Sadly, few modern Tulare County residents recognize the names of these four late- nineteenth-century local men. Stewart is perhaps the best remembered, and in 1930 his name was applied to a peak in Sequoia National Park. The same park also has a remote meadow named for Tuohy. The other two seems almost completely forgotten. (Incidentally, neither the towns of Tipton or Lindsay were named for Tipton Lindsey.)

In later years, none of these men ever stopped thinking about the benefits of public parks and forests. In his last years, John Tuohy even led the effort to purchase Mooney Grove and turn it into the first Tulare County park.

In these contentious times, when politics seems to be about blaming people for things, it is worth remembering how much of our local history represents the positive contributions of those who came before us.  And at the very top of any such list should be the local men who worked so hard to create both Tulare County’s priceless national park and its equally valuable national forest.

Seed Contest – Bring in your seeds!

May 24, 2011

Please call Andrew at 737-8637 or bring your seeds to the SRT office as we are in the collection segment of the Lupine Seed Gathering Contest. Frances and Bill Tweed are currently in the lead. Next month look for the Redbud and Poppy seed contests. Thanks again to everyone who has participated to date. These seeds will help us restore native plants where they belong.

The Story of Eric White Elementary School’s Field Trip to Kaweah Oaks Preserve

June 8, 2010

by Laura Childers, Environmental Education Director, SRT

The school bus squeaks to a halt, and a class of fifth grade students hesitantly piles off, looking around shyly at the vast expanse of meadows and woodlands surrounding them. I can sense that most of them have rarely left the agricultural landscape of Selma, their home town, and are slightly nervous about exploring this mythical “Nature” that they’ve heard so much about from the Discovery Channel. The students divide into small clusters of friends and giggle nervously about the field trip that’s just begun, speculating quietly about whether or not anacondas, tigers, and Big Foot are lurking in the darkness beneath the trees.

Before they know it, the kids are divided into two separate groups and will not be seeing each other again until lunch time. Volunteer Naturalist Steve Ny leads one group of students and heads straight for the Sycamore Trail, a favorite hiking trail at the preserve. I take leadership of the second group, and away we go!

My eyes open wide, and I whisper urgently to the kids, “Okay guys, the first thing that we are going to do today is look at animal bones!”

At first, their expressions morph into affected adult behavior, namely feigned boredom, cartoonish revulsion, and — underneath it all — the pure, child-like curiosity that fifth graders ultimately cannot suppress in themselves, though they would like to think they’re already grown up (and thank goodness they are not!).

If there is anything I have learned about children through my position as the Education Director, it’s that they love the macabre. Learning about the dialectic between life and death in nature, the cycle connecting all things, is an essential part of not only learning about how nature works but also learning about life itself. 

We gently handle the bones of real elk, wild hogs, cows, coyotes, and foxes, turning them over and over in our hands to see that, yes, that is where the eyes went, that is where its ears were. I ask them, “Why do you think its teeth are shaped the way they are? Why are its eyes where they are on its head?” It’s a game of exploration, building familiarity with wild animals by handling them in a way they never could otherwise. We feel the snakeskin, wondering about what it would be like to have to change your skin and not just your clothes when you grow bigger. It allows the children to relate to the creatures who share our world with us.

By this time, the masks of adulthood they wore at the beginning of the field trip have fallen away. The kids squeal every time they see a squirrel pop out of its borrow or a bird fly overhead. We rally together and go search for insects, the tiny creatures that manage to dwell, mysteriously, in nothing but a parched, grassy field. We wonder at how the grasshopper’s shell  matches the color of the grass so well; even his eyes are a grassy brown.

The woods still loom large in the eyes of the children, and they question me repeatedly if we are going to explore them during our hike. I tell them that we are going on an adventure into the forest, the wildlands of Visalia, and that we must stick together to learn about everything hidden within it. The kids grow silent when I tell them that if we are quiet, we may see some of the shyest animals of all — the coyote, fox, or deer.

Together, we creep along trails veiled by grapevines and valley oak canopies, green light filtering through to the forest floor. Lizards dart across our path, and lady bugs fly around us, sometimes landing on a lucky student. We hear the acorn woodpecker starting his summer storage of acorns in the stag trees and see apple-colored galls filled with tiny, sting-less wasp sprouting from the branches. The kids explore vine caves and tunnels, climb a sprawling sycamore tree, and even swing from a real grapevine just like George of the Jungle, the kids’ version of Tarzan.

Exploration is the key element of scientific discovery and learning, and the urge to explore is cultivated during childhood. Benjamin Franklin spent his youth wandering the woods of New England. Jane Goodall spent her childhood climbing trees in England with her trusty dog as her only companion. Would Benjamin Franklin ever have discovered electricity if he hadn’t learned the thrill of exploration as a child? Would Jane Goodall have dared to enter the jungles of Africa if she hadn’t spent years walking through forests alone? Personally, I doubt it.

I believe that the urge to explore is the most valuable thing we can give a child. One of the best places to teach them that is in nature because there are endless possibilities for discovery.

This spring, thirteen naturalists taught over seven hundred children how to explore and discover in the natural world. They are incredibly valuable to this community and the development of our next generation of leaders.


Rosie Bonar
Liege Garcia
Ken Greenspan
John Greening
Michael Harris
Russ Kehn
Hans Konrad
Jeff Medlin
Brian Newton
Steve Ny
Ken Olsen
Linda Peterson
Phil White

You all are incredible, and thank you so much for teaching kids about nature this Spring.


Alcoa Foundation
Sempra Foundation
Southern California Edison

If you are interested in sharing your love of the great outdoors with youth, please contact Laura Childers to set up a training date at (559) 738-0211 x103.


March 11, 2010

Spring Naturalist Training
Help Us Teach Kids about Nature! –
Saturday, March 27, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Thanks to a dedicated corp of volunteer naturalists, hundreds of children get to explore the valley’s ‘wildlands’ through the Kaweah Oaks Preserve Field Trip program every year. Volunteer naturalists lead students on educational nature walks, teaching them about the beauties of the valley’s native habitat.

If you are interested in sharing your love of the great outdoors with youth, please join us for the Spring Naturalist Training. You will learn about the preserve’s unique habitat and how to teach kids about it.

The training will convene at the Kaweah Oak Preserve’s picnic area.

Please RSVP with Laura at 559-738-0211, ext. 103 or

Preserve Ranger Training
Be a Ranger on one of SRT’s Six Nature Preserves! –
Thursday, March 18, 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Saturday, April 17, 1 – 3 p.m.

Preserve Rangers get exclusive opportunities to make one of SRT’s nature preserves their own. Rangers visit the preserve of their choice for 1 – 2 hours every month. During each visit, the ranger records what they observe on the preserve, monitoring its wildlife, plant life, and overall status. This position is very special because five of SRT’s preserves are not open to the public, so Rangers get to have the entire preserve to themselves when they visit!

All Rangers are required to go through a training with SRT. Trainings will take place at the Kaweah Oaks Preserve picnic area. The training will cover plant and animal identification, Leave No Trace ethics, and current conservation issues. Plus, you will learn how to record and report your observations to SRT.

Please take note that dogs are not allowed at any of SRT’s preserves. We love dogs, but unfortunately they disturb the wildlife.

Please RSVP with Laura Childers at (559) 738-0211 x103 or to find out more details.

Milk Thistle Removal
Help Us Remove Invasive Species –
Wednesday, March 17, 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

We need volunteers to help us remove milk thistle from the Kaweah Oaks Preserve. Milk thistle is a small, prickly plant that is not a natural part of the preserve. It crowds out native plants, it’s a nuisance to hikers, and it just needs to go.


– Ability to bend and stoop repeatedly

– Ability to walk on uneven terrain

– Bring a long-handled shovel

– Bring heavy work gloves

– Wear pants and close-toed shoes

– Bring drinking water

March 17th, 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Location: Kaweah Oaks Preserve

Please RSVP for this volunteer position to receive more details. Contact Laura Childers 559-738-0211, ext. 103 or

Seed Collecting Crew
Help Us Collect Seed from Native Flowers –
Date and Time TBA, Sign Up for Further Info

The Seed Collecting Crew will help us propagate native wildflowers by collecting seeds. The first seed collection day will focus on bush lupine, which produces a beautiful purple flower. Volunteers will learn how to identify bush lupine, its seeds, and how to effectively collect its seeds. It will take place in the Three Rivers area. Plus, it will be a great opportunity to meet Andrew, the newest member of SRT’s stewardship team.

The first seed collecting date will depend on the weather and, consequently, when the lupine starts producing seed.

Rogue seed collecting by knowledgeable persons is encouraged. SRT will use any donated seeds for habitat restoration projects and during its famous plant sales.

If you are interested in this position, please contact Laura Childers at (559) 738-0211 x103 or

Nursery Construction Crew
Skilled Builders and Handy-people Needed to Re-construct the Native Plant Nursery – On-going Position

SRT’s nursery houses many of the native plants that are used for habitat restoration. Unfortunately, the nursery was heavily damaged by a recent wind storm, and it needs to be fixed up.

Volunteers are needed to work with Andrew, our newest land steward, to start the re-building process. If you’re good with tools and experienced in building large wood and metal structures, this is the perfect opportunity for you.

If you are interested, please notify Laura Childers at (559) 738-0211 x103 or

Nature Day Planning Committee
Help Us Plan Our Summer Nature Day Event Series –
On-going Position

SRT is going to start planning its summertime Nature Day series in April, and we want your input. Nature Days are small educational events that can cover a broad range of activities and topics, such as Wildflower Walks, Star Gazing Parties, and Bat Talks.

Committee members will meet once or twice a season to plan the following season’s Nature Day series. We will discuss ideas for possible topics, activities, and lecturers.

To join the Nature Day Planning Committee, please contact Laura Childers at (559) 738-0211 x103 or

Native Plant Team
Help Us Grow and Manage Native Plants –
On-going Position

It’s the season to start propagating plants, and we need all the help we can get. If you’re interested in learning how to grow and propagate native plants, this is the volunteer position for you.

This position is on-going, and the hours are variable. Work will be based at the native plant nursery at the Dry Creek Preserve near Lemon Cove, but it may also extend to other preserves. When you join the team, you will periodically be notified by email when help is needed.

To join the Native Plant Team, please contact Laura Childers at (559) 738-0211 x103 or

Accounting Clerk
Experienced Accountant or Bookkeeper Wanted –
On-going Position

An Accounting Clerk experienced in Quickbooks, general office skills, AR, AP, and PR is needed. This position is on-going, and we need a person who can commit to volunteering with us regularly.

If you are interested in this position, please contact Debbie Bratt at (559) 738-0211 x106 or

Development Department Clerk
Help Us Contact and Thank Our Donors –
On-going Position

Donors are SRT’s foundation, allowing us to continue conserving land and providing environmental education in this region. Help us give our donors the appreciation and attention they deserve.

As a volunteer, you would call donors, thank them for their support, and conduct a brief survey with them. Then, clearly write down their responses and return them to SRT.

We need a volunteer with excellent verbal communication skills, professionalism and comfort talking on the phone.

This position is on-going with a flexible time commitment. A brief training at the SRT office is required. Then, volunteering can be done at home, preferably between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m.

If you are interested in this position, please contact Erica Tootle at (559) 738-0211 x104 or

The Dirt on SRT’s Environmental Education Program

August 7, 2009

by Laura Childers, Education Coordinator

SRT’s environmental education program is moving along a path of rapid evolution, shifting and honing its shape to survive in a new economic climate that seems to be freezing rather than warming. Read on for the latest news about field trips, teacher trainings, and service learning opportunities.

Exploring the grapevine cave

Field Trips

Two dozen children popped their heads out of the school bus windows and shrieked, “I love you!” in unison, leaving a handful of mystified naturalists in their wake as the bus rumbled down the road exiting Kaweah Oaks Preserve.

It was a scorching hot afternoon, and SRT was on its way to completing the May rush of schools-almost-out field trips—introducing 800 elementary school children to the great outdoors in their own backyard. Kaweah Oaks Preserve is a mere 10 – 15 minute drive from most Visalia area schools. The preserve protects a pristine piece of the valley oak woodland that used to dominate this region.

The preserve is literally crawling with educational opportunities. Despite the heat, the enthusiastic students explored the preserve with gusto—creeping through secret vine caves hidden along the trails and examining grasshoppers they caught with colorful butterfly nets. These hands-on activities teach students valuable lessons that can be applied both in and out of the classroom.Catching grasshoppers

SRT offers a program of diversified subject areas that include Math, Language Arts, and Social Studies, which help prepare them for the STAR test. The newly revised and expanded curriculum teaches students about the region’s ecology while utilizing their written, oral, and mathematical skills.

Scientists have shown that students who undergo outdoor education programs improve their Science test scores by 70%. SRT believes that our environmental education program can facilitate students’ progress not only in science, but in other subjects as well by providing them an engaging, hands-on learning environment.

Teacher trainings

Teacher trainings are SRT’s new frontier, and we got our feet wet as a guest lecturer with Pro Youth/HEART’s summer after-school teacher training. Thanks to HEART’s good faith, SRT trained 250 teachers in environmental education, providing them with lesson plans to teach their students about natural resource conservation in the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada. The lesson plans will be made available on the SRT website and the HEART database.

Service learning

What’s better than habitat restoration? Habitat restoration with a service learning component. That means that the community’s kids are making SRT’s preserves fit for native species—like deer, foxes, and drought-tolerant plants—while learning about the natural landscape. SRT is working with local educational and youth organizations to get these much-needed projects off the ground. Groups are encouraged to inquire about the latest service learning projects we’re planning and dive right in. Contact Laura Childers, Education Coordinator, at or (559) 738-0211 x105.