Pulling weeds in the San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary

Volunteers pull weeds in the San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary.

Except for the 5 miles of dirt trails and the creek itself, San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary’s 160 acres are covered with vegetation — tumbleweeds, mustard plants, tree tobacco and non-native grasses, mostly. In fact, none of those plants are native to the area, and that's a big problem for the native wildlife. Redlands Conservancy has the responsibility to remove the non-native vegetation and restore the native plants so the sanctuary's wildlife can continue to thrive on the plants they have adapted to for millennia.  

According to the conservancy, the non-native plants shove out the native plants. They tend to have shallow root systems so they suck up the rainwater before it can reach the roots of the native plants. After only a short time, the non-natives are proliferating and the natives are disappearing, and the wildlife are looking for sustenance.

Restoring native habitat on this big site requires an agency-owner with deep pockets and a substantial staff. The conservancy has neither, but it still has the responsibility to fix the problem. And, it has Volunteer Land Manager Martin Lemon who has been working for four years to develop an approach that is making significant progress.

Lemon has a plan: Work on small areas at a time, partner with regional agencies that provide consultation and enlist a small corps of volunteers who are passionate and willing. Now is the time to round up volunteers and prepare for the autumn and winter work.

“Our primary protection efforts involve the removal of invasive plants that, left unmanaged, choke out native species and degrade habitat,” said Lemon. “Habitat degradation adversely affects the sanctuary's native flora and fauna.”  

Once the non-native plants are removed, his goal involves working to re-establish native vegetation within carefully selected areas of the sanctuary.

“Restoration projects are multifaceted and require a plan that’s in place at least a year in advance,” said Lemon.

The planning includes recruiting support from other agencies, site selection, determining what native plants fit the site, weed removal and getting the site prepared for seeding, collecting native plant seeds, sowing the seeds and follow-up weed control so the young plants have a chance to thrive in their new environment. Some of these steps offer opportunities for conservancy volunteers to get involved.

“This winter season we’ll be undertaking native plant restoration efforts in a couple of sites adjacent to and around Bobcat Bowl at the sanctuary, and we’d like to ask for your help,” Lemon said to potential volunteers.

So, what does helping look like? One field excursion will involve the hand collection of seeds from California buckwheat and vinegar weed. The other activity will entail sowing the seeds across the various restoration sites and raking the seeds into the top layer of soil. Each activity will take about one to two hours.  

How to volunteer

Martin Lemon, San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary volunteer land manager, welcomes helpers of all ages and skill levels. To learn more, email him at martinlemon@gmail.com.