La Purisima Ranch Management Plan And Conservation Bank Establishment
The 2,700-acre La Purisima Ranch is located in the Purisima Hills of northwestern Santa Barbara County. The predominant vegetation communities on the Ranch are coastal sage scrub, oak woodland, and native and introduced annual grasslands. It also supports a network of 15 cattle ponds, nearly all of which provide breeding habitat for the endangered Santa Barbara Distinct Population Segment of the California tiger salamander. Western spadefoot toad, a California Species of Special Concern, and other native amphibians also breed in many of the ponds. The upland areas of the ranch support multiple special-status vertebrate and plant species, as documented during VNLC’s biological inventories. VNLC was hired by the property owner to perform comprehensive pond and upland habitat surveys, and develop a Ranch-wide management and monitoring plan. The plan has been a guiding document for a Conservation Bank, which VNLC is establishing for the client. VNLC used innovative sampling techniques including amphibian trawl nets, in addition to standard methods such as haul seines, to document the diversity and abundance of amphibian larvae in the ponds, and then performed in-depth evaluations of each pond, including water quality measurements and structural analysis by a geotechnical engineer. These evaluations were used to develop a plan for structural improvements and long-term management which are now being incorporated into the management and monitoring plan. The plan also includes prescriptions for managed grazing, invasive weed management, and erosion control.