Restoring Mount SAC Wildlife Preserve Habitat Means Rare Birds Won’t Fly In The Chicken Coop – San Gabriel Valley Tribune


Mark Cooper, professor of biology at Mt. San Antonio College, was clearly excited.

“There’s a gnat right there,” he said as he walked through the restored wildlife sanctuary on the east campus plot at the corner of Grand Ave. and Temple Ave. in Walnut. “This is what this is about.”

The California Coastal Gnatcatcher is one of the many wild creatures that inhabit the sanctuary. The little songbird is listed as an endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. It lives in native coastal sage scrub, usually at elevations below 2,500 feet.

If the area in which he lives deteriorates, he leaves.

  • Successful restoration on another part of the campus can be seen in the Mount SAC habitat restoration on the west campus plot on November 5, 2021. The plan has been reviewed and approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, l ‘US Army Corps of Engineers and California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Walnut, California. (Photo by Michael Goulding)

  • Mt Sac students, left to right, Nacala Mitchell, Diana Duarte and Esmarilda Palacio use restoration as a classroom at the habitat restoration of the Mt. SAC Wildlife Sanctuary on the West Plot of Campus on 5 November 2021.. The plan has been reviewed and approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Walnut, California. (Photo by Michael Goulding)

  • A Northern Mockingbird sits on an old light fixture that is used to illuminate the initials of the hillside school in the restoration of the Mount SAC habitat on the West Campus plot on November 5, 2021. The plan has been reviewed and approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers and California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Walnut, CA. (Photo by Michael Goulding)

  • Mt San Antonio College students use restoration as a classroom during the Mt. SAC habitat restoration on the West Campus Plot on November 5, 2021.. The plan has been reviewed and approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Walnut, California. (Photo by Michael Goulding)

  • Biologist Tyler Flisik says he rarely enters the habitat without his binoculars, never knowing what he will see in the habitat restoration of the Mount SAC Wildlife Sanctuary on the West Campus Plot on November 5. 2021. The plan has been reviewed and approved by US Fish Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Walnut, California. (Photo by Michael Goulding)

  • A yellow-rumped warbler sits on a branch in the Mount SAC habitat restoration on the West Campus Plot on November 5, 2021. The plan has been reviewed and approved by the US Fish Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Walnut, California. (Photo by Michael Goulding)

  • This artist rendering shows what the entrance to the Wildlife Sanctuary will look like once it’s completed, likely by April (Courtesy Mt. San Antonio College)

  • Mt. San Antonio College Biology Professors Tyler Flisik (L) and Mark Cooper are monitoring wildlife in the Mount SAC Habitat Restoration on the West Campus Plot on November 5, 2021. The plan has been reviewed and approved by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers and California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Walnut, CA. (Photo by Michael Goulding)

But the wildlife sanctuary has been expanded from 10 to 25 acres, and habitat has been mitigated and restored after it became inhabited by non-native plants and weeds that can supplant coastal sage. These non-native plants and weeds were surgically removed and replaced with native species of Coastal Sage.

“I was a gnatcatch biologist before I worked here,” said Tyler Flisik, professor of Mount SAC biology, who, along with Cooper, is co-director of the sanctuary. “I had a license and worked almost exclusively with California Gnatcatchers. And they depend on this habitat. It is part of the story we tell students. They nest exclusively in California sage scrub, almost exclusively.

“They don’t exist in these non-native landscapes, or those dominated by non-native plants. So by doing that, you are making that community better for them. But also, just the variety of things that should be here. You have much greater biodiversity, which is part of this expansion. “

Red-tailed hawks, owls, cactus wren – there are lots of cacti – mockingbirds, yellow-rumped warblers, western scrub jays and Least Bell vireos (small songbirds) don’t are just a few of the many species of wildlife that occupy the sanctuary.

“And we saw our first western turtle in our ponds,” Cooper said of the turtle, which is listed by California as a species of special concern.

Restoration plans began in 2015, work began in 2018 and was completed in September 2019, said project manager John Gaston. This was the first step in a larger project that included restoration of black walnut habitat near the football stadium.

The next stop to restore is the west plot, which is across from Grand Ave. from the wildlife sanctuary.

“The third part is the West Plot site, an 8-acre area across from Grand at the top of the hill,” Gaston said. “And it will be essentially the same as what you see on the East Parcel.”

The habitat mitigation for the wildlife sanctuary – managed by Helix Environmental Planning – was paid for through the Measure R obligation and cost just under $ 1 million, Gaston said. The restoration of the black walnut was paid for by Measure GO and cost approximately $ 400,000 and the West plot will cost approximately $ 800,000 and will be paid for with a down payment.

Officials hope that work on the western plot will begin around January 1. It was submitted on October 5 and will be presented to the board on Wednesday.

Permits from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, Regional Water Quality Control Board, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife were required.

A welcoming entrance

Although the actual restoration of the wildlife reserve is complete, there is still a nice finishing touch to come. This is the entrance, which so far is nothing more than an old locked door.

This artist rendering shows what the entrance to the Wildlife Sanctuary will look like once it’s completed, likely by April (Courtesy Mt. San Antonio College)

“There is a large rolling door, a shade canopy and then there is a kind of small support building with storage, guard cabinets, storage spaces for students for their lockers,” Gaston said. about what will be. “There will also be a shower at the end of the building where they can wash everything. “

This work will be put out to tender in December and is expected to begin in April.

The trio hope that all of this will lead to greater community involvement.

“You know, I met people in Walnut and they said, ‘Hey, I saw this corner; I’ve never been inside, ”said Cooper, a 1979 Rowland High graduate and Mount SAC alumnus. “So we’re going to try to do, maybe once a month, bird walks just to let the community come in here and let them know what we’re doing.

“We’ve had hundreds of classes, hundreds of students every semester have come here. But we’re really trying to reach out to Walnut.

Tours can be arranged by contacting Cooper or Flisik of the Natural Sciences Division.

When the entrance is over, when people arrive, they will see a beautiful thing.

“It will be welcoming, it will be important,” said Gaston. “He’ll say, ‘This is an important place on campus. “”

As the trio walked through the shrine with a reporter and a photographer, a group of students were spotted on the hillside. They were performing line transects, which essentially consisted of comparing features that were restored to features that were not.

“As a teacher,” said Cooper, “it’s amazing that we have this outdoor classroom.”


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