July-August 2017 – It’s Still Summer!

Latest News About More Mesa

coastal commission
California Coastal Commission

On August 10, Valerie Olson (MMPC Board Chair) and Linda Krop (Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center and MMPC’s attorney) represented the More Mesa Preservation Coalition at a California Coastal Commission hearing in Calabasas. The hearing was in regard to the County of Santa Barbara’s Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan. We both spoke in support of strong protections for More Mesa and its rare and sensitive coastal habitats. In general, the Commission was favorable toward our views on preservation of More Mesa, but their recommendations must now go before the County Board of Supervisors for review before the whole plan is certified. We will continue to advocate for strong policies when the County holds its next, and possibly final, hearing on the Plan.

Ask the President

Q: What does it mean when the Community Plan specifies that More Mesa must have a Specific Plan?

A: That everything is planned together … at the same time.

Santa Barbara County defines a “Specific Plan” as “A plan that provides for a more a more precise level of planning for an area than is ordinarily possible in the Comprehensive Plan or the Coastal Plan.” Potential development on More Mesa has required a Specific Plan ever since More Mesa was first protected in the Community Plan for our area … over 20 years ago. This means that whatever is being planned for More Mesa, no matter when various parts of the development will actually be built, all planning must be submitted and approved before any actual building begins. For example, you may recall a development that was being discussed about 5 years ago. This proposal included 27 “Casitas” and 12 Mansions. According to the guidelines of More Mesa’s Specific Plan, all 39 of these structures would have had to be fully planned and approved before any development could occur.

overview map
SPECIFIC PLAN must include everything planned in the RED development Envelopment.

This Month on More Mesa – The Mystery of the Anise Swallowtail

AS Caterpillar
Even the Swallowtail Caterpillar is lovely

Our website has photos of all 19 species of butterflies found on More Mesa. One of these species is the Anise Swallowtail, so named because this butterfly lays its eggs on fennel, a plant that tastes like anise or licorice. Caterpillars hatch from the eggs and gorge themselves on their fennel hosts until they are big enough to become pupae. Metamorphosis occurs within the pupae, and the life cycle is completed when the butterfly emerges to begin the cycle again. It all sounds straightforward until we recognize that fennel is not native to Southern California!

…but when it is threatened, horns appear and give off a nasty smell!

Fennel was probably introduced by Italian immigrants settling in the Goleta Valley in the late 1800s; relative newcomers who used fennel extensively in their Mediterranean diets. The introduction of this non-native plant leads to some interesting musings:

  • When did the Anise Swallowtails appear here? One possibility is that the species has been here for a long time and BF (before fennel) they fed on other close members of the fennel family; carrots, parsley, coriander, dill and probably wild members of the same family as well.

    The caterpillar becomes a pupae…
  • If they were already here, why were they called Anise Swallowtails? The naming logic is hard to track, but it probably happened after naturalists were around to name them.

Naming aside, these are beautiful creatures and can be found in many areas of More Mesa. Take a walk, enjoy this magic place … and look for the Anise Swallowtails. They will be there … along with lots of other butterfly friends!

AS Butterfly
…which then becomes the lovely Anise Swallowtail. Thanks to Donley Olson for the use of his Anise Swallowtail photos.

How You Can Help

Between now and the day we learn of the plans of the owners of More Mesa, we will continue to strengthen our argument for why any development should be opposed. You can help in formulating that argument in these ways:

  • Send us a photograph of you and others enjoying More Mesa … demonstrating both public interest and use;
  • Share a particularly interesting way in which you enjoy the Mesa;
  • Help us clean up trash on More Mesa … to keep it beautiful while, at the same time showing community support;
  • If you have some money left over at the end of the month send us a contribution, of any amount, to help us in defending More Mesa. You can do this on the home page of our web site or by mailing a check made out to the “More Mesa Preservation Coalition”, P.O. Box 22557, S. B., CA 93121; and,
  • Encourage your friends and acquaintances whom you know enjoy the Mesa to do one or more of the above.

Thank you very much for your continued interest and support. We look forward to the day when we can purchase More Mesa and preserve for all time this rare and remarkable place … the last great place in Santa Barbara.

Be attuned to, and look for messages in the news, and from MMPC reporting on the Board of Supervisors hearing on the Goleta Community Plan.

Thanks so much!

Valerie Olson
President, MMPC

Summer 2017 – Youngsters About

What’s Happening With Potential Development?

The owners remain quiet on any development plans so we are continuing to build our Defense of More Mesa campaign fund (you can contribute by visiting the home page of our web site) and ensuring that the land is protected and maintained … see “How You Can Help”. Thank you for your interest.

Ask the President

Q: Who does the legal work for MMPC to help protect More Mesa?

A: The amazing EDC.
We are extremely fortunate to have the Environmental Defense Center representing us in all our legal matters. EDC, organized as a nonprofit corporation, provides legal counsel to other non profit organizations, and is the only such public interest environmental law firm between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Historically, EDC has been involved in efforts to preserve More Mesa since 1979, a mere two years after they were founded. During that time they have represented four different More Mesa organizations, with MMPC being the latest. In particular, Linda Krop of EDC has been our counsel for the entire 17 years we have been around and represented us, in exemplary fashion, in every legal issue we have had. Thank you Linda!

In early June, EDC celebrated its 40th Anniversary. As part of the festivities, all attendees were asked to vote on their favorite victory from EDC’s four decades and many triumphs. The EDC newsletter about this event reports: “One of the best moments of the day came when the winners were announced; three huge, multi-year efforts that are truly representative of so much that EDC has fought for.” Two of the three top winners were campaigns for preservation of open space: specifically Ellwood Mesa and the Carpinteria Bluffs.

MMPC looks forward to adding More Mesa to this impressive list and is certain to accomplish our goal with EDC beside us.

This Month on More Mesa

red-shouldered-a9029bd0-43d5-4983-bcd5-d880e2eb9543As summer is fast upon us, it is time for young birds to strike out on their own. We currently have a wonderful example of this in a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk that has been spending lots of time flying over the northeast corner of More Mesa. Red-shouldered Hawks tend to soar over forests or perch on tree branches while hunting for prey; small mammals, amphibians or reptiles. And although these birds are found in thicker forests over wide areas of the U.S., those in the west are typically found in riverside forest, oak woodland and sometimes in eucalyptus groves. In fact, populations in California are often more visible, as they successfully adapt to our more open habitats.

Our many thanks to Larry Friesen for the use of so many of his photos and especially these  wonderful photos of Red-shouldered Hawks!
Our many thanks to Larry Friesen for the use of so many of his photos and especially these wonderful photos of Red-shouldered Hawks!

Our newest youngster is not only flying over More Mesa, but it is constantly vocalizing … whether flying or perching. Red-shouldered Hawks are the noisiest of the hawk family and this particular youngster is competing for the most vocal Red-shouldered Hawk ever!

And on a fun note, the Red-shouldered Hawk has a much less vocal, but much more common cousin, who also lives on and around More Mesa, the Red-tailed Hawk. You are not likely to ever hear its cry on More Mesa, but you have heard it hundreds of times in your life. Very reliable sources attest to the fact that Hollywood did not think the call of the Bald Eagle, America’s National Bird and the one usually associated with eagles, was majestic enough for their taste. So they substituted the “soaring” call of the Red-tailed Hawk and this call, and not the Bald Eagle call, is the one most movie-goers think is a Bald Eagle!

The Past – The End of the Monarchy

When we left the Monarch of More Mesa in our last issue, he had succeeded in getting himself appointed “Administrator” of his brother Alex’s estate. With this bit of skullduggery, he began a channel islands 0f4ee86f-dd15-479a-9e5b-78bfb332e7b4frantic two year process by which he systematically swindled his relatives out of many of the assets of the estate. In 1896, when finally, and legally, removed from his “Administrator” position, he had successfully appropriated $80,000, which a San Francisco court ordered him to pay back to the estate. But More did not have the $80,000, as he had been losing heavily in Nevada mining stock promotions. So, in order to comply with the court order, King John gave up his 1/8 interest in Santa Rosa Island. In 1901, the remaining heirs sold their interest in Santa Rosa to Vail & Vickers who ranched on the island for more than a century, until the island was officially made a part of Channel Islands National Park in 2011.

Spring 2017

Spring 2017
This Month on More Mesa … Spring

e3f9b1cc-4700-41dc-9a97-bf3cfd9f5661Flowers: The big rains that finally came, while turning the grasses green, have not produced many wildflowers. The problem could be that the rains came too late in the season. However, careful scrutiny will reveal some Blue-eyed Grass … here and there … and some extremely tall Owl Clover. The best show however, is the one along the coast … where the California Bush Flower is in spectacular profusion.

Vernal Pool: Another sign of Spring, our vernal pool, has water in it for the first time since 2011. Unfortunately, the 2017 pool is much smaller than it was in May 2011. Further, the hundreds of frogs that populate the pool in good rain years are nowhere to be found. To learn more about these special places that are fast disappearing from California, see the Vernal Pools feature on our web site.

eeae7284-f788-49dc-b808-8339816833a8Heads Up!: With the rains come some potential hazards. Among these are sinkholes … like the one that appeared after the “big” February rain. It’s right on the edge of the coastal trail. In addition, visitors to More Mesa need to be mindful of the potential for trees toppling in the heavy winds that have been part of our weather pattern of late. Enjoy … but be careful.

The photo below, of a green and lush More Mesa, was captured by John Wiley. (To view more lovely images of our areas see the John and Ann Wiley blog.)



More Mesa has something for everyone …
especially a quiet afternoon for a good book …
and snacks.

Ask the President:

Q: Identification of plants and critters that live on More Mesa is often difficult.

We see lots of interesting birds, plants and insects out there, but we usually forget what they looked like by the time we get home. As a result, we never know exactly what we saw! Any suggestions?

A: Use your smart phone.

Three guides, “Birds”, “Insects” and “Plants” area on our web site and were introduced at the bottom of page 2 in our April 2014 Web News. And, since our web site is mobile friendly, these guides are especially useful when citizen scientists and other visitors to More Mesa are in the field. So … when you are out enjoying lovely More Mesa and see something you want to identify immediately, you have the perfect option.

Grab your smart phone, bring up our web site and look for the appropriate Guide; Birds, Insects or Plants. It works “like a charm”!

Consult our website for more detailed information on how to enjoy More Mesa from a mobile device.

The Past … The rapacious nature of John More, the Monarch of More Mesa.

Although he owned one of the most profitable ranches in the Goleta Valley, John More was hungry for even more wealth. So he decided to lease Santa Rosa Island from his brother Alex, with a plan to raise sheep and sell the wool. Not happy with the lease situation, he then attempted to buy the island from his brother … to no avail. Apparently Alex was as greedy as his younger brother and held fast to the lease arrangement until his death in 1893. Since Alex left no will, John More promptly got himself appointed as “special administrator” of the $800,000 estate … $17.6 Million in today dollars! When a huge family feud erupted about who would inherit Alex’s property, John More took the opportunity afforded by his “administrator” position to transfer all the island’s livestock to the mainland as fast as he could. He then sold it as his own, reaping huge profits from many assets that really did not belong to him. John More was not only a character, but a scoundrel, if not an accomplished crook!

I hope you liked this slightly different format. Let us know what you think about it.

Thanks so much!

Valerie Olson

Winter 2017

This Month on More Mesa … Winter birds are here!

The rains have come, grasses are growing, rodents abound and the birds are here! During one recent western More Mesa bird watch, and over a trail length of only 1/3 of a mile, a single observer recorded 25 species of birds in an hour and a half! Among these were several raptors:

Short-eared Owl - photo by Barry Rowan
Short-eared Owl – photo by Barry Rowan
  • White-tailed Kites … our signature bird and a fully protected species. A pair of kites was reported, a fact that bodes well for potential breeding.
  • Short-eared Owls … a pair of this species listed as “Special Concern” was also noted. Theses owls hunt at dusk and are rarely observed. The last sightings of this species were in 2012 and 2013.
  • Burrowing Owl … very small species, also listed as “Special Concern”, and seen only in winter on More Mesa.
  • Northern Harrier … common winter visitor and also of “Special Concern”.
  • Loggerhead Shrike … another smaller raptor seen occasionally, also of “Special Concern”.
  • Kestrel … seen earlier this year as well.
  • Red-tailed Hawk … often seen in trees around Hope Ranch

These are all wonderful birds to watch. Visit More Mesa and experience them first hand!

Ask the President

Q:  I noticed some digging in various areas out on More Mesa. What’s going on?

A:  It’s the rainy season! As you all know, we have been eagerly awaiting the long anticipated rains we so sorely need. And while water is wonderful stuff, especially now, it needs to be kept off the trails. Why … because large volumes of fast flowing water can destroy trails. How can we prevent this? By constructing a “water bar”.

Water Bar on More Mesa Trail
Water Bar on More Mesa Trail

A water bar is a feature that is used to prevent erosion on steep or sloping trails. In the case of More Mesa, water bars are diagonal channels that have been shoveled across most of More Mesa’s major trails. These channels serve two purposes: they slow the speed of flowing water and then divert it into a larger drain basin. By constructing a series of water bars at intervals along a trail, the volume of water flowing down the whole trail is reduced. Without water bars, there is risk of flooding, washouts and accelerated trail degradation.

Now for the mystery of the water bars … Throughout past years some incredibly knowledgeable and caring person has been creating water bars all over More Mesa during the rainy season. MMPC does not know the identity of this person, but we sure would like this environmental hero to raise his or her hand to receive our heartfelt thanks! We owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for this huge undertaking; and one that has been carried out with such a high degree of sensitivity and caring for More Mesa. THANK YOU!

You Can Help … Reconnect with More Mesa

More Mesa is GREEN!
More Mesa is GREEN!

This month go out onto More Mesa …

  • Look at its many habitats (grasses, trees, wetlands, scrub), the birds, and other people enjoying this magical place.
  • Feel the breeze and the sun on your face.
  • Listen for birds, animals and the sound of the wind.
  • Smell the grasses and the freshness created by rain.


Remembering Lynn

We are deeply saddened to report the recent passing of Lynn Watson, the creative force behind our award winning MMPC website. Since the beginning of 2004, the significant contributions made by Lynn Watson on behalf of the More Mesa Preservation Coalition have had an extremely positive impact on all our efforts. She had been the driving force behind the creation, maintenance and enhancement of our web site; acknowledged by the Santa Barbara community as an outstanding resource, providing both updates on issues concerning More Mesa, and as an excellent source of information on its plants and animals as well. Read more about Lynn here. She will be sadly missed.