O U R | T O P | S T O R Y
Go Native! returns to Kaweah Oaks Saturday for annual Native American cultural celebration
ABOVE: A Native Yokuts basket by local Wukchumni tribal member Jennifer Malone, one of the many cultural offerings that will be on display --and some for sale -- at this Saturday's Go Native! at Kaweah Oaks Preserve near Exeter. (PHOTO: Courtesy of the Malone family.)
(EXETER, CA) – For thousands of years, Central California’s Native American Yokuts tribes have crafted items for daily utility, ceremony, and play including pine needle baskets, gathering trays, cradleboards, walnut dice games, Tule ducks, drums, fish traps, and more. While their way of life may have vanished from easy view unlike locations where Native life is still prominent, such as in the American Southwest, the Yokuts’ culture hasn’t vanished entirely.

Come Saturday, May 15, Go Native: A Native American Celebration -- with support from sponsors Visit Visalia and Sequoia Riverlands Trust -- will bring a rare opportunity to meet our region’s Native Americans who continue to celebrate their living culture annually at Kaweah Oaks Preserve.

According to event organizer Jennifer Malone of the local Wukchumni tribe, “Go Native is important because the area tribes want to let the public know that we are still here. Continuing our ceremonies, our basket weaving, and our language is our life,” Malone said. “We continue to teach our youth all that was given to us from our ancestors. Mostly we want Go Native to offer a big thank you to our community and especially to our mother Marie Wilcox for all she has given us,” Malone added.

Visit Visalia Executive Director Nellie Freeborn sees the value in Go Native. “There are many examples of Native American culture in our area that visitors can see, such as the pictographs at Hospital Rock in Sequoia National Park or the exhibits of Native American woven baskets at the Tulare County Museum.” But Freeborn says Go Native offers attendees a unique opportunity. “The Go Native event gives visitors the opportunity to not just ‘see’ but to ‘do,’ with opportunities for hands-on learning and for speaking with members of our Yokuts community as they share their arts and culture with the public.”

“Sequoia Riverlands Trust treasures our partnership with our region’s Native American community. Our support for Go Native reflects our commitment to offering our conservation lands in support of the Yokuts’ cultural activities in gratitude for all they continue to teach us about our region’s native plants and historical practices on these important lands we all love,” said Aaron Collins, SRT Director of Marketing and Communications. “Their willingness to share all that with us reflect a generosity and sincere desire for increased understanding and awareness.”

Cultural events allow travelers to experience the complexity of a community, which Visit Visalia officials think “really enhances a vacation. And while most people visit Visalia because of our proximity to the national parks, we hope they will stay longer to explore the many other places, attractions and cultures that make up our community, including our local Native culture,” Freeborn said.

To help visitors participate in the Go Native event, as well as have fun in the national parks, Visit Visalia is offering a limited time offer. Visitors that book and stay 3-nights in Visalia will receive either a FREE Annual Pass to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (good for an entire year) or receive a FREE $50 gas card, to help fuel their travels. Complete rules can be found at VisitVisalia.com/stay.

SCHEDULE: 10 AM: Opening ceremony and cultural blessing, drumming, and history of the Yokuts Tribe. 10:30-NOON: Weaving, more Native crafting classes. NOON: Lunch featuring Indian tacos. 1-3 PM: Native crafting classes, hike around Kaweah Oaks, children’s activities. Classes are FREE and open to the public.

Visit Visalia is a collaboration of the Visalia Tourism Marketing District and the Visalia Convention and Visitors Bureau (VCVB) dedicated to marketing, advertising, public relations and other promotional efforts that inspire travel to the City of Visalia. Visit Visalia works closely with local lodging properties, restaurants and attractions to foster interest in Visalia as a year-round destination for leisure, family, and meeting and convention travelers. For more information about Visit Visalia go to www.VisitVisalia.com and follow Visit Visalia on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
ABOVE: SRT Interim Director Scott Spear is shown during his time as a Boy Scout, a period when his love of nature was solidified. PHOTO: Submitted
F R O M | T H E | I N T E R I M | D I R E C T O R
Childhood nature memories prompt poignant adulthood reflections
Dear Friends of SRT:

Over the past several months, we at Sequoia Riverlands Trust have taken the time to reflect on the stories at the core of our relationship with the natural world. We’re now sharing those stories across social media to inspire you to think about your own connection to nature.

My own journey with nature has led me to serving Sequoia Riverlands Trust in varying capacities for the past 20 years. I’ve lived and farmed in the San Joaquin Valley since 1970. However, my connection to the land goes even deeper, back to my childhood in the desert southwest. The desert I wandered through has been converted to streets and million-dollar homes, but when I was a boy, it was my portal to the natural world. Free to roam, my friends and I ventured out into the desert, enjoying our own independence. Boy Scouts gave me my first camping experience. On one of our first outings to the mountains, I remember looking out of the pup tent at night and being sure there was a bear coming my way. I lay awake all night long...only to discover in the light of day that my bear was a tree stump!

I hope that each of you has experiences that connect you with nature in this way. SRT envisions a world where all children, families, and individuals within reach of our preserves have a relationship with nature, a chance to experience open spaces, a connection with the land that sustains all of us. We aim to put the wilderness within everyone’s reach. As the current drought stretches on, as wildfires become more severe and more prevalent, and as we continue to navigate the tension between our own immediate desires and the balance of life on this planet, SRT’s mission has never been more urgent. SRT supports the 30x30 goal, a national and California state initiative to protect at least 30 percent of our land and 30 percent of our ocean areas by 2030.

As we share our stories, we hope that you would do us the honor of sharing your own. I invite you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram @sequoiariverlands for regular updates. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me or our Development Team Logan Robertson Huecker and Nadia Omar at (559) 738-0211. 

With Gratitude,

Scott Spear
Interim Executive Director
Sequoia Riverlands Trust
S R T | E D U C A T I O N
SRT EARTH Academy graduation celebrates student achievement amid difficult pandemic year
ABOVE: An EARTH Academy student leads an experiment on soil health during their recent graduation at SRT's Kaweah Oaks Preserve. PHOTOS: Aaron Collins BELOW: Soil percolation is explored through a student-led soil percolation test during the recent EARTH Academy graduation at Kaweah Oaks Preserve.
"I am really proud of the EARTH Technicians this year. Not only did they manage to complete this program alongside their regular curriculum and other commitments, but they manged to do it despite the pandemic and all associated barriers that came up this past year. These students showed true interest, passion and dedication that makes me hopeful for the future of our natural world. I am sure that a bright future lies ahead for all of our Technicians, and I hope they apply and share what they have learned this year, and continue to be great stewards of our world."

-Sneha Kumar, SRT Education Technician
ABOVE: SRT Acting Executive Director Scott Spear and soil health authority Peter Donovan enjoy a chat with an attendee after SRT's EARTH Academy graduation on Saturday, May 8, 2021.
S R T | P L A N N I N G and P O L I C Y
A Conservation Moonshot? What You Can Do to Make 30x30 Happen

Adam Livingston
SRT Director of Planning and Policy
By Adam Livingston, SRT Director of Planning and Policy

What will our region look like in 2030? In the midst of all the change happening now, will we be able to protect the places that matter most, and be sure that everyone has access to outdoor recreation, clean air and water, and other benefits of nature? An ambitious new conservation initiative may help us to answer these questions, and give us the tools to shape a better future for our region.

Last October, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order setting a goal of protecting 30% of the state’s natural and working lands by 2030. Early this year, President Biden followed suit, committing to protect 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030. Achieving the 30x30 goal will entail coming to a consensus about what “conserve” means, which areas are most in need of protection, and how to ensure that everyone—not just the wealthy or those who live near state or national parks—has access to nature.

It will also require significantly increased funding for conservation, particularly programs that help land trusts like SRT work with willing landowners to protect farms, ranches and other important places. The original moonshot—a massive undertaking to land a human being on another world within a decade, which succeeded in about the amount of time we have left to implement 30x30—would not have been possible without unprecedented investments in research and development. The giant leap for conservation undertaken by the State of California, and now the United States as a whole, will require a similar approach to programs that fund land protection. From ensuring that a portion of the state’s budget surplus and of any future climate bond supports conservation to greatly expanding the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program in the next Farm Bill, achieving the 30x30 goal will take sustained investment.

And to make it happen, land trusts like SRT will need to operate at full capacity. Nationwide, land trusts have conserved a larger area than all of our National Parks combined, all by partnering with willing landowners. This collaborative approach will be central to realizing the vision of 30x30, particularly in our region. And the time to get involved is now. Whether or not you had a chance to participate in the California Natural Resources Agency’s recent workshops, you can submit comments on how 30x30 should be implemented at the state level, and reach out to your state and federal representatives about the need for conservation investments in our region. Just as importantly, now would be a great time to contribute to SRT, so we can ensure that 30x30 benefits people and nature alike in the Southern Sierra and Southern San Joaquin Valley.
S R T | S T A F F | Q & A
Finding the 'radical center': SRT rangeland management explored
ABOVE: SRT's Director of Land Management and Mitigation Ben Munger takes a break at SRT's lands in the Carrizo Plain. PHOTO: Submitted.
Currents regularly takes a pulse on matters of interest to the SRT community by interviewing SRT community supporters, staff, or other authorities doing important work in the conservation field. For our second quarter ’21 issue, we’re featuring excerpts from our recent wide-ranging discussion with Ben Munger, SRT Director of Land Management and Mitigation, who lives with his wife near Springville. CA
CURRENTS: Tell our readers about your unique role at SRT: What you do, and what your program does for SRT, and about the diversity of lands you manage. What does a typical day look like?

BEN MUNGER, SRT: I have been the Director of Land Management and Mitigation at Sequoia Riverlands Trust since May of 2017. I manage cattle and sheep grazing on Sequoia Riverlands Preserves (fee title lands) and on Mitigation Lands where we manage landscapes for wildlife like Giant Kangaroo Rat, San Joaquin Valley Kit Fox, Swainson Hawk, Tule Elk, and Antelope. The majority of the lands we manage are located in the Carrizo Plain area, made up of unique grasslands with an interesting history of dryland grain farming. Approximately 17,000 acres, that we care for of these grasslands, were set aside for Conservation during a expansive solar energy development project in the early 2000’s. Much of my time is spent communicating with two ranchers and a sheep herder that lease “ranches” from Sequoia Riverlands Trust in the Carrizo regarding grazing goals and infrastructure (water and fences). At the end of the grazing season there is an extensive collection of grazing data for annual reports to various agencies. All of this work is coordinated with Camdilla Wirth, our Lead Conservation Biologist who performs all of the wildlife surveys, rare plant surveys, and Conservation Easement evaluations in the Carrizo, and with Adam Quin, who coordinates all of the annual report writing and communication with agencies and organizations we are working with. Similarly, in the Sierra Foothills and San Joaquin Valley I work with our Conservation Department of Jeff Powers and Jonathan Vaughn to balance cattle grazing with goals of managing the Preserves. Lots of communication continues with our various cattle lessees. One of my favorites, regularly greets me and GrizzlyCorps Fellow, Alexis Wilkman with, “How you Tree Huggers Doing?” Fine, thanks for asking Don!

CURRENTS: What drew you to this work? What makes your work important and urgent within the conservation field?

BM: I have seen real differences in ranchlands where someone really cares and ranchlands where there doesn’t seem to be much care. You really see different levels in care when it comes to riparian areas and how streams function. I like to see fences maintained and gates that work, and see cattle that are healthy. It's also important to see the people taking care of the cattle engaged and looking at similar things you are as a land manager. Much of my views on ranchlands are described as trying to find a Radical Center, which can be described as a place between Restoration, in an environmental ideal, and Production, in the sense of goals of the cattle producer. Each year is different, but as we trend more and more toward increasing temperatures and less water falling as precipitation, finding the Radical Center is more challenging.

CURRENTS: How are factors like climate change and resulting drought altering your approach to and thinking behind your work? As our working landscapes change, what is your vision for a future healthy ecosystem?

BM: As a general goal, already, we want all the precipitation that falls on our Preserves and managed Mitigation Lands to be effective precipitation. We are monitoring for signs of erosion, run off, and increases in bare ground in all locations. We want all rain falling on our Preserves to stay on the Preserves, ideally held in soils like a moist sponge, then released slowly into streams and springs.

CURRENTS: Is technology changing the way you conduct your work? How, if so?

BM: Recently, we were introduced to a new Rangeland Monitoring app called LandPKS. As a Rangeland Manager who needs to communicate with different groups of people, LandPKS has proved useful. Alexis Wilkman, our GrizzlyCorps Fellow has developed a monitoring program on several of our Preserves and taught rangeland monitoring to students with LandPKS in Earth Academy, an outdoor education curriculum based on the fundamentals of Regenerative Agriculture. All of the monitoring work is recorded on your cell phone and you can quickly generate a report in PDF format. There is a guide for soil analysis and if you have cell service you can access NRCS soil and ecological site information to create useful reports and studies.

CURRENTS: Help our readers who might be resistant to grazing understand why cattle are important to our rangeland management approach.

BM: We have one of our friends with a SRT Conservation Easement experimenting with the elimination of cattle grazing that is proximate to our Sopac McCarthy Mulholland Blue Oak Ranch Preserve. We are monitoring this experiment and using our LandPKS app to compare non grazed and grazed landscapes in a shared watershed. My overall management goal has always been to make sure that the ranches I manage are, “well managed and learned from”. Basically if we are not learning we are in trouble and if things are not well managed we are in trouble, if you have cows or not. Sequoia Riverlands Trust has sought to utilize cattle grazing as a tool, with aspirations of finding the Radical Center in the grazing debate over Western landscapes.

CURRENTS: How is your program funded?

BM: Most of my work is funded by monies for long-term management of Mitigation Lands in the Carrizo Plain and other areas. I am also generously funded by the Regenerative Agricultural Foundation, which was a spinoff from the 11th Hour Project, which itself was started by the Schmidt Family Foundation founded by Eric Schmidt, former head of Google.
S R T | A D V A N C E M E N T
What is your legacy? SRT Advancement team offers tools for major donors leaving their mark
ABOVE: SRT advancement officer Nadia Omar, who joined staff in October 2020.
By Logan Robertson

(VISALIA, CA) - “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”
From Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda

Even if we never see the fruits of our efforts, planned giving is an important way to make a difference. 

"Alan George was not only a notable community leader, he was a conservation champion whose efforts directly led to the protection and formation of Kaweah Oaks Preserve," said Nadia Omar, SRT Major Donors and Strategic Partners Officer. "But what many people don't realize is that the George family has continued to support SRT's work, having designated contributions from his memorial to benefit Kaweah Oaks. "While thankfully Alan was able to see the fruits of his effort in his lifetime, he would be very pleased to know that his legacy has continued beyond it and that the community gave generously in honor of his contribution," Omar said. To honor the community's and the George family's generosity, the Alan George Picnic Area at Kaweah Oaks has been named in his honor.

If you have already included Sequoia Riverlands Trust in your will, we would love to hear from you. If you’re just beginning to think about your legacy, we encourage you to contact a local estate planner or check out Freewill.com, where you can set up a will or trust to support the people and causes you care about even after you’re gone.

To learn more, reach out to Nadia Omar (nadia@sequoiariverlands.org), SRT Major Donors and Strategic Partnerships Officer, for more information on how you can work with us to ensure your legacy.
L A N D + I M A G E
SRT Photo Contest draws eager shutterbugs to Homer Ranch Preserve
GOLDEN HOUR: Photographer Ron Ludekens took top prize with this shot from the recent SRT Photo Contest at Homer Ranch Preserve. Ron is very active in the community. He and his wife are avid wildlife enthusiasts and both enjoy photography. For more of Ludeken's work, visit: https://www.creatorspalette.com/
Your contribution can make a BIG difference!