How to Become a Steward of the Land

This November is the launch of our Keep It Wild Stewardship Program! Are you looking for a way to give back to the local wilderness? Do you want to learn about native flora and fauna? Are you interested in volunteering outdoors? Our Keep It Wild Stewardship program is for you! Read along to learn more about Laguna Canyon Foundation’s robust stewardship program and how you can get involved.

In the summer months, our stewardship volunteer events go dormant just like our native coastal sage scrub. The hot weather and dry soil make for a perfect time to rest. Our stewardship program follows the same rhythms of the land. Come November, when it’s typically cooler and more moisture is in the air, our plants start to come back to life and so do our volunteer events.

So, what is the Keep It Wild program? First, we should talk about habitat restoration. Habitat restoration is the act of working on a degraded area by planting native plants and caring for the area as it heals and grows back into resilient habitat (a natural home for plants and animals) for our local wildlife. This area could have been degraded for many reasons: maybe invasive plants took over, maybe there was a non-authorized trail that crushed the plants, etc. Our wildlife needs plenty of healthy and diverse vegetation that provides shelter and food for their unique needs.

Monarch visiting planted Black SageSo how can you help restore a natural habitat?

Step one: Laguna Canyon Foundation works closely with OC Parks staff to determine which areas in the parks we should adopt and what ecological support we can provide that chosen site. Over the years this program has expanded to five different sites in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

Step two: we then determine the plant palette (yes, much like an artist with their paints, we map out the species we would like to see). We do this by observing more mature habitat in the surrounding area and we basically mimic the species and density of plants we see. It’s almost like putting a band-aid over a papercut to help your skin heal and become strong again. We are the little extra support (the band-aid, if you will) to help that wild area heal.

Step three: we order hundreds of plants from a local nursery that specializes in native plants and that’s where you come in! We can’t do this work alone. Our volunteers show up to our monthly events to help us get the plants in the ground, water them, and maybe pull some weeds. At some events we have planted over 100 native plants! All the while, we are working together and learning about this amazing ecosystem and how each of these plants fit in to the story of this habitat.

We’ll spend the first few months focusing on planting and watering. If all goes as planned, the rain will help us out a bit too. Planting season ends in spring, but we still have plenty of work to do before the summer heat returns. This means watering and weeding the adopted area. The goal is to keep the weeds down as the native plants grow healthy enough to fill in the area.

Getting involved with our Keep It Wild program is an opportunity for you to become a true steward of the land. Taking ownership of an adopted area, returning over the seasons to care for the plants you put in the ground, watching them grow, and if you’re lucky, maybe seeing some of the native wildlife visit the site. You can try this once or keep coming back through the seasons. Learn about how the land changes each season, learn new skills and have a lot of fun in the dirt.

Our Keep It Wild program’s main goal is to connect people with the land through hands-on volunteer work. People of all ages and experience are welcome. Bring your family and friends, because this three-hour event is a great way to give back to nature, have fun, learn something new and maybe even get school credit.

We hope to see you soon!