Clark’s Valley is a special place

05/27/2014 9:47 PM

05/27/2014 11:29 PM

Over the past few years, I have mentioned the Sierra Foothill Conservancy’s local preserves and conservation easements.

Last week, I got to take some students from Golden Valley High School to visit the conservancy easement at Clark’s Valley near Jerseydale. Clark’s Valley is a truly special place with a healthy forest, a beautiful meadow, ancient black oaks and part of the watercourse of Snow Creek.

In addition to enjoying these features of the landscape, students also got the opportunity to see the part of the easement that was burned in last year’s Carstens Fire.

On a previous trip, the students saw some of the great swaths of dead trees left behind by the Rim Fire. At Clark’s Valley, they saw the results of good forest management. Because of an effort to keep the fuel accumulation under control, the part of Clark’s Valley that burned was not as damaged as the areas affected by the Rim Fire.

Although there were sections where the majority of the trees did not survive, the bulk of the sections fared better, with most or nearly all of the trees surviving.

A year later, the forest is recovering. The understory has come alive again, and pine seedlings have been planted in areas that sustained the most damage. It was interesting to see the complete range of the fire’s effects, especially the areas where the fire moved through without total destruction of the trees. It’s encouraging to see we can someday get to the point where fires can burn and function as a natural part of the ecosystem without resulting in the type of catastrophic damage we saw in the Rim Fire. It will take much work to undo the damage that has resulted from so many years of fire prevention without debris and brush control, but it is possible.

There are several things I appreciate about the Sierra Foothill Conservancy. In addition to protecting land in a way that involves working cooperatively with landowners and maintaining the land’s role in our local economy, I am impressed with the hiking and educational opportunities it offers to the public. Its guided hikes and classes are informative and led by top-notch guides. Many of these activities – such as the ones offered at Clark’s Valley – are possible only because of the generosity of the landowners and the positive working relationship the Sierra Foothill Conservancy has built with them.

Although the hot season is upon us, the SFC will be holding a couple of additional events before adjourning until the fall. This weekend, two hikes will be held at the Bean Creek Preserve (near Coulterville), and one will be held at the Von der Ahe Easement property south of Mariposa.

The Bean Creek hikes are part of the Coulterville-area John Muir Festival, taking place Friday and Saturday. For more information, go to http://johnmuir.us/jmgc-events/ or call (209) 878-3501. John Muir saw Bean Creek and passed through the Coulterville area on his first journey to Yosemite in 1869. He told the story in his book, “My First Summer in the Sierra.”

On June 7, this season’s final class, “Native Plants and Traditional Uses,” will be taught by Miwuk leader Bill Leonard at Clark’s Valley. Although I haven’t taken this class yet, it has been highly recommended by several people I’ve talked to. For more information about SFC hikes and classes, go to http://www.sierrafoothill.org/.

You can also call the Mariposa office at (209) 742-5556 or the Prather office at (559) 855-3473. Activities scheduled for the fall will be posted later this summer.

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