The California Drought: A look at a bigger picture

California’s dynamic landscape and wildlife has long been an interest to all likes of people. In 2013 the western state experienced its driest year in recorded history, and 2014 has marked the third consecutive year of extremely dry conditions. Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency in January of this year, and urged the residence of California to do their part by reducing water consumption 20 percent.

Farmers, ranchers, and other organizations all over the state are dealing with the extreme weather event. Organizations that also have to plan for drought conditions are national parks, state parks and land preservations. These organizations are forced to adapt to the natural conditions by relying on the natural order and looking at the past.

“Most native plants in this area have it within their physiology to survive drought cycles, these dry conditions due hinder are ability to plant several plant species because many would require more supplemental watering, and well, that would be irresponsible right now,” said Robert Shahan, an ecologist and ranger at Wind Wolves Preserve.

Cattle at preserve

Cattle leasing agreements are created between Wind Wolves Preserve and private ranchers that act as a mutual benefit to both the preserve and the ranchers. Although cattle are not native to this environment, they help combat non-native grasses and provide supplemental financial support for the preserve. (Photo by Chad J. Hill ©2014)


Growing native species in controlled conditions before introducing them into a native habitat is one of many tasks The Wild Land Conservancy takes on in order to reform the native habitat at Wind Wolves Preserve in Bakersfield, Calif., on March 26, 2014. Ranger Robert Shahan has selected two native Salt Bush plants to introduce somewhere on the preservation property. (Photo by Chad J. Hill ©2014)

Wind Wolves Preserve is a 95,000-acre ecological and wildlife preservation located at the edge southwestern edge of the San Joaquin valley where the Transverse Ranges, Sierra Nevada’s, Los Padres Ranges and Mojave Desert all converge. The preserve is home to an array of California native wildlife, including California condors and tule elk; both are endangered and protected in the state.

Projects continue to take place at the preservation. The rangers work daily to continue stewarding the land, and the drop in rainfall has resulted in a continuous need to apply supplemental water, but according to the land stewards at Wind Wolves this is a natural cycle that they have learned to understand and adapt to.