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April 2021

The Monarch Butterfly’s Mysterious Decline: What You Can Do to Help

Monarch Butterfly on orange flowerJust over twenty years ago, Monarch Butterflies, one of the most charismatic and widely recognized butterfly species, lived in abundance across the United States. More recently, however, their population count has decreased dramatically. What once was a yearly population count in excess of 1.2 million towards the turn of the century, has since dropped to a far lower threshold of roughly 30,000. Following this already concerning decline, the 2020 count was much worse than anyone could have anticipated: a staggering 1,914 butterflies.

Nearly 94% lower than the expected count of 30,000, and 99.99% lower than counts conducted in the 1980s, this jaw-dropping number has sounded alarms among scientific communities and is sparking research and conservation efforts across the nation, including at the Open Space Authority. Protecting butterfly habitat is one of the most important ways to help the species, and is now a top priority for our Natural Resource team. “The first step here is identifying and mapping as many milkweed plants as possible throughout our preserves,” says David Mauk, the Authority’s Natural Resource Technician. Milkweed, the only food source for Monarch caterpillars, is a necessary feature in viable Monarch habitat. Milkweed plants will be mapped, cataloged, and categorized by environmental conditions, like the amount of visitor usage exposure or vulnerability to cattle and deer grazing. From there, the plants can then be protected as needed.

The largest need among researchers right now is locating as many milkweed plants as possible. This is the data the Authority will be collecting, and the data that you, a member of the public, can collect as well. Citizen Science platforms like the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper make identifying these plants and sending information very simple. Even your single report of just one plant can make a difference. “The more there are people like me doing on-the-ground data collection, the more data available there is for researchers," Mauk urges. And the more milkweed plants protected, the more caterpillars kept alive.

There is a long road ahead of us, but the most important thing right now is starting -- and before things get worse. “It’s daunting to think about how dramatically populations can decrease in one year, while the restoration of them can take several,” Mauk reflects. In light of the lofty endeavor that lies ahead, he remains hopeful as long as we act now. “There are real steps we can take that can make a difference, but that is only if it starts.”

Read more about our work in protecting Monarch Butterflies and how you can help save them.

The Equity Lens - April 2021 Update

Hiking walking on trail at Sierra Vista under blue sky

In response to the intolerable acts of violence and racial injustices against people of color, and the ongoing COVID-19 global health and climate crises, we at the Open Space Authority have made a long-term commitment to ensure that the values of inclusion and equity are reflected in every facet of our work. This is life-long work that does not have a beginning and an end but rather will involve short-term and long-term goals. We have started by taking a step back, listening to the community, and looking inwards at our own practices and systems of work. From here, we will reflect on the ways that we are engaging in larger systems and structures in our community, including those that are both positive and negative, and identify how we can turn our commitment to these values into meaningful actions and change.

In the beginning of this year, our Board created an Ad Hoc Committee, comprised of Board, CAC, and staff members, that will be dedicated to evaluating and improving how the Authority’s work integrates and reflects the values of Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. The staff participants of the committee just held its first introductory meeting last month and is beginning the process of hiring a professional consultant to help facilitate and inform its meetings. We look forward to sharing the committee's actions and progress.

During this time, we’ve continued our dedicated efforts towards increasing equitable access to nature for everyone in our jurisdiction. In December of 2020, we finished the latest cycle of our Urban Grant Program, designed to empower community organizations to provide access to nature and environmental education within their communities that may typically lack it. This round of grants provided $1 million between 16 different projects, ranging in topics from urban gardening to environmental education. Just last month, we also released a Beginner’s Guide to Hiking to make hiking more accessible for those who may not have prior experience. This guide was created in an effort to break down some of the barriers to getting out onto a hiking trail, and to help everyone feel safe, comfortable, and welcome in nature – just as it should be.

We’ve also been working to improve the accessibility of information we provide to the public. We are working to update language throughout our website to be as clear and simple as possible. The Authority works on very technical issues and projects that involve complex, scientific information -- this is necessary and effective. However, we want to leave this technical information to the professionals, as not everyone has the time to read between the lines to figure out what in the world “percolate” means (it means “to filter our water,” but why not save everyone some time and just say that?). Combing through jargon can be exhausting, and we want everyone to enjoy reading about the work we do at the Authority, which is why we’ve committed to updating our entire website to be as accessible as possible, for those of various English reading levels, with any environmental knowledge, or time constraints. We’ve also included alternative text to every picture on our website, which helps screen-reading tools describe images, and subtitles over every website video for those of all visual and hearing abilities.

While we are actively working to improve our practices and increase equitable access to nature, we recognize that this will be a process and we still have a lot of work to do. There is much more to be done, and we want you to hold us accountable. Please reach out to us at, and let us know how we can improve. We represent you, the Santa Clara Valley community, and we want to hear your voices. We are working, and we are listening.

Urban Open Space Corner – Our City Forest Outdoor Educational Center

In 2015, Our City Forest, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a healthy Silicon Valley through the promotion of urban forestry, acquired a 2-acre parcel of land at Martial Cottle Park and created an outdoor urban forestry education center and arboretum, the Outdoor Educational Center.

The plot features over 200 trees and shrubs planted by hundreds of volunteers, as well as a variety of public engagement and education opportunities, like their California Native Garden and their Lawn Busting workshops. Despite these remarkable achievements and an array of exciting opportunities on the horizon, including a two-part volunteer course being offered in mid-April, Our City Forest has had to overcome considerable obstacles for the project to gain momentum. Lack of funding and lower volunteer capacity due to COVID restrictions certainly took a toll. “This project is an unfunded parcel,” says Natasha Lamperti, the Business and Fund Development Manager at Our City Forest, and who has been overseeing the development of the Education Center this last year. “And progress slows down considerably without adequate funding or resources.” Many other community-based organizations are likewise hindered by inadequate funding, which emphasizes the need for grant programs like those at the Open Space Authority.

Our City Forest Outdoor Classroom with sun shining behind it

In 2018, Our City Forest received a $100,000 grant from the Authority’s Urban Grant Program that was used to help install the Educational Center and fund many features of the center that are typically difficult to find funding for, like picnic tables and signage. “Grants like this help purchase capital items for these projects and it’s so important,” says Lamperti. These items are often difficult to allocate funding for when there are so many larger tasks at hand, yet these are often the kinds of additions that make all the difference in both welcoming and educating the public. “Because this project lacks funding, it’s completely reliant on receiving grants – we're so happy for what this grant has helped us accomplish at this center, and the Authority has been wonderful to work with throughout the process.”

Our City Forest has made strides developing the Center and Natasha has been proudly watching it progress. The fence is now lined with beautiful pepper trees, and with recent mulch and woodchip donations, the soil on the property is thriving. The trees throughout the center are also giving much-needed shade to protect parkgoers from sunlight and providing them with the well-documented benefits of the tree cover.

As vaccines become more widely available, Lamperti and the rest of Our City Forest look forward to welcoming more volunteers back for community projects, programs, and workshops. Our City Forest’s Educational Center at Martial Cottle is successfully connecting people to nature and exemplifies the positive impact that partnerships and public grant programs can have in our communities.

Read more about this community-focused project here.

In Acknowledgement of Earth Day

Western Meadowlark perched on top of rock

Biological altruism is a phenomenon that causes plant and animal species to behave in a manner that helps another organism, even at the cost of their own well-being. While experts are still theorizing exactly what motivates this behavior, a common perception is that, especially among species with complex social structures, these instances of helping another organism will ultimately benefit that which provides the help. Protecting and assisting other organisms helps to make all organisms thrive because the actions of one will impact another; because we are all connected.

Yes, we are all connected. With the recent horrific acts of violence targeted at the Asian American community -- yet another vivid example of the tragic results of systemic oppression and prejudice -- this is crucial to remember. Earth Day is approaching on April 22nd, for its 51st consecutive year, with the theme of “Restore Our Earth.” We must understand that this day is about much more than just nature, and that restoring the Earth involves restoring ourselves, too. There is no environmental well-being without the well-being of those inhabiting it. Wildlife, plant species, and humans all the same – when one of us is struggling, in pain or distress, all of us are.

The Authority is proud of its effort to protect nature for the benefit of those who call it home while also working to provide equitable access to nature across its entire jurisdiction. Last year, we witnessed the nexus between social justice and climate change, exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health crisis. Throughout the trying year, the Authority worked tirelessly to help people connect with nature either on our preserves, which had a 200% increase in visitation to over 635,000 people, or in the safety of their own homes with our environmental education programs that we quickly transitioned to be virtual. We continued our conservation work by investing in the protection of an additional 2,209 acres of open space for wildlife and the public. We continue to leverage our funding by working with state and local agencies, non-profit conservation partners and foundations to accomplish high-priority land and open space conservation projects and protect California’s rich landscapes, wildlife, and communities.

Who Am I?

Close-up of orange and green

I am one of the first signs of spring in the Santa Clara Valley! My bright orange and yellow blooms are found in a variety of sun-exposed, grassy habitats throughout the western United States, including all Open Space Authority preserves. Local Indigenous peoples were the first to use me for a variety of medicinal uses, including relief for toothaches and headaches and as a sleep aide Who am I?

Integrated Pest Management Program: Notice of Availability and Public Meeting

Grassy slope with lichen-covered rocks

As part of our Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM), the Open Space Authority is releasing the Integrated Pest Management Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Report. We are seeking feedback from the public and partners on the draft policy, guidelines, and environmental review. A public hearing is scheduled for April 20, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. to receive public comment. Register to attend this virtual meeting through the link below.


Interested parties may also provide the Authority with written and/or email comments on the Draft PEIR until May 17, 2021 at 5:00 pm. Learn more on our IPM Project web page.

Get Involved!
The City of Milpitas Trail, Pedestrian, and Bicycle Master Plan

Symbols of biker, walker, and hiker with words "Review the draft plan and share your feedback by April 26, 2021"

The City of Milpitas Trail, Pedestrian, and Bicycle Master Plan is the City’s vision and action plan for creating a safer, more comfortable active transportation network.

Two ways to get involved:

  1. Review the Draft Plan and provide feedback here.
  2. Learn more about the
    planning process and review recommendations here.

Review the draft plan and share your feedback by April 26, 2021.

Connecting Our Community: Vacancies on Citizens' Advisory Committee and Measure Q Expenditure Oversight Committee

Lone oak tree on top of grassy covered hill under cloudy sky

Are you interested in facilitating community input to and from the Open Space Authority? The Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) serves to provide communications to the Board from the public, aid in fostering a positive public image of the Authority, and help educate the public about the Authority’s goals and accomplishments.

Learn More

Do you love nature and numbers? Do you believe open space lands are essential to community health and well-being? If so, the Measure Q Expenditure Oversight Committee might be the perfect volunteer role for you! This committee provides public oversight for all funds collected and allocated by Measure Q. 

Learn More

Best Paved Trails in Santa Clara County

Paved trail going into grassy field under blue sky

Spring is here, and it's one of the best times of year to enjoy nature! Everyone in our community deserves access to nature, regardless of age or physical mobility. As part of our core mission, we're always looking for opportunities to make our open space preserves more accessible by providing paved trail segments with easy access to parking areas, and by funding urban and neighborhood trail expansions and accessibility improvements.

Check out some of our favorite paved, wheelchair-, walker-, and stroller-accessible trails in Authority-funded parks and other open spaces across Santa Clara County – and get inspired for your next nature outing!

Best Paved Trails

Who Am I? Answer

Field of California Poppies

I am the California poppy! This beloved wildflower has four petals that close at night or on cloudy days. This hardy flower can thrive along roadways, sidewalks, vacant lots, and other disturbed landscapes. In 1890, the California State Floral Society voted to select a State Flower, choosing between the California poppy, the Matilija poppy, and the Mariposa Lily. The California poppy won by a landslide and has been our state symbol since. The California poppy even has its own designated State holiday – April 6!

Photo Credits

Monarch Butterfly - mbelitz, iNaturalist
Sierra Vista Hiker - Parth Ladani
Our City Forest Outdoor Education Center - Our City Forest Courtesy Photo
Meadowlark  - David Mauk, Authority Staff
California Poppies - Cait Hutnik, Authority Volunteer
Coyote Ridge - Derek Neumann, Authority Staff
Sierra Vista Tree - Derek Neumann, Authority Staff
Llagas Creek Trail - Mark Hehir

Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority | 408.224.7476 |