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September 2021

A Struggling Icon:
Western Monarchs Return to the Coast

Monarch Butterfly - D.Mauk - 2021-06 - 1Each fall, Western monarch butterflies travel from their summer breeding spots to overwintering locations along the Pacific coast where they live for six to nine months.

Remarkably, they return to the same groves of trees each year, and California is the only place in the United States that regularly hosts awe-inspiring sights of monarchs clustered together for the winter.

Unfortunately, these precious and charismatic butterflies, with their large size and striking colors, are struggling after catastrophic population drops over the last few years.

While the direct cause of this decline isn’t known for sure, the butterflies’ primary threats are climate change and habitat loss. Changing weather conditions disrupt annual migration patterns in both wintering and summer breeding grounds. Monarchs also need places to reproduce and feed, relying heavily on milkweed – the only source of food for monarch caterpillars -- which is also decreasing in availability due to herbicide use.

There is hope for monarch butterflies and other important pollinators.

Monarchs need more habitat to support their repopulation and migration. The peak migration for Western monarchs is in October, so it's not too late to plant native milkweed and keep an eye out for monarch caterpillars and adults between September and November.

We at the Authority are proud to do our part to help this iconic California species.

Read more to learn how we are helping the monarchs, and what you can to support this declining species.

10 Ways to Celebrate

Self-Care Month with Nature

Ulistac - Family - L-Nguyen - 2021-06-05 - 43

September is Self-Care Month, and with all the ups and downs we’ve experienced throughout 2021-- it's about time! It can be difficult to prioritize taking care of yourself when there is so much going on, but please believe us when we say YOU DESERVE IT!

For 10 ways you can use nature to treat yourself, click here.

The Secret Lives of Squirrels

SVIS - Ground Squirrels - D.Mauk - 2020-06-30 - 2Squirrels are highly adaptable, charismatic, and an all-around tough species. Though some view squirrels as pests, these nimble, curious critters play a major role in regulating their ecosystems. For those who are less than appreciative of their presence, learning about their vibrant lives and complex social interactions might just inspire a bit more interest in these seemingly inconspicuous creatures.

Squirrels exhibit some interesting behavior that you may not expect. The complexities of the squirrel community have some similarities with our own human communities, and they even seem almost karmic -- theft is common among ground squirrels, and research shows that squirrels who have been stolen from are more likely to steal from another. Furthermore, squirrels that steal from others are more paranoid about theft themselves. (And some squirrels will even go so far as to pretend to bury an acorn in the ground to “fake out” their competitors.)

Squirrels found throughout Santa Clara Valley don’t hibernate, and instinctively know to prepare for cold winter months. As autumn approaches, local species like the Western gray squirrel, Eastern gray squirrel, and fox squirrels begin gathering fallen acorns to stash for later. As “scatter hoarders,” these squirrels collect food and bury it throughout their habitat so they can dig it up whenever they need something to eat. This technique is well-suited to oak forest habitats, which are abundant with acorns and places to bury food.

As effective as this strategy is for hiding food from other animals, it is still flawed – but in the best way. Squirrels that scatter hoard bury their food in several different locations, some of which they inevitably forget, which can allow seeds like acorns to germinate and grow into an oak tree one day.

“They’re little oak tree farmers,” said David Mauk, Natural Resource Technician at the Authority. “Scatter hoarding ground squirrels are valuable agents of reforestation.”

Ground squirrels also balance the food chain, provide habitat for burrowing owls, and are so well adapted to their surroundings that they are virtually immune to rattlesnake venom.

To learn more surprising facts about important critters, as well as some earth- and squirrel-friendly ways to protect your yard from them, read here.

Drought Resilience Through Restoration

Laguna Seca - D-Neumann - 2021-01-31 -4-3In June 2021, the Open Space Authority released the Coyote Valley Water Resource Investment Strategy (CVWRIS) report. The report was developed in partnership with Valley Water, detailing the water resource impacts of large-scale restoration projects in Coyote Valley, just south of San José.

The goal of the report was to better understand water enhancement opportunities in Coyote Valley, and how this can benefit natural ecosystems, as well as surrounding communities. The findings? Most notably, that large scale habitat restoration in Coyote Valley can help protect water supply for Santa Clara Valley, contribute to groundwater recharge, support aquatic ecosystems under duress during drought conditions, and provide meaningful flood risk reduction for surrounding communities.

And this work couldn’t be more relevant to current trends. Californians and the Environment, a recent study conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) indicates that addressing solutions to drought is more important than ever. 63% of all people surveyed across the state feel that drought is the top environmental concern in California.

“Disruption of nature and natural systems by humans is a major part of the climate crisis,” says Andrea Mackenzie, General Manager of the Open Space Authority in a recent San José Spotlight article. “But nature is part of the solution.”

As indicated in the results of the CVWRIS report, natural infrastructure can play a critical role in addressing climate threats. As climate change progresses, leveraging natural infrastructure like undeveloped floodplains and aquifer recharge areas becomes increasingly important to protect and buffer local communities from catastrophes like flooding, wildland fires, air pollution, and drought conditions.

During daunting times, these results inspire some much-needed hope. Open spaces will support and protect communities across Santa Clara Valley-- so long as we protect and manage them responsibly. Read more here.

Discovering Coyote Valley:
A Free, Three-part Webinar Series!

Webinar - Website Cover

With the Coyote Valley Conservation Areas Master Plan on the horizon, people throughout the Santa Clara Valley can soon help shape the future of this incredible last-chance landscape.

The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority is launching a three-part educational webinar series, Discovering Coyote Valley, to tell the story of this last-chance landscape and raise awareness about the Coyote Valley Conservation Areas Master Plan for these protected lands.

Click the button below to learn more and register for all three webinars. 


Who Am I?

CRID - Turkey Vulture - D-Mauk - May-20-2018 - 1

I am a huge, dark bird with a naked pink head and a slow, wobbly way of flying. Rather than hunt my own prey, I use my incredible sense of smell to find the remains of animals that have already died. I am common in California and am likely to be spotted on sunny days, circling high in the sky.

Drought Got You Bummed?

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If the California drought is causing you eco-anxiety, you are not alone. But there is hope amid this climate crisis. Through small, everyday actions we can all help protect our water supply. Click below to learn how you can conserve water and save a pretty penny.

Learn More

Coyote Valley Conservation Lands Network Grows With Historic Ranch Purchase

red barn view 3-1

Last month, the Open Space Authority, in partnership with Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), finalized the $5 million purchase of the historic Tilton Ranch Complex, a 60-acre parcel that includes residential and operational buildings at the heart of the ranch. This completes the protection of the ENTIRE Tilton Ranch property, building off last year's monumental conservation of 1,861 acres there.

Learn More


Our Last Best Chance


Nestled between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range at the southern edge of San José, lies the stunning Coyote Valley. In this new short film, discover why Coyote Valley is our LAST BEST CHANCE.

Watch now!

San José Spotlight Article
Zimmerman: Our underappreciated open spaces


Open spaces are far more than just places for recreation. They are one of the most affordable and effective ways to combat climate change.

Read this recent article from San José Spotlight on the importance of open spaces.

Read the Article

Vacancies on the Citizens' Advisory Committee and Measure Q Expenditure Oversight Committee

Ulistac - Annas Hummingbird - D.Mauk - 2020-08-31 - 7

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

If you love nature and numbers, the Measure Q Expenditure Oversight Committee is the perfect volunteer role for you! This committee provides public oversight for all funds collected and allocated by Measure Q.

Learn More

Who Am I? Answer

CRID - Turkey Vulture - D-Mauk - Mar-11-2018 - 1

I am the turkey vulture! As a carrion bird, I help keep the environment clean by eating animal remains. I am found in all Open Space Authority preserves and across the entire Santa Clara Valley. Saturday, September 4 is International Vulture Awareness Day, a day to celebrate these birds that play a critical role in the ecosystem.

Photo Credits

Monarch Butterfly - David Mauk, Authority Staff
Family in Nature - Lanny Nguyen Photography
Ground Squirrels - David Mauk, Authority Staff
Laguna Seca - Derek Nuemann, Authority Staff
Turkey Vulture - David Mauk, Authority Staff
Tilton Ranch Barn - Linda Kwong, Authority Staff
Coyote Valley Landscape - Derek Nuemann, Authority Staff
Hummingbird - David Mauk, Authority Staff

Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority | 408.224.7476 |