Company:
Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency
Status:
Awarded
Awarded:
Other
Additional Files
Additional Information

Prior to being acquired and conserved as permanent open space by TCA in 2005, Live Oak Plaza had been zoned for commercial, residential and gas station development. The site now provides natural wildlife movement corridors to and from the Cleveland National Forest. Nonnative mustard plants had overtaken the land at the Live Oak Plaza, pushing out native vegetation.

Conservation Grazing Pilot Program

Project Location:

Live Oak Plaza is a 23.2-acre conservation area located in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, just east of the intersection of El Toro Road and Santiago Canyon Road at Live Oak Canyon Road. The site provides natural wildlife movement corridors to and from the Cleveland National Forest approximately one mile north and east of the property, and O’Neill Regional Park and Whiting Ranch Wilderness Parks approximately 0.75 miles to the south and northwest, respectively.

Project Description:

The Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency, one of the two agencies that comprise the TCA, approved a pilot conservation grazing program by 5 Bar Beef as one of the land management tools at the Live Oak Plaza site. Conservation grazing, or targeted grazing, is ta science-based use of grazing livestock to improve and maintain the quality of biodiversity of natural areas. The program is based on establishing land management goals and objectives that are consistent with the purposes and aspirations for this conservation property, including but not limited to, encouraging native perennial grass and shrub cover by reducing competition of nonnative annual plants, reducing flashy fuels and associated fire risk from accumulation of residual dry matter, increasing site use by sensitive grassland bird species, retaining hydrological function with limited erosion, and promoting recovery of coast live oak woodland. To achieve this, the program relies on time-controlled, short-duration, high-intensity cattle grazing to remove alien plant seed and promote short native grasses.  The site is grazed three times a year, during winter and spring, early enough to leave time for perennial species to grow, flower, and set seed before soil moisture is exhausted; and sufficiently intense to graze off the seed heads of the nonnative grasses before seeds are viable; and during summer to reduce fuel load, in the form of dry residual matter.
The grazing program’s stars - 800-lbs Barzona bulls - are released for weeks at a time to walk around the conservation area, eat the invasive plant life, stir the topsoil, and rejuvenate the nutrients in the soil through their feces. By moving the bulls around and during specific portions of the year, the land is given time to reset and regrow in a natural, more organic way.

Project Justification:

This first of its kind pilot program in Orange County, is part of a holistic approach to habitat management that can increase biodiversity and reduce flashy fuels from nonnative annual plants that are associated with fire risk.
Not only is grazing a natural alternative to using harsh chemicals to maintain the land, it is also more financially prudent.
The pilot conservation grazing program uses grazing livestock to improve and maintain the quality of biodiversity of natural areas, instead of invasive approaches such as the use of harmful chemicals.

Special Circumstances:

This program has generated an unusual special relationship between a tolling agency and a small family ranch that practices holistic planned grazing, a form of regenerative agriculture which promotes the restoration of our soil and grasslands. This approach highly compliments TCA’s goals and objectives at the Live Oak Plaza property.
In November 2021, the Conservation Grazing Pilot Program received an honorable mention of the Sustainable and Green Development Award at Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet Awards hosted by the Orange County Business Council. The award recognizes programs that simultaneously target and create relationships between economic development, environmental sustainability and climate adaptation.

Project Attachments:

Prior to being acquired and conserved as permanent open space by TCA in 2005, Live Oak Plaza had been zoned for commercial, residential and gas station development. The site now provides natural wildlife movement corridors to and from the Cleveland National Forest.

Nonnative mustard plants had overtaken the land at the Live Oak Plaza Conservation Area, pushing out coastal sage scrub and other native vegetation. Those nonnative species carried a heavy fuel load which, when combined with high wind conditions, created a significant fire risk in an area that had been previously affected by wildfires. The Conservation Grazing Pilot Program is innovative as the first of its kind in Orange County, providing restoration opportunities and fire risk reduction.

Award Citation::

The Conservation Grazing Pilot Program uses grazing livestock to improve and maintain the quality of biodiversity of natural areas. The Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency adopted conservation grazing to reduce fuels and fire risk associated with the accumulation of dry vegetation at the 23.2-acre Live Oak Plaza Conservation Area.

Suggested Award Summary:

Conservation grazing, or targeted grazing, is the use of grazing livestock to improve and maintain the quality of biodiversity of natural areas. The Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency – one of the two agencies that comprise the TCA - adopted conservation grazing as the preferred, science-based approach to manage the 23.2-acre Live Oak Plaza Conservation Area. In September 2020, the Agency entered into a three-year agreement with 5 Bar Beef to perform the grazing. Under the agreement, 5 Bar Beef provides cattle, water, additional feeding and other functions necessary to properly graze the land. The land is set to be grazed each year in late winter, spring and late summer for the next three years.

The grazing program’s stars - 800-lbs Barzona bulls - are released for weeks at a time to walk around the conservation area, eat the invasive plant life, stir the topsoil, and rejuvenate the nutrients in the soil through their feces. By moving the bulls around and during specific portions of the year, the land is given time to reset and regrow in a natural, more organic way.

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