RCA Newsletter

February 2020

Congressman Calvert’s Bill Establishing Wildlife Refuge in Western Riverside County Passes Committee

On January 29, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee advanced legislation that would establish the Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge. The bill introduced by Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42), H.R. 2956, will now head to the House floor for consideration.

“Riverside County is now one step closer to being home to a new wildlife refuge that would help it balance its commitment to conserving animal habitat with its need for future growth,” said Rep. Calvert in a recent news release.

The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority (RCA) oversees the implementation of the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP), which balances needed growth with the preservation of vital habitat. Since 2004, the MSHCP has helped protect 146 native plant and animal species while providing guidelines for development and infrastructure improvements throughout the region.

“We thank Congressman Calvert for championing progress towards the creation of the Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge,” said Jonathan Ingram, Chairman of the RCA Board of Directors. “This legislation will enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fulfill its obligation as a partner in the MSHCP and will mark a huge step forward in completing the largest conservation plan in the nation.”

The MSHCP calls for the establishment of a 500,000-acre habitat reserve in Western Riverside County by 2029. Nearly 347,000 of those acres include existing United States Forest Service land such as the Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forests, as well as other state and federal land.

The Little Mousetail is a Big Deal in Western Riverside County

The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority’s (RCA) February Species of the Month is a regal flower, the Little Mousetail! This annual native herb is one of the 146 species protected by the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) implemented by the RCA.

The Little Mousetail, also known as Myosurus minimus, is a small flower with an elongated receptacle with five white petals at its base. This plant grows up to about 12 centimeters (roughly 5 inches) tall and generally blooms between April and May.

To ensure that these flowers keep blooming in Western Riverside County, RCA monitors the distribution of this species at least once every eight years. They also ensure to include at least 6,900 acres of suitable habitat in the MSHCP Conservation area.

This species is generally found in vernal pool habitats so you can probably find them at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, one of RCA’s partner reserves. These flowers are part of an important ecosystem that includes other MSHCP covered species such as the Riverside Fairy Shrimp and the Western Spadefoot.

Diversity Abounds at Motte Rimrock Reserve

An expansive, rocky plateau that rests on the edge of Perris Valley, the Motte Rimrock Reserve contains an unusual mix of habitats with over 700 acres that safeguard species such as the endangered Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat and the threatened California Gnatcatcher.

Motte Rimrock Reserve is an important partner in the 500,000-acre Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). Owned and managed by the University of California, Riverside (UCR), the Motte Rimrock Reserve is part of the UC’s research-based reserve system and provides research opportunities for K-12 and university students.

The reserve contains a diverse landscape with habitats ranging from grasslands to willow riparian thickets to granite rock outcrops. Adding to the diversity are six seasonal springs. The reserve has an abundance of species including 92 vascular plants, 3 amphibians, 22 reptiles, 150 birds, and 23 mammals. Apart from the biological diversity, this reserve also encompasses important archaeological sites.

This reserve is one of seven in Western Riverside County that is permanently dedicated to monitoring and conserving the Stephens’s Kangaroo Rat. Biologists from the reserve conduct quarterly monitoring studies and are an active participant in the Reserve Managers Coordinating Committee (RMCC) where these and other important species are addressed in an open forum.

To help protect this critical habitat, the reserve is not open to the public. You can learn more about the Motte Rimrock Reserve by visiting its website here.

January 2020

Granite Spiny Lizard: A Blue-Bellied Wonder

The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority’s (RCA) January Species of the Month is a cerulean reptile, the Granite Spiny Lizard! This iridescent critter is one of the 146 species protected by the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) implemented by the RCA.

The Granite Spiny Lizard, also known as Sceloporus orcutti, is a moderately large dark lizard with keeled scales. Males have iridescent scales and can be very colorful, with blue bellies and green scales. Females and juveniles have distinct cross bands and little to no blue on their bellies.

To help keep this reptilian wonder thriving in western Riverside County, RCA monitors habitats through the use of various survey methods to determine their presence and distribution. Our monitoring crews also collect tissue samples from the lizards and send them to the U.S. Geological Survey where they analyze how different populations may have genetic differences.

These amazing lizards are only found in Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. The Granite Spiny Lizard is often found in rocky terrain, usually on granite outcroppings and large boulders. Locally, you can often spot this blue-bellied reptile on Mount Rubidoux in Riverside.

More than 120 Species at the Box Springs Reserve

Overlooking the University of California, Riverside campus, the Box Springs Reserve encompasses a vital transitional zone in western Riverside County, offering nearby opportunities for hiking on land that is also home to more than 120 unique animal species.

The Box Springs Reserve is part of the 500,000-acre Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP).   Owned and managed by the University of California, Riverside, the Box Springs Reserve is part of the University of California’s research-based reserve system and provides research opportunities on a wide variety of disciplines, including the effects of fire on invasive annuals in California coastal scrublands.

The Box Springs Reserve is comprised of 160 acres on the west-facing hillside above UCR, just east of the City of Riverside.  Rich in vertebrates, the reserve hosts nineteen species of reptiles, including three rare species: The Coast Horned Lizard, the Orange-Throated Whiptail, and the Red Diamond Rattlesnake. Sixteen species of mammals also inhabit the reserve, including the Pacific Kangaroo Rat, Mountain Lion, and Mule Deer. Also observed on site are over 85 bird species including the Golden Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Sage Sparrows, and many more.

The reserve sits on the steep granitic slope near the top of Box Springs Mountain in what is known as a transitional zone, because the flora transitions from coastal sage scrub to chamise chaparral. To protect this critical conservation area, the reserve is closed from public access. However, there are numerous nearby trails alongside Box Springs Mountain that offer amazing views and opportunities to examine some of the flora and fauna that share the Reserve. Popular trails include the 3.3-mile M Hike and the 4.6-mile Box Springs Mountain Loop.

The Riverside County Park and Open Space District operates the larger Box Springs Mountain Reserve Park situated just east of the Box Springs Reserve.  More information about access and parking can be found here.  Admission to the trails is free and open to the public daily from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  More information on the 3,400 acre Box Springs Mountain Reserve can be found here.

How Many Bald Eagles Can You Count?

Grab your binoculars or spotting scopes and join the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority (RCA) in helping count the majestic Bald Eagles at Lake Perris.  The Bald Eagle Count Experience invites the public to be part of an ongoing effort to help observe and protect one of the 146 plants and animals monitored under the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) managed by the RCA.

Hosted by the Lake Perris State Recreation Area, the Bald Eagle Count Experience offers participants an exciting chance to observe and photograph these regal national icons.  The winter months are often the best time to catch sight of Bald Eagles in Southern California.  Several vantage points are planned for visitors around the lake where spotters will keep a lookout for these magnificent birds of prey.

Bald Eagles are monitored as a covered species under the MSHCP by the RCA.  They are common around local lakes, including Lake Elsinore, Lake Perris, Vail Lake, Lake Skinner, and Lake Mathews.

Previous Bald Eagle Count Experiences were held in mid-December and mid-January, but there are two more opportunities to take part in this event on February 8, and March 14. The program begins at 7 a.m. and lasts until 10:30 a.m.  The meeting location will be the Ya’i Heki’ Regional Indian Museum at Lake Perris.  Learn more about this free event here.

Flora, Fauna & Land Protected by RCA