The past few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time working a restoration site located in the coastal grasslands of Fort Ord. After filling in a gully that was threatening to damage a nearby road, BLM planted a few thousand native plants in order to populate the barren earth and prevent future erosion. I have been monitoring the survivorship of those plants, as well as watering them by means of a large water tank truck and a few hundred feet of hose. I often work alone amid dense morning fog, which burns off to spacious afternoon views, with mice, mantises, beetles, grasshoppers, vultures, hawks, spiders, and plants for company.
Meanwhile there has been a huge wildfire raging in northern Big Sur, 30ish south miles from Fort Ord. Luckily the prevailing winds are NW, but there has been some lingering haze and smoke smell in the area, as well as a few days of ash fall. One day however I accompanied our recreation manager to BLM campsites in the valleys inland from the fire, and fire’s effect there was surreal. Everything was enveloped in a yellow-sepia haze, which when coupled with the hot, barren oil field landscape created the atmosphere of a zombie apocalypse.
More recently I accompanied a longtime volunteer who conducts vegetation inventories across Fort Ord. We looked for elegant rein orchids in the coastal dunes, and ended up finding twelve individuals. It was incredibly refreshing to work in the smell and view of the clean, windless morning ocean, and trampling across the mats of invasive ice plant in search of scattered natives was fun too.
Sean Pagnon, BLM Fort Ord National Monument, CA