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Field Trips

Field trips will take place on Friday, December 8, 2023. The cost for each trip is $65, which includes transportation and lunch.

To add a field trip during registration: After confirming your registration type, click Select Ticket Options and check the box for the workshop you wish to attend. If you are already registered, please log in to the AFE portal, go to Events, My Event Registrations, Click Withdraw/Modify, Click Select Ticket Options, Make selections and save. 

For full field trips, you can complete this form to be added to the waitlist 

  • Registration Transfer: You can transfer field trip registration to another person with no charge.
  • Cancelation: You can cancel your field trip registration for a refund prior to October 9. After that time, refunds will not be issued. 

1. Elkhorn Slough and Walden Monterey (two field trips in one!)

The tour will focus on Elkhorn Slough Foundation’s use of a mobile air curtain carbonizer to treat eucalyptus tree slash and logs and visit Walden Monterey to see and discuss the effects of fire suppression on oak forests.

Elkhorn Slough: Eucalyptus Biochar Pilot Project Using A Carbonizer
Walden Monterey: Modern Cultural Tending Practices in Oak Forests of Monterey

Location: Elkhorn Slough Reserve, Watsonville
Times: 8am departure, 4pm estimated return
Length: 8 hours (full day)

The Elkhorn Slough Reserve is a 1700-acre portion of the biologically rich Elkhorn Slough, a focal point on the California coast for marine, aquatic and terrestrial wildlife species. Managed by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF), these lands are a critical part of the coastal California ecosystem. Partnered with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, NOAA and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, ESF is an integral partner in the ongoing research and conservation efforts that are taking place in the Slough. 

In the slough area, the native coastal oak woodland and chaparral habitats have been invaded by blue gum eucalyptus and threaten natural vegetation communities as well as public safety. The tour will focus on Elkhorn Slough Foundation’s use of a state-of-the-art mobile air curtain carbonizer (a Carbonator™ 500) to treat eucalyptus tree slash and logs left from eucalyptus removal treatments done on the Reserve. We will drive to the site of an ESF operation where invasive eucalyptus trees were cut and the woody material was piled. We will see where the carbonator was used to burn down the eucalyptus using a specific process that minimizes carbon dioxide emissions and converts the remaining materials into a form of charcoal/biochar that has potential applications for agricultural and nursery use. We will talk to ESF staff about the operation, how it was funded, advantages and disadvantages that have been observed so far, and potential future use of this technology.

Location: Walden Monterey

Monterey County is an epicenter oak mortality in California. The decline and death of oaks is proximally attributed to disease, insect pests, and/or drought. However, there is a fair amount of evidence that the mortality of oaks is ultimately attributable to the effects of fire suppression on the ecology of the forests and soils. For thousands of years cultural burning by the local Ohlone and Esselen Tribes created and maintained healthy oak forests that sustained both the two-legged and four-legged creatures. 

Now, after more than a century of fire suppression, the oaks are succumbing to the lack of tending. Ancient oaks, once free of competition, are being crowded out by too many young oaks and bays. Without the alkalinizing effects of fire, soils are becoming acidic with the resulting loss of essential mineral nutrients, especially calcium. Mosses and lichens, which can damage trees and acidify soils, are also growing abundantly due to the lack of fire.

Ecological changes due to fire suppression are clearly visible on this land, as most of it has not experienced fire in nearly a century. The past and present role of the local Tribes in forming relations with the land and trees will be shared from the perspective of an Esselen Tribal Elder. We will discuss the practices that mimic cultural tending, but also the ways to recognize “Ancestor oaks”, ancient living artifacts that were pollarded by the Native People.

2. The Ecology and Cultural Tending of Old-growth Redwood Forests in Big Sur (FULL; get added to waitlist here)

Hosts Chairman Tom Little Bear Nason and Chairman Ron Goode will lead this full-day workshop to Camp Pico Blanco, with some relevant stops along the way.

Location: Pico Blanco Camp
Times: 8:30am departure, 4:30pm estimated return
Length: 8 hours (full day)

Big Sur is home to the southernmost groves of old-growth coast redwoods in their original range. While many ancient redwoods were logged in the region, the steep and rugged terrain prevented loggers from accessing many areas. Among these are the groves along the Little Sur River around Pico Blanco Camp at the base of Mount Pico Blanco, a sacred mountain of the Esselen Tribe. This remote site probably represents the largest tract of unlogged redwood forest in Big Sur. Beside giant redwoods, this site supports many old-growth Douglas firs. These, like the redwoods, represent the southernmost old-growth stands of fir within their original range.

These redwood forests, as most forests in California, were managed by the local tribes using cultural fire. Many of the ancient redwoods here show evidence of having been intentionally burned to create more open canopy conditions, and to encourage greater size and longevity of the largest trees. In 2008 the Basin Complex Fire burned through many of the groves although, fortunately, few of the ancient trees were lost. Since then, the Esselen Tribe has been leading efforts in the restoration and fire hazard reduction of these groves.

Hosts Chairman Tom Little Bear Nason and Chairman Ron Goode will lead this full-day workshop to Camp Pico Blanco, with some relevant stops along the way. Once at the site we will first wander among the ancient trees and allow participants time to take in their own thoughts and experiences of this special place. After lunch along the Little Sur River, we will regroup and begin by sharing our mapping and documentation procedures of the large, “heritage” trees. We will discuss fire scars and other evidence of the use of cultural fires in tending the groves during pre-colonial times. We will also examine the recent fire mimicry work that the Esselen Tribe has done to prepare the site for future cultural burning. This has involved clearing of woody understory, thinning of young trees, and pruning of the mature trees to reduce competition and remove ladder fuels. The piles of cut materials are being prepared for pile burning and conversion to biochar. 

Finally, the past and present role of the Esselen Tribe in forming relations with the land and trees will be shared from the perspective of two Tribal Elders.

3. Santa Lucia Conservancy Prescribed Burning Program and Wildfire Resilience Work

The tour includes stops at various destinations around the Preserve landscape to view multiple Preserve management actions. 

Location: Santa Lucia Conservancy, Carmel Valley
Times: 9am departure, 1pm estimated return
Length: 4 hours (half day)

The Santa Lucia Preserve is a 20,000 acre private community and wildland preserve that focuses on maintaining the variety of natural resources found in this beautiful landscape. The Santa Lucia Conservancy was formed along with the Preserve to help manage those resources using science and adaptive management. 

The tour will consist of meeting at the main Preserve gate on Rancho San Carlos Road, and carpooling to various destinations around the Preserve landscape to view multiple Preserve management actions, including wildfire prevention work along primary road corridors as well as strategic fuelbreak maintenance, assessment of recent prescribed burns carried out by SLC staff and the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association (CCPBA) and discussion and possible observation of tailored fuel management plans for individual homes on the Preserve. The tour should take approximately three to four hours from start to finish.

4. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

See the recovery from the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Big Basin Redwoods State Park and how resilient coast redwoods really are. 

Location: Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Times: 7:30am departure, 4:30pm estimated return (NOTE NEW RETURN TIME)
Length: 8 hours (full day)

The 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire burned more than 80,000 in Santa Cruz County, including 97% of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The Fire burned over infrastructure and some of the largest and oldest redwoods in the state of California. See what recovery looks like for the park and how incredibly resilient coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) really are. View Reimagining Big Basin for information on post fire planning.

6. Whale Watch with Monterey Bay Whale Watch

This FUN ONLY trip will go whale watching with Monterey Bay Whale Watch, a top-rated company on the peninsula. 

Location: 84 Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, CA
Times: 10am departure, 1pm estimated return
Length: 3 hours

Are you sick of  talking fire? We are happy to offer an opportunity for a chartered trip with Monterey Bay Whale Watch. All trips are led by marine biologists. This will be a private charter through AFE (which means fees are non-refundable) and will only include people affiliated with the conference (families welcome). Potential animals seen at this time of year include: Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Dolphins, and Killer Whales. Isn’t this REALLY why you wanted to come to Monterey?

Note: Participants in this field trip are responsible for their own transportation to/from the whale watch departure location (info to be provided). We will set up a carpool list as we get closer to the event to help attendees coordinate rides.