On its lands the Open Space Authority is responsible for plants and animals, water and soil resources, cultural and recreational assets and fire safety. In reality all these elements interact in a multitude of ways. Planning for the parts means also considering impacts at the habitat, ecosystem and watershed levels.
In developing resource management strategies, the Authority works toward these goals:
• Improving biodiversity
• Protecting rare, threatened and endangered species
• Maintaining a place in the landscape for people through compatible recreation and agricultural activity
• Understanding and preserving the artifacts and stories of humans from earlier times
• Following fire-safe practices
• Collaborating with others to enable coordinated, regional solutions to resource challenges
The largest threat facing California’s native plant communities is habitat loss. The conversion of land to urban and agricultural uses reduces the amount of natural open space available. What remains is often fragmented or too little to support healthy stands of native plants.
Habitat is also degraded through such human actions as overgrazing, overuse, draining wetlands, channelizing creeks and illegal trash disposal. Nonhuman impacts to vegetation also have to be considered. These include such things as plant pathogens, drought, erosion and flooding.
Many of the conditions that put stress on plants also have negative consequences for wildlife. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the biggest risk factors for many animals.
Degradation and disruption of habitat also takes its toll. Roads, pipelines and power lines in rural areas can create barriers that isolate animal populations. They also introduce risks due to vehicle collisions and electrocution. Extraction of minerals, timber, gas and oil also can create pressures on wildlife due to noise, vehicle traffic, pollution, and loss of food and shelter materials.
The Santa Clara Valley has been occupied by humans for many thousands of years. While much of the landscape has changed dramatically in the last few centuries, some of the natural areas where early inhabitants gathered retain their historic feel.
The landscape itself is a cultural frame of reference. Oak woodlands and creek sides on Open Space Authority lands are some of the areas where early Native Americans hunted and gathered food. The grasslands and forests also bear reminders of early ranching life.
By maintaining these environments and, in some cases, restoring them to a more natural state, OSA is able to help current county residents visualize the lives of people who lived here in the recent and distant past.
As residential building has moved into rural areas, the importance of wise fire management on open lands has become increasingly clear. Wildland fires sometimes overrun nearby homes with astonishing speed. Preparing for the possibility of fire is part of being a good neighbor in the areas where the Authority manages open space.