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Tour Descriptions

Monday, October 31, 2022
Tours will depart between 8-9 AM and return between 4-5 PM. 
Pre-registration will be required for each tour.

We will continue to monitor and adhere to health guidelines in regards to COVID-19 and variants as we move forward with this event. Masking and social distancing may be required for tours.

Tour Option 1 - Dangermond Preserve

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In December 2017, The Nature Conservancy acquired the 25,000-acre Bixby Ranch at Point Conception through the extremely generous donation by Jack and Laura Dangermond. For the last 100 years, the site has been home to a small working ranch. Aside from the grazing cattle, Southern California’s last and largest intact coastal property has remained completely wild and untouched by development. The beautiful oak woodlands, coastal terrace, coastal sage scrub foothills and eight miles of coastline will be protected as the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve. TNC is currently working to develop a comprehensive plan that will shape the long-term use and management of the new preserve and to protect the ecological, cultural, and historical resources. Their vision is to create a world-class preserve dedicated to preservation & restoration, science & research and environmental education.

This tour will provide a glimpse into this special place: home to 54 special status species including 14 threatened and endangered species (6 animals and 8 plants) and containing approximately 6,000 acres of coast live oak woodlands, one of California’s most iconic and threatened ecosystems. more specific tour/site details to follow…


This is a walking tour on mostly flat ground, so please wear appropriate footwear and dress in layers for inclement weather. The weather can vary considerably from inland to the coast so many layers recommended!

Tour Requirements:

  • 20 participants max
  • Liability waiver (to be signed prior to the tour)
  • Closed-toed walking shoes

Tour Brief Itinerary:

Location #1 - Restoration site Ramajal Field, Dangermond Preserve
Speaker: Laura Riege, Restoration Project Manager, Dangermond Preserve, The Nature Conservancy

Location #2 -  Jalama Headquarters, Dangermond Preserve

Laura Riege, Restoration Project Manager, Dangermond Preserve, The Nature Conservancy
Frank Davis, Professor, The Bren School University of CA, Santa Barbara

Location #3 - Pt Conception; Coastal bluff walk and whale-watching

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Tour Option 2 - The Sinton Family Avenales Ranch

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The Sinton family manages its ranch with an eye toward biodiversity and the conservation of oak woodland resources, like the one in the attached photo (bobcat in large blue oak; Photo: R. Larsen). Black bears and tule elk and black are spotted on the ranch. Missing these, one can always see Native American acorn grinding holes in bedrock. The ranch in spring is especially beautiful. It abuts UC Forest Service property that gives access to a campsite that works well for lunch. The Sinton Family's Avenales Ranch has been in the family since the late 1800s. The ranch is managed by Steve Sinton and his son. Steve is the co-founder of the California Rangeland Trust. On the tour, he would discuss the history and management of the ranch. The ranch has a hunting program and Cooperative Extension has long-term research projects on the ranch that could be visited. The past 40 years there have been many Extension tours on the ranch, but few of the 8th Oak attendees would have been on the ranch.

The Avenales Ranch is Located approximately 10 miles south of Pozo (35 miles south of San Luis Obispo; should allow an hour for travel).

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Tour Option 3 - Oak Conservation for Everyone: Engaging Diverse Communities in Sustaining Oak Landscapes

This tour will make 3 stops and view Oak conservation and sustainability programs in various locations and landscapes. All 3 stops are part of the tour, there is no option for partial attendance. Transportation will be included via UC provided vans. This tour requires some walking, less than 1 mile on mostly level terrain.

Tour Requirements: 

  • Closed-toed shoes
  • Santa Margarita Ranch Liability Waiver

Tour Brief Itinerary:

Stop #1: Cuesta Ridge

Cuesta Ridge
Description: Dr. Matt Ritter, California native plant and oak expert, will guide participants on a field trip of the Cuesta Ridge oak diversity hotspot. Participants will get great views of the San Luis Obispo area while seeing nearly half of California’s oak species on one short trip. We will drive along Cuesta Ridge, making various stops for short walks on relatively flat areas.

Dr. Matt Ritter is a botany professor in the Biological Sciences Department at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, where he studies California’s native plants and trees in the urban forest. He’s the author of several fiction and non-fiction books, including the best selling guide to California’s flora, California Plants: A guide to our Iconic Flora (www.pacificstreetpublishing.com).  He also wrote the funniest and best-selling guide to California’s urban forest, A Californian’s Guide to the Trees among Us (Heyday, 2011).  He won the Cal Poly’s Distinguished Teaching Award and the International Society of Arboriculture Award for Excellence in Education. He’s an avid woodworker, mason, and gardener.

Stop #2: Learning Among the Oaks

LAO kids
Description: Learning Among the Oaks (LATO) is The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County's (LCSLO) outdoor science education and youth environmental leadership training program (2005-11 start within UC, supported by WCB grant). LATO delivers services through three public school bases,* each with its own associated oak nature trail for educational hikes, field studies and stewardship experiences. 

These services reached nearly 3,000 school kids, families and community members during our last full year (2019) before the pandemic. LATO’s unique place-based learning and integration with public school programs, amplify the potential benefits. Place-based means that learning is centered around a place, in this case our local oak ecosystems, with real-world connections to our everyday lives. 

Check out this informational video for more background on LATO. 

*Vineyard Elementary School/Templeton, Vineyard School Nature Trail (owned by Templeton Unified School District); Santa Margarita Elementary School/Santa Margarita Ranch LATO Trail (private ranch land); and Ocean View Elementary School/Arroyo Grande, Pismo Preserve (owned by LCSLO). We have a waiting list of public schools that want their own LATO program.

Stop #3: Santa Margarita Vineyard

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Description: At Margarita Vineyard, sustainability isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a true force of habitat preservation and resource conservation, as well as a contributor to wine quality.

Margarita Vineyard was planted on the ranch as a model of sustainability starting in 1999. No oak trees were removed, and wetland setback requirements were exceeded. Today, sustainable practices at Margarita Vineyard include deficit irrigation, natural cover crops, wildlife corridors, rotational groundwater usage and the use of compost tea in place of synthetic fertilizers. Vineyard pests are managed naturally by promoting habitats for native predators, a program that includes bat boxes, owl boxes and predatory bird perches.

Through these and other efforts, Margarita Vineyard has earned Sustainability in Practice (SIP) certification, which is one of the most stringent programs of its kind.

Margarita Vineyard is the home of our family-owned Ancient Peaks Winery, which is renowned for producing remarkable estate-grown wines with a vivid sense of place. Grapes from Margarita Vineyard are also sold to other notable wineries in the Paso Robles region.

Stop #4: Cayuse Ranch 

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Description: Cayuse Ranch is a privately owned 1,100 acre property in interior San Luis Obispo County, east of Santa Margarita. The ranch includes a mix of oak chaparral, savanna, woodland and forest communities with chaparral dominating. Ranch owner Stuart Schmidt and manager Dana Tryde share a deep interest in oak rangeland ecology and management.  In recent years, they have dedicated a great deal of care and attention toward ongoing oak regeneration efforts.  More than three hundred Valley Oak and Blue Oak seedlings, sprouted from acorns collected on site, are under their care. A variety of oak protection and care measures are used to help ensure regeneration of oaks on Cayuse rangeland. Tour participants will see what has worked well and learn more about this impressive effort to restore oak habitats for a rich biodiversity of wildlife at Cayuse Ranch.