Geographic Literacy & the Watersheds of the Peninsula

I often say that I don’t have any prophetic truths about where and how the state of California conservation and ecology is going to unfold in the next 100 years. We are entering a time dominated by ecological chaos on many levels of scale, all stemming from and around the inter-human (meaning here, the effects of a global human population of 10 billion) and the intra-human (meaning here, the systems and policies we as the community of California citizens choose to enact and defend). Whatever help I can be and it is my solemn honor to do so, as a painter, a cartographer and a naturalist, is to present as clearly as I can what is effectively, an inventory of conservation. We have to know what there is to defend in order to conserve it at all. I am sure that by presenting this information in a beautiful, simplified, graphically-efficient manner, the well-rendered, handpainted map can be a vehicle for what is certainly no less than a fundamental, consciousness shift.

Working draft of the Watersheds of the Peninsula for the POST (the Peninsula Open Space Trust) by Obi Kaufmann – @coyotethunder on instagram.

By removing the roads and by essentializing a nature-first narrative, we place ourselves and our anthro-aggrandizing human network in what is perhaps a humbler context, a larger ecosystem of necessarily networked forces. By familiarizing ourselves with the larger geography of the natural world and its living systems that support and sustain us, our value perceived towards those systems begins to warp into a more organic paradigm; a new paradigm that the stressed and exploited resource-systems that we rely on need for us to immediately adopt. In that spirit of geographic literacy and with assured hope that simply by learning, by naming and by apprehending how and where these local, living networks interact, our love and respect for them grows, I present my latest map: a collaboration with the PENINSULA OPEN SPACE TRUST. With love and respect for conservation comes legal defense, political will and a society-changing world view, that once fully embraced will protect not only whatever it is we choose to protect, but may just afford our complicated little species the grace it needs to navigate through the coming decades of chaos.

Watersheds and Watercourses of the San Francisco Peninsula. The map will be published as a poster in 2018 and be made available through the Peninsula Open Space Trust. By Obi Kaufmann

Covering approximately 1,100 square miles (over 700,000 acres), the land area described on this map holds more than 2,000 miles of watercourse across 67 primary creeks, streams and rivers within 58 watersheds.

A watershed is a geographically discreet zone defined by how the contour of its local geologic morphology (the shape of the land) and its hydrology (the way the water moves across the land) work around a common draining watercourse (creek, stream, river) or aquifer (groundwater).

The dominant land feature across the San Francisco’s southern peninsula, called the Peninsula, is the Santa Cruz Mountains. Separating the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean, the mountains rise to a maximum height of 3,806 feet at Loma Prieta. The Santa Cruz mountains extend across three counties: San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara. The west face of the range is home to the largest, intact and continuous stands of old-growth Redwood forest south of San Francisco. Riparian habitat of this kind (redwood dominant, mixed conifer and bay) is common along steep basins saddling both sides of the northern, coastal-end of the range. Other regular ecological habitat along these diverse, coastal mountains includes Oak woodland, Montane hardwood, coastal dunes, chaparral, coastal sage scrub, Bay wetland, vernal-pool grassland, cattle rangeland and of course the human ecologies of the greater Silicon Valley, coastal communities, Santa Clara Valley and Santa Cruz. The Peninsula is home to nearly one hundred endangered species of plants and animals.

About the Peninsula Open Space Trust

The Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) has protected over 75,500 acres of open space, farms and parkland since its founding in 1977. In that time, POST has developed a proven methodology for successful land protection by purchasing the land and placing permanent protection on it through conservation easements. Once the protection work is complete POST continues to take care of the land in perpetuity.

Land conservation means not only protecting the land, but keeping it in good condition, too.  POST’s stewardship team uses both traditional and innovative techniques for evaluating, prioritizing and caring for open space on each POST owned property. POST’s work ranges from essential maintenance like re-grading roads, fixing fences and managing vegetation for fire control, to ambitious long-term restoration projects that create vibrant habitats for native plants and wildlife. Other examples include invasive weed eradication, developing new trails, reviving river, stream and creekside habitats, and managing productive working lands like ranches, farms and forests.

POST’s scope of work also includes providing assistance with working lands management, protecting natural resources and providing recreation activities for everyone.

Working lands include farms, forests and grazing land. POST projects promote productive use of these lands while protecting and enhancing natural resources.  Recent projects include managed grazing, water infrastructure improvements and selective timber harvesting.

We work in partnership with public agencies and private owners to protect natural resources: the flora, fauna, water, air and soil that exist on all POST protected properties. We raise money through grants and donations to eradicate invasive plants, restore riparian habitats and native grasslands, ensure fish and wildlife passage and prevent soil erosion.

When well managed, recreational activities like hiking, biking, and horseback riding provide people with the chance to build a healthy connection to the land while also protecting the natural resources on each property.  We work with public and private partners to plan and build trails, while protecting the most sensitive environments.

Portrait of the artist Obi Kaufmann at Butano State Park.