It is well known that California possesses a biological diversity that sets it apart from any other state in the nation.† California supports an incredibly diverse variety of habitats which promote a diverse vegetative composition that is unequaled in temperate North America.† The Jepson Manual (Hickman 1993) states that Californiaís vascular plant flora is composed of 5,876 known species.
California has undergone many changes in its vegetative composition over the last 300 years.† The introduction of large-scale agriculture by Spanish missionaries in the early 1700ís, has altered California flora in various ways.† Agriculture, urbanization, mining, logging, construction of roads and highways, introduction of exotic plants, and livestock grazing have played different roles in changing the vegetative composition of the state, which in turn has altered the wildlife composition of the state.
The Central Coast, situated in the South Coast Ranges of the California Floristic Province, contributes greatly to the total flora of California because its regional climate is significantly influenced by a unique topography and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean (Holland and Keil 1995).† The level of diversity is accentuated in the Central Coast because many plant and animal species occur here at either the northernmost or southernmost limits of their ranges, providing us with the unique opportunity to experience more species than other parts of the state.† Among the rich biodiversity of the region, San Luis Obispo County accounts for over 300 bird species (Edell 1996), 70 terrestrial mammal species (R.M.Davis, unpublished data), 40 reptilian and amphibian species (F. Andoli, personal communication) and 2000 plant species (Hickman 1993).
California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo, is one of the largest public universities in the state, as well as the third largest campus compared to the nationís land grant universities (Woodbury 1998).† Since its founding in 1902, Cal Poly has grown to cover 6,000 acres, and supports an annual student enrollment exceeding 16,000.† Within its boundaries are habitats capable of supporting a rich diversity of plant and animal species: from riparian, to woodlands, to wetlands, to valley grasslands, to chaparral, to coastal scrub.
Although Cal Poly was originally established as an agricultural institution, in more recent years other fields of study have emerged which provide Cal Poly with prestige in areas such as architecture, engineering and biology.† Because Cal Poly is one of the few California State Universities offering a currciulum in wildlife biology, management and conservation, it seems reasonable that the university practice the concepts it instills in its students.† That is, the university should manage its lands consistent with the best management practices available.
The Cal Poly properties in San Luis Obispo County are comprised of seven parcels, grouped in two localities (Figure 1).† One additional property is owned by Cal Poly, Swanton Ranch (Monterey County), and managed by the College of Agriculture.† Swanton Ranch is not considered in this management plan.
Figure 1. California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo County. Properties owned by the university are located north and northwest of the town of San Luis Obispo (not available)
The parcels in San Luis Obispo County are used for various educationally oriented enterprises including agriculture, experimental architecture, and biological research, all of which are compatible with sustainable biodiversity.† Cal Polyís history of land acquisition, from 1902 to the present, has focused on increasing land available for agriculture.† Stechman (1985) provides details on land acquisitions from 1902 to 1982.† In acquiring these lands and dedicating them to agriculture, the university did not fully consider the agricultural impacts on resident and/or migratory plants, and animals that occupied these parcels.† Recent agricultural management programs show a desire to employ agricultural practices that will preserve the soils, cause less negative disturbance to the ecosystem, and increase plant and wildlife populations.
Today, 66 percent of the 6,000 acres of Cal Poly lands is used for grazing (Table 1).† Grazing lands are compatible with some wildlife species and can benefit wildlife if managed adequately.† In addition, approximately 900 acres of undeveloped lands can become prime wildlife habitat.