Hilton Ojai Navarettia

Mitchel Morrison  Associate Project Manager

Mitchel Morrison
Associate Project Manager

October 29, 2018

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
1st Successful Restoration of Ojai Navarretia

When the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation selected the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains for a LEED Platinum™ Headquarters Campus, an uphill task stood before them. The very site giving the Foundation a home to administer of over $100 million in annual charitable grants worldwide was home to a rare annual herb with a worldwide distribution limited to Los Angeles and Ventura counties. In compliance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements, the Foundation commissioned biological surveys in 2008, whereupon the unrecognized and newly described native annual herb Ojai navarretia (Navarretia ojaiensis) was determined to be present. The California Native Plant Society listed this lovely blue-flowered and spiny member of the Phlox family as 1B.1, Seriously Threatened in California, in 2008 and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Natural Diversity Database Rare Plant Ranking currently remains 1B.1. Due to the absence of documented history with the species, the prospects for successful mitigation were highly uncertain. The City of Agoura Hills certified the Environmental Impact Report in 2011 with anticipated impacts to Ojai navarretia conservatively considered “Class 1: significant and unavoidable.”

Success meant compensating for the loss of approximately 1,000 individuals through the restoration of a minimum of 2,000 individuals on the Foundation property within seven-years of treatment and monitoring by 2019. Balancing blood, sweat, and tears with seeds, rain, and sunshine, Envicom “accomplished” this success criterion in five of the seven years, with astonishing results in 2018. In five of the last seven years, over 2,000 individual Ojai navarretia matured on site, naturally propagating seed and adding to the soil seed bank. However, 12,301 Ojai navarretia matured in year seven; more than years one, two, three, five, and six combined; yet, the amount of precipitation remained on par with each of those prior years with the exception of year one. The astonishing results of year seven testify to the power of natural recruitment, allowing Ojai navarretia to restore Ojai navarretia by propagating seed naturally. In terms of CEQA, well-written mitigation measures must be sufficiently definitive to mitigate impacts but sufficiently feasible to be implemented successfully, allowing for adaptive management along the way. For Ojai navarretia, the mitigation measure was both sufficiently definitive to mitigate an impact and sufficiently feasible to be “accomplished” largely due to a factor beyond the control of the restoration ecologist, natural recruitment. Ironically, seeds, rain, and sunshine can outperform blood, sweat, and tears, yielding the first successful restoration of Ojai navarretia known to science.Nov