Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve agencies announce the reopening of the 9,000 acre reserve once the weather permits

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve will be reopening soon, depending on current weather conditions. Official opening day will be posted on the RivCoParks website. Valley News/Karina Young photo

The Santa Rosa Plateau Management Committee, comprising Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy and Metropolitan Water District voted to completely reopen the reserve in a March 1 meeting.

The reopening, announced to residents on the plateau by the Plateau Management Committee, follows a three and half-year closure due to the devastating September 2019 Tenaja Fire. The official date of the reopening will depend on the weather, and will be posted on the RivCoParks website, according to the PMC.

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is owned by CDFW and RCP. Other properties that are part of the Plateau Lands are owned by RCP. The reserve is jointly managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management. The agencies involved, while different, have compatible missions, all focused on the existence of the reserve since it began 40 years ago above Murrieta.

Before announcing the reopening, the Plateau Management Committee managers and biologists carefully watched the recovery of the destroyed and damaged biological and natural resources. The purpose of the reserve is to provide long-term protection for those valuable biological resources, specifically oak woodlands and grasslands containing vernal pools, and riparian areas containing natural water basins called tenajas. This year’s abundant rains are adding to those tenajas and their unique fairy shrimp population.

The plateau lands also support large areas of rare Engelmann oak woodland, native grassland and vernal pool complexes with reasonably intact hydrology. Combined with large areas of high‐quality chaparral, the reserve provides excellent habitat for a wide range of species, including mountain lions and mule deer who often visit the plateau.

Riverside County Parks is responsible for management related to public access, including public outreach, trail maintenance and environmental, historical, and cultural interpretive and educational activities on all the reserve and plateau lands. CDFW holds conservation easements on some plateau lands, and The Nature Conservancy owns property within the corridor lands. The purpose of the conservation easements is to help ensure that the property will be retained in perpetuity in open space conditions and to prevent use of the property that will impair or interfere with the conservation values of the reserve. Since 2019, Center for Natural Lands Management is the manager for the reserve, responsible for professional stewardship of the diverse conservation values and working with the agency partners toward protection of the natural resources and providing for public access that is safe, compatible with conservation, and provides an important connection with nature.

The plateau lands offer wildlife-compatible recreational and educational opportunities for the public, opportunities for research and scientific study, as well as the protection of important historical and cultural resources.

Working with the plateau agencies, the Nature Education Association at the Santa Rosa Plateau offers field trips of elementary school students with teachers on the plateau or classroom research projects associated with the natural world in an effort to teach them to become “environmental stewards” in the future to protect wildlife, trees, plants and the lands and the habitats they live in.

The Nature Education Foundation at the Santa Rosa Plateau mission is “educating and empowering youth to become environmental stewards; to appreciate, preserve and protect nature.”