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Monvero Dunes Research Natural Area

One of the Monvero Dunes in the Ciervo Hills, photo by M. Westphal BLM

A Research Natural Area (RNA) is an area that is established and maintained for the primary purpose of research and education.  An RNA has one or more of the following characteristics: (1) A typical representation of a common plant or animal association; (2) an unusual plant or animal association; (3) a threatened or endangered plant or animal species; (4) a typical representation of common geologic, soil, or water features; or (5) outstanding or unusual geologic, soil, or water features.  The Monvero Dunes RNA meets several of these characteristics.


View into the San Joaquin Valley from the edge of a dune, photo by E. Zaborsky BLM



The Monvero Dunes are characterized as a residual sand ecosystem dominated by plant species that occur in sandy areas in the Mojave desert, including Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides), Indian rhubarb (Rumex hymenosepela), and several sand-dwelling annual plant species.  Mormon tea (Ephedra californica) is also scattered throughout the sand.  The hillsides of Monocline Ridge in the Ciervo Hills are open annual grassland with scattered native annual plants, perennial grass (Poa secunda), and shrubs such as goldenbrush (Ericameria linearfolia) and matchweed (Gutierezzia californica), typical of the Ciervo Hills ecosystem.  The Monvero Residual Dunes distribution is narrowly restricted to hilltops and ridgelines along the Monocline Ridge in the Ciervo Hills that occur in the lower Inner South Coast Range in western Fresno County, generally between 1,500 and 3,000 feet elevation.



View of the Monvero Dunes plant community featuring Indian ricegrass in the foreground, photo by E. Zaborsky BLMThese hilltop sand accumulations are thought to have weathered in place from Miocene sandstone formations in place.  These sands have been identified as the Monvero soil series.  The residual dunes in western Fresno County on Monvero soils is a special case of a more widespread series, but study is needed throughout the range of vegetation to develop association-parent material relationships.  The California Native Plant Society and California Department of Fish and Game identified the Monvero Residual Dunes of the lower inner South Coast Ranges in Fresno County as habitat that is likely to occur largely on BLM land.

Several federally endangered species targeted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Recovery Plan for Upland Species of the San Joaquin Valley are known to occur within or along the edges of the proposed Monvero Dunes RNA.  These species include the blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila) and the San Joaquin woolly-threads (Monolopia congdonii).  The proposed RNA is also within the habitat range of the federally endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) and the Ciervo aegialian scarab beetle (Aegialia concinna).


Rick Cooper, Field Manager
Bureau of Land Management
Hollister Field Office
20 Hamilton Court
Hollister, CA 95023
Phone: (831) 630-5000
Fax: (831) 630-5055
Office Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., M-F
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