Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Circle J-Norris Ranch, Dalia Gonzalez unpacks her watercolors, brushes, paper, and supplies to begin work on four large pieces that will be teaching tools for future visitors. Dalia is the first ever artist-in-residence at Circle J-Norris Ranch. Beginning this month and continuing through June working one to two days each week, she is beginning to create artwork that tells the story of how students and community members restored the streamside habitat at Circle J-Norris Ranch. Her artwork will be featured on four large permanent signs depicting the restoration project.
Dalia Gonzalez is a 2020 graduate of Monache High School’s Environmental Sciences Academy. She attends Porterville College and works for FoodLink Tulare County, an Exeter-based organization that distributes healthy food and meals to food pantries, schools, and community organizations. In 2018 and 2019, she volunteered for the Circle J Habitat Restoration Days, experiencing firsthand the process of installing native plants such as willow trees, California grape vines, tules, and milkweeds along the streamside.
The restoration project that will be the subject of Dalia’s paintings was the work of volunteers from Allianza Ecologista, a Porterville-based community group, and Monache High School’s Environmental Sciences Academy and AVID students. The project was developed to correct some of the damage of year-round cattle grazing which had reduced the variety of plants in the area. The students and adults installed hundreds of native trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers, surrounded by mesh barriers to protect them from gophers.
“The importance of this story is that students, community members, and families have restored a habitat used by birds and other wildlife,” said Nancy Bruce, lead teacher for Circle J-Norris Ranch. “In the restored habitat, birds and animals can hide from predators and find safe places for nesting and burrows, well hidden by the messy chaos of plants.”
The interpretive signs telling the story of the wildlife restoration are part of a grant awarded to Circle J-Norris Ranch by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Partners for Fish & Wildlife.