About Mack

Mack Casterman is the Conservation Analyst for the California Native Plant Society’s East Bay Chapter (EBCNPS). Mack holds a BS degree from UC Davis in Environmental Biology and has several years of work experience focused on natural resource management. This experience includes work for the San Mateo County Department of Parks, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and currently, the California Native Plant Society. During his first visit to Knowland Park, Mack was awestruck by the quality of the native grassland present in the park. After working for over five years on natural resources management projects, including native grassland restoration, he had never seen native grassland in the Bay Area with such a high proportion of native species and such a great diversity of native grasses and forbs. It was therefore readily apparent to Mack that working to protect this wonderful park land for future research and education should be a priority for his work with EBCNPS. Since then, Mack has submitted comments to the City of Oakland and the Zoo in response to the environmental review of the Zoo’s development project. He has also spent time researching grassland restoration techniques and technology in order to help build the legal record for EBCNPS’s and Friends of Knowland Park’s lawsuit calling for a full Environmental Impact Report to be completed for this project. Currently, Mack is working on building social networks such as Facebook and Twitter in order to get the word out to the public about the importance of protecting Knowland Park.
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The Native Grasslands of Knowland Park

A Brief History of California’s Grasslands

Purple needlegrass at Knowland Park. photo: Mack Casterman

Grasslands are part of California’s heritage.  Approximately 25% of the state is covered by them, and they are even featured on the state flag (look at what the bear is standing on).  However, California’s grasslands look very different today than they did 200 years ago.  The arrival of Spanish settlers in the mid 1500s to what is now California marked the beginning of a dramatic change in the State’s grassland ecosystems.

Prior to European colonization, Native Americans actively managed grassland habitats to ensure their food sources (seeds, native vegetables, and game animals) had areas to flourish.  This management even included burning areas of grassland annually to ensure that forest and scrublands did not overrun the grassy areas.  At that time, the grasslands of California were made up primarily of perennial (living more than a single year) bunch grasses such as purple needlegrass (Nassella pulchra) and California oatgrass (Danthonia californica) with forbs (herbaceous flowering plants) filling in the spaces between the grasses.

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