Botanical Surveys of the Sierra Madre Potreros

Botanical Surveys of the Sierra Madre Potreros

This past spring we set out to do a biological inventory of the Sierra Madre Potreros - a unique set of open grasslands set along the Sierra Madre Ridge - to determine if habitat restoration is necessary and how it would best be done.

Life in the White Mountains

Life in the White Mountains

Channel Islands Restoration held our highly anticipated White Mountains Educational trip during the 4th of July holiday weekend. CIR Volunteer Coordinator Nancy Diaz writes about her firsthand experience on this annual Natural History Trip.

Restoration at Hammond's Meadow

Restoration at Hammond's Meadow

For the past few years, Channel Islands Restoration has been working hard to lay the foundation for a very special coastal meadow habitat restoration project; and in April, we received approval to start moving forward.

An Interview with Kelle Green

An Interview with Kelle Green

What is it like to work for CIR? Here is the first of a series of interviews with CIR employees to see what goes on behind the scenes. First in the series is Kelle Green, CIR's Nursery Manager.

Backcountry Perspectives

Backcountry Perspectives

...it doesn’t take long to come to love and appreciate our backcountry areas for their subtler brand of beauty. They are pristine, quiet, and inspiring places that have so much to offer. Let’s keep them that way.

Sheep on the San Marcos Foothills Preserve?

Sheep on the San Marcos Foothills Preserve?

Sheep grazing at the side of the trail.

Sheep grazing at the side of the trail.

Hikers at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve in late March and early April were treated to an unusual sight – more than 400 sheep grazing near the trail. Fortunately, we had volunteers step up to serve as docents and help explain what was going on. The sheep were being grazed in a series of 2-acre pastures. They would be in each pasture for a day or two, and then moved to an adjacent pasture, and then again over a 30 day period. Our goal is to restore the grassland so that it provides habitat for birds such as western meadowlark and burrowing owl. The population numbers of both of these species have declined dramatically in North America over the past 100 years.

The San Marcos Foothills Preserve supports about 50 acres of grassland. There is much less grassland in California than there used to be due to urban expansion and farming, and most of what’s left has been taken over by invasive annual grasses from Europe and the Mediterranean region. As a result, many of the species that rely on healthy grasslands have been displaced.

In the distant past, ground sloths, mastodons, wild horses, mammoths, and other prehistoric megafauna inhabited this region. In more recent time, elk and deer were common grazers in the Santa Barbara area grasslands. The grasses native to California evolved in the presence of these grazing animals. Thus, the grasses themselves are adapted to withstand trampling and grazing by large numbers of animals in small spaces over short periods of time.

In an effort to re-create the effects of herds of grazing animals, we are bringing a large number of sheep to these grasslands for short periods of time. Grazing can be helpful or destructive. The results depend on the timing (when they start and stop), the type and number of animals, the density of those animals, the food (grass and shrubs) available, the state of the vegetation (with or without seeds), and the weather. If it goes well, non-native annual grasses will be suppressed, perennial grasses and associated plants will thrive, and thatch will be reduced.

Sheep being herded between grazing areas.

Sheep being herded between grazing areas.

For almost a month, we moved the sheep from pasture to pasture and gradually grazed most of the grassland on the Preserve. Now (summer 2019), a few months after the sheep were removed, we are observing that the native perennial grasses that were not grazed are alive but brown at the top; whereas the native perennial grasses that were grazed are very much alive, vibrant and green. We are also noticing that there seems be less thatch in the grazed areas. This is a good thing for many native animals and plants. We plan to bring the sheep back to the Preserve after the next few rains, when the annual and perennial grasses turn green (often in December). The sheep grazing brought lots of interest from the community and a large number of people showed up to volunteer to help move the sheep from the east side to the west side of the Preserve. Everyone had a good time, and maybe the sheep did too. Well…maybe not, but they liked where they ended up anyway, in a nice patch of tasty grass and shrubs. We also got a lot of positive feedback from neighbors who expressed gratitude for the reduction of vegetation in this fire prone area, and for the way it was done – with animals rather than machinery.

Thank you to the many people that volunteered to be docents near each pasture to help answer passersby’s questions, and to the many, many people that joined us in helping to herd sheep from one end of the preserve to the other. Funding is needed to support next year’s grazing program, so please consider making a contribution to support the effort.

Sunset at the Preserve

Sunset at the Preserve

Plant Profile: Giant Coreopsis

Plant Profile: Giant Coreopsis

Giant coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea) is an enigmatic poster-child of the Channel Islands due to its large size and vibrant colors. The big, floppy daisy-like petals and verdant green leaves can often be seen framing the edges of pictures taken at Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island in the spring.

Field Report from the Los Padres Backcountry

Field Report from the Los Padres Backcountry

I sat down with field crew leader and backcountry trip veteran, Doug Morgan, for an inside look into what the backcountry trips are like. Here’s what he had to say.

When Restoration Work Isn't So Glamorous

When Restoration Work Isn't So Glamorous

Here at Channel Islands Restoration we work in a lot of scenic places - the cliffs of East Anacapa Island, the peaks of Santa Rosa Island, on the sand dunes of San Nicolas Island, along the banks of the Sisquoc River, in the rolling grasslands of the San Marcos Foothills, and more. However, sometimes it’s not so glamorous, and that’s been the experience for many of our field technicians in the past few months.

The Wildflowers are Coming

The Wildflowers are Coming

With this year’s rain, it’s looking like it’ll be a great year for wildflowers! Blankets of poppies and lupine, pockets of monkeyflowers, lilies, and fiesta flowers, rare stream orchids and Humboldt lilies, and more can be found all throughout the Central Coast - but the question is, where?

Plant Profile: Santa Cruz Island buckwheat

Plant Profile: Santa Cruz Island buckwheat

The Santa Cruz Island buckwheat (Eriogonum arborescens) is an extraordinary plant species, as it is endemic to three Channel Islands: Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa. The little shrub is mostly found on bluffs and canyons on Santa Rosa and Anacapa, but it's found all along Santa Cruz Island.

Plant Profile: Manzanita

Plant Profile: Manzanita

The manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), a plant most distinguishable by its smooth, twisted red bark, is a key component to California’s beautiful chaparral environment. There are over 40 species of manzanita in the genus Arctostaphylos. They are found in parts of Oregon and Washington and as far south as Mexico. However, they are most common in California.

Volunteers Help Restore Native Grasslands

Volunteers Help Restore Native Grasslands

Early Sunday morning, a group of motivated volunteers met up at the trailhead of San Marcos Foothills to help restore the native habitat. The group spent around three hours pulling out the invasive weeds surrounding the native plants on the Preserve.

Plant Profile: Toyon

Plant Profile: Toyon

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is a common native shrub here on the Central Coast, which is easily identifiable by its small, but brilliant red berries, which give it its other common names – Christmas berry and California holly.

Educational Service Trip to Santa Cruz Island

Educational Service Trip to Santa Cruz Island

Along with Channel Islands Restoration’s mission to restore habitat on the Central Coast and Channel Islands is our goal of providing environmental education to under-served students through environmental service trips.

Voluntourism Restoration Project on San Nicolas Island

Voluntourism Restoration Project on San Nicolas Island

This winter, Channel Islands Restoration installed over 11,000 plants on San Nicolas Island over the course of 50 trips to the island, with the help of 337 volunteers.

Gudrun joined us as one of those volunteers and wrote up her experience for the newsletter of her local chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

Invasive Species Profile: Tamarisk

Invasive Species Profile: Tamarisk

Tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima) is one of the most detrimental and troublesome invasive plants of the Southwestern United States.

Salt Marsh Restoration in the Goleta Slough

Salt Marsh Restoration in the Goleta Slough

The Goleta Slough is a large salt marsh (estuary) located around the Santa Barbara Airport and UCSB. In a healthy estuary, saltwater from the ocean goes into and out of the estuary twice each day with the tides. However, in one of the estuary’s channels, “tide gates” were installed sometime before 1942 in order to prevent tidewaters from moving up into the upper part of the estuary.

Volunteer of the Year: Robin Birney

Volunteer of the Year: Robin Birney

Robin’s help this season on San Nicolas Island has been invaluable. She has helped with every aspect of our work on the island, from propagating plants to getting them in the ground. Robin has spent 44 days on the island, some of which have been multi-day trips, but most have been single-day trips.