This winter has blessed us with several well-needed rainstorms that have brought a bright green hue back to our local hills and valleys. Although still in a state of drought, the rains have triggered an explosion of plant growth that is impacting CIR’s restoration sites across the mainland. Invasive plants and annual weeds are proliferating at a very fast pace, threatening the native plantings we are committed to protecting. In response, mainland volunteer events are plentiful and CIR staff are enlisting a volunteer army to do battle against these weeds! Now is the time to join in the fight against invasive species. Volunteers engaged in this hands-on battle directly support CIR’s mission to restore native habitat and gain the personal satisfaction of giving back to our environment. Not only does this enhance one’s appreciation of our local natural resources, but it directly improves the habitat value for the native plants and animals that call these wild places “home.” So please grab some gloves and join us on our mainland restoration projects! We could not fulfill our mission without the help of our valued volunteers!

Mission Canyon: Eradicating a Nasty Weed

In January of this year, CIR became involved in a new mainland restoration project to help eradicate a growing population of an extremely invasive plant, Carnation Spurge (Euphorbia terracina).

This plant was recently discovered spreading through a residential area of Santa Barbara’s Mission Canyon, adjacent to the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, and its proliferation has exploded with the late winter rains. CIR has teamed up in partnership with the County of Santa Barbara, the Los Padres National Forest, and others to eradicate this noxious weed that has been making its way throughout Southern California, and to stop it before it spreads even further. Staff and volunteers have been working hard to control this non-native plant, and most of the work is being done by basic hand removal, pulling out seedlings that are shooting up fast. There will be additional volunteer opportunities to help stop this invasive plant before it’s too late, and after volunteering, participants will receive free admission to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden!

Refugio Creek Mouth: First Year for Native Plantings

The Refugio Creek Mouth habitat restoration project is located at the mouth of the creek at Refugio State Beach. In partnership with South Coast Habitat Restoration and California State Parks, CIR has joined forces on this project to increase the habitat and ecological value of the estuary. After the removal of non-native flora from the creek banks, a variety of native riparian and wet-land species were planted. Starting in January 2014, hundreds of native plants were installed with the help of a multitude of volunteers. Today, these “yearling” plants are doing remarkably well, and the native habitat along the Refugio Creek banks is blossoming with beauty and diversity. The native plants provide improved forage and nesting habitats for birds, as well as shade and cover for aquatic animal species in the creek. As the native plants strive to become established, the annual weeds are threatening, but CIR and partners along with enthusiastic crews of volunteers continue to stay on top of the invaders. The Refugio Creek Mouth Restoration project is made possible with funding from the Earth Island Institute and support from the California Coastal Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Board, the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, and Southern California Edison. 

San Marcos Foothills Preserve: Keep it Wild!

Hover Fly on an Encelia californica flower at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. Channel Islands Restoration is leading habitat restoration projects on the Preserve, a County of Santa Barbara open space.

At the San Marcos Foothills Preserve in Santa Barbara, CIR maintains two prominent restoration sites: one at Cieneguitas Creek and one at Atascadero Creek. Both of these sites are currently abuzz with new plant growth and unfortunately, a lot of what’s flourishing are fast-growing non-native species. These must be removed to allow native plants to thrive. Tall-reaching stalks of invasive radishes and mustard species can grow up to 7 or 8 feet, blocking out sunlight and sucking water and nutrients from the soil, effectively stealing them from natives trying to survive in their shadow. The native plants at these project sites, such as the local endemic Santa Barbara Honeysuckle, have exhibited a high survival rate and much of this success is due to the restorative efforts of CIR. To compete against aggressive non-native species and do well, native plants must be nurtured and supported on an ongoing basis. Through CIR’s diligent monitoring and the work of dedicated volunteers, native plants in the San Marcos Foothills Preserve are showing a tremendous resurgence. The benefits to native birds and other wildlife are observable, as recently CIR has helped coordinate a Winter Bird Walk near the Cieneguitas Creek site where coyotes and bobcats have also made an appearance! 

Santa Barbara Zoo: Restoring Bird Refuge Habitat

Volunteers helping Channel Islands Restoration plant natives along the Andree Clark Bird Refuge at the Santa Barbara Zoo. To date, we have installed 1,200 native plants including oak trees, willows, sage brush, giant rye grass and many more marsh and wetland plants. 

CIR and the Santa Barbara Zoo joined forces in 2010 on a restoration project at the beautiful 42 acre Andree Clark Bird Refuge that is home to 228 bird species. Staff and volunteers successfully removed many invasive plants and replaced them with native flora. Since the beginning of Phase II of the project in November 2014, volunteers helped install 1200 native plants, and 600 more are to be planted by the end of March 2015. While CIR staff eradicated the non-native mature Myoporum trees in the area during the first and second phases of the project, countless amounts of Myoporum seedlings are sprouting and now threatening to smother the native plants that were recently planted. Watch for email announcements regarding volunteer opportunities at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. CIR relies on the tremendous help from volunteers to assist in this restoration project. At the end of the work day, participating volunteers can visit the Zoo free of admission.