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Habitat Restoration

Restoration at the San Marcos Foothills

Restoration at the San Marcos Foothills

The San Marcos Foothills experienced an exceptionally hot and dry summer along with the rest of the region and we were concerned about the survival of the native seedlings we had just planted. Luckily, with some watering throughout the season, they survived it. Now, after the January rain, invasive plants are surging up from billions of dormant seeds. Our native plants received a head start from irrigation during the summer, but winter can be a critical time for young plants, because they can become overwhelmed by fast-growing non-native annual grasses and other weeds that compete for soil moisture and sun. 

Restoration on San Nicolas Island

Restoration on San Nicolas Island

We are currently growing and maintaining nearly 13,000 native and endemic island plants as part of our current restoration project. These plants were grown from seed and cuttings collected exclusively from the island under the watchful eyes of our Nursery Manager, Kelle Green and Nursery Assistant, Sarah Spellenberg. It has taken the dedication of thousands of staff and volunteer hours to successfully propagate, grow and maintain such a large number of plants at an isolated island nursery 60 miles off shore.

CIR Work at Pt. Mugu Featured in Navy Magazine!

CIR Work at Pt. Mugu Featured in Navy Magazine!

Base personnel from the environmental department onboard Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Point Mugu, California with some help from the Channel Islands Restoration (CIR) staff and volunteers are enhancing critical wetlands without competing with the base’s military mission. 

Restoring Endangered Plants to the Conejo Open Space

Restoring Endangered Plants to the Conejo Open Space

In February 2017, the CIR team salvaged individuals of Braunton’s Milkvetch and brought them to the CIR native plant nursery in Camarillo, where our Nursery Manager Kelle Green and Nursery Technician Sarah Spellenberg, with the help of volunteers, gently cared for the plants, giving them shade, water, soil and pruning

Propagation & Restoration on San Nicolas Island

Propagation & Restoration on San Nicolas Island

Channel Islands Restoration is currently leading the largest-ever restoration on San Nicolas Island. With the help of volunteers that have put in well over ten thousand hours over the years, we’ve grown and planted more than 30,000 plants to restore critical habitat throughout the island.

Scouting the Sisquoc

Scouting the Sisquoc

Five days riding on the backs of mules left us sore but happy, as we scouted the Sisquoc River and Manzana Creek for Tamarisk trees.

Sisquoc River Project

Sisquoc River Project

Channel Islands Restoration proposes to eradicate non-native invasive Tamarisk species in the Sisquoc River and Manzana Creek. The objective of the project is to restore and maintain habitat for riparian dependent species such as the federally listed arroyo toad, California red-legged frog and steelhead trout.

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East Anacapa Island Restoration

East Anacapa Island Restoration

Anacapa Island is more a chain of islets rather than one large island and because of this, it has a high ratio of coastline to interior. This expanse of ocean bluff and coastline provides critical and/or important habitat for seabirds, marine mammals, and a number of rare plants. The island boasts sixteen plant species that are found only on the Channel Islands, two of which are unique to Anacapa, and the largest breeding population of the formerly federally endangered Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) in California. Anacapa Island is  an important breeding location for the Scripps’s murrelet (Synthliboramphus scrippsi), one of the world’s rarest seabirds, and the ashy storm-petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa), a California Species of Special Concern.

Guest Author: Bryan Snyder, Seeding the Clouds

Guest Author: Bryan Snyder, Seeding the Clouds

By mid-afternoon on Santa Rosa Island, the winds reached gale force.  50mph gusts tore through our worksite in the cloud forest, throwing grit in our eyes faster than our tear ducts could remove it.  Still, we labored to the best of our ability, working to retrofit a series of erosion control barriers beneath the island oaks before the sun set behind San Miguel Island to the west. 

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CIR Growing More than 11,000 Plants on San Nicolas Island

In the past few months, CIR volunteers have been hard at work on San Nicolas Island and have installed more than 12,000 plants. After removing patches of invasive ice plant, the volunteers installed and have been maintaining native plants to stabilize sand dunes on San Nicolas Island with resounding success. Plants were grown in our San Nicolas Island Nursery built last year. We also have been working to restore upland habitat for the threatened island night lizard and are currently in the process of growing additional plants for this project in our San Nicolas Island plant nursery that we will install in the coming months.

We are incredibly proud of the plants that we have been able to produce from the nursery, especially a newly discovered plant, just last year, Lycium brevipes 'desert box thorn'. It was thought that this particular species was long extinct on San Nicolas Island. We were able to collect cuttings last fall from a population on 10 plants. These cuttings were propagated and planted in the landscape around the nursery. The plants were placed on a drip system. This planting has been so successful that we have been able to collect more cuttings from these plants and start an additional 400 new little clones. These new plants will be planted out this coming fall/winter creating more habitat for island critters such as the endemic night lizard.

Besides box thorn we are growing cactus, buckwheat, mule fat, morning glory and a whole palate of native bunch grasses. We are very glad we are afforded the opportunity to be part of the habitat restoration for San Nicolas.

Recently we have improved the nursery with fantastic flood tables, capable of propagating plants with high water demands - like those near marshes or in riparian habitat - with very little water waste. Each table has its own dedicated waterline and can be manually watered or set on a timer. This is all possible because of great, dedicated volunteers.

Trips to San Nicolas Island fill incredibly quickly and spots are coveted. Because of the demanding and high priority nature of our work with the US Navy on San Nicolas Island, CIR mostly seeks volunteers that we have worked with in the past on this or other projects, so that we can work with teams of known quality during our short trips to the island.

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CIR Hosts the Backyard Collective at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve

On April 15th, local members of the Conservation Alliance - All Good, Clif Bar, Deckers, Patagonia, REI, Toad&Co - helped CIR at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. With more than 100 volunteers in attendance, it took less than a few hours to remove 10,000 square feet of invasives such as black mustard, cheese weed, and fennel and replace them with 362 native plants - some of which were supplied by SB Natives purchased with funding from Santa Barbara County - and some of which were proudly grown by volunteers in our own Camarillo nursery. The Backyard Collective has volunteered with CIR every other year for the past 6 years (on off years they volunteer their time in Ventura with our friends, the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy).

Their work in the San Marcos Foothills, along with each and every one of our volunteers that have dedicated their time in the area, has made a profound impact on this hidden tract of open space in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Since 2010, CIR has partnered with several non-profit organizations, businesses and County Parks to restore portions of the Preserve. Our restoration sites along Cieneguitas and Atascadero Creeks have been spectacular successes. In a time of drought when the hills are sunbaked golden and the annual invasives have died off, the perennial native plants we put in the ground have remained green and steadfast. These native plants continue to provide critical habitat to the native species of 130 birds, 49 mammals, 20 reptiles, six amphibians, and countless invertebrates. The sites attract butterflies that feed on nectar from the flowers, and they attract birds that collect seeds and insects from the plants. The success of the restoration sites is due to our dedicated staff and the help of more than 1,500 people who have volunteered with CIR at the San Marcos Foothills since we began our work.

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CIR to Remove Tamarisk in the San Rafael Wilderness

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), in partnership with the US Forest Service, has awarded CIR a large grant to eradicate nonnative tamarisk trees that are invading the Sisquoc River, Manzana Creek, and their associated tributaries. 

In the wake of the Zaca fire, invasive plants have established a foothold in this remote area of wilderness - most concerning among them tamarisk (also known as salt cedar). Tamarisk, a deciduous shrub or small tree native to Eurasia, thrives in streambeds with often little to no water by use of its deep and extensive root system that it uses to draw up groundwater. Not only does their thick root system crowd out the roots of other native plants, but it consumes huge amounts of water turning streams to bone dry washes. Tamarisk readily regenerates from remnant roots after the rest of the tree is scoured away from a flash flood. A single tree can produce as many as 500,000 seeds in a single growing season. Suffice to say, tamarisk poses a very serious threat to any ecosystems it invades.

The remote backcountry streams of the Los Padres National Forest give refuge to a large number of rare and endemic species. Among these are the arroyo toad, California red-legged frog, and steelhead trout, all of which are federally listed as threatened or endangered. By eradicating tamarisk trees, our project will provide an opportunity for native plants to reestablish themselves, thereby restoring this critically important habitat.

We are honored to be awarded this grant that allows us to undertake this project and we are humbled at the scope of what will be necessary to complete this project. In total, we will remove tamarisk within 61 miles of backcountry streams. Because there is no motorized access to most of the project area, all personnel and supplies will be packed in on foot and a mule pack train. Tamarisk trees will be removed in a way that does not impact the sensitive riparian habitat that they have invaded.

Sisquoc River in the San Rafael Wilderness

photo by Chris M. Morris

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Wetland Restoration at Point Mugu Naval Air Station

As we reported in our November newsletter, CIR began working with the U.S. Navy and Tetra Tech, Inc. to restore a portion of the Mugu Lagoon. In the time since then, we have installed over 5,000 native plants, all of which were grown in our native plant nursery in Camarillo. The most common plants we installed were Parish's glasswort (Arthrocnemum subterminale) and marsh jaumea (Jaumea carnosa), though arguably one of the most important plants was Eriogonum parvifolium or 'seaside buckwheat,' the host for the rare and endangered El Segundo blue butterfly, which can be found on the Point Mugu base. This little butterfly spends its entire life cycle around this particular buckwheat. Overall, the plants we have installed are helping to reestablish a very threatened wetland habitat, which gives home to many rare and common species of plants, animals, and insects. Many thanks to the hundreds of volunteers that dedicated their time to make this happen!

Additionally, a huge thank you to all of the volunteers that gave their time to the Camarillo Nursery! Plants raised in the nursery have not only been used in the restoration of the Mugu Lagoon, but also the San Marcos Foothills Preserve and the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve.

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Anacapa Seabird Habitat Restoration Underway

Channel Islands Restoration, in a continuation of our restoration efforts on East Anacapa Island, is in the process of growing 2,500 plants to be installed in the coming fall. While we are growing many of the same plants grown in the past, this project differs in that we are now working in cooperation with multiple agencies. CIR has joined up with the National Park Service and the California Institute of Environmental Studies (CIES) to create and expand seabird habitat. With these joint forces, new plants will be on a drip system (which improves survival rates by over 50% or more). This new partnership is very exciting, and it will create a lasting impact that visitors will notice in the years to come.

The plants are being grown in our NPS/CIR constructed and maintained shade house and plant nursery stationed on the island which was made possible by a grant from Patagonia and NOAA B-WET and was built in collaboration with the National Park Service. The plants will be installed by CIES and volunteers, who are using funds from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program to improve seabird habitat. CIR will be funding educational work trips for high school students to assist in habitat restoration as well.

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Camarillo Plant Nursery Off to a Great Start!

Kelle Green, CIR Nursery Manager, takes great care of native

plants on a bright and sunny day at the nursery.

Since its construction in November last year, CIR's new native plant nursery in Camarillo has been filled with volunteers and growing native plants! We have had over 100 volunteers so far donate their time and help kick-start operations at the nursery in preparation for our new mainland restoration project at Point Mugu Naval Air Station (Pt. Mugu NAS). Once the nursery was built, CIR staff and volunteers collected seeds from Mugu Lagoon to grow in the nursery, and then the propagating, transplanting, and potting and re-potting of wetland plants began full-force! Volunteer tasks vary greatly, from delicate work with tiny seedlings to watering and maintaining native plants.

A great group of warrior volunteers stuck it out through a

recent rainstorm, all with smiles on their faces!

Starting in April and May this year, we will be installing up to 5,000 native wetland plants that were grown in the nursery in buffer areas between roads and wetlands at Pt. Mugu NAS. These efforts will help provide habitat for native animals and provide soil stabilization, which will help protect the wetlands from erosion. This is our third project with the U.S. Navy, and those who volunteer at our nursery will get experience with wetland plants and will be considered first to get Base Access passes to volunteer at the restoration site in Pt. Mugu!

CIR has several opportunities to volunteer in the plant nursery in March, and you can check out the scheduled dates and sign up to volunteer on our

Calendar of Volunteer Events

webpage.

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CIR Stewardship of the San Marcos Foothills

Volunteers pose at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve

following a day of invasive plant removal near

a natural freshwater spring.

In addition to maintaining our current restoration projects and planning new ones for the years ahead, CIR adopted a more active stewardship role for the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. In 2015, we now provide educational programs and have produced materials that educate visitors about protecting wildlife while we all enjoy the 210-acre Preserve, located between Santa Barbara and Goleta.

This year CIR organized three educational walks at the Preserve, including two bird watching events with biologist Mark Holmgren and a plant walk with Ken Owen.

All of these events were popular and were attended by nearly 60 people.

CIR also created a web guide to the Preserve that highlights the plant and animal life, geology and history and more.

We continue to develop a docent program for the Preserve, which will train volunteers to lead educational walks.

Biologist Mark Holmgren leads a CIR bird

watching walk at the Preserve.

As CIR takes on new responsibilities at the Preserve, we’re mindful of our previous successes there.

Since 2010, CIR has partnered with several non-profit organizations, businesses and County government to restore portions of the Preserve.

Our restoration sites along Cieneguitas and Atascadero Creeks have been spectacular successes.

Even during this dry year, in the middle of the worst drought in history, many of our plants continue to bloom well into autumn.

The sites attract butterflies that feed on nectar from the flowers, and they attract birds that collect seeds and insects from the plants.

In a generally dry and brown landscape, our restoration sites are some of the only green spots in the Foothills.

The success of the restoration sites is due to our dedicated staff and the help of more than 1,000 people who have volunteered with CIR at the San Marcos Foothills since we began our work.

Common buckeye butterfly collecting nectar on California

buckwheat plants installed by Channel Islands

Restoration at the San Marcos Foothills

Preserve.

Thanks to a grant from outdoor retailer REI this year, CIR also removed invasive plants along trails and at a freshwater spring, where several species of wetland plants grow.

The REI grant paid for the cost of a staff person to lead the 16 volunteer days and for the cost of recruiting the 278 volunteers who participated.

Thanks to REI and to the Volunteers!

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REI Funds Restoration Trips to Anacapa Island

A young volunteer plants cactus!

For the third year in a row, outdoor retailer REI has supported the Anacapa restoration project by providing a grant to CIR for native plant installation on the island.

The funds were granted to Channel Islands Restoration, which works in partnership with the National Park Service on the project.

Over the course of six trips, 30 volunteers planted several hundred plants including sage brush alkali rye grass and coastal prickly pear cactus.

CIR Volunteer, Doreen Jones, keeping the Anacapa Island

nursery plants happy.

The volunteers who helped on these trips were all associated with local conservation groups or were employees or members of the local REI stores.

Participating groups includes Santa Barbara Audubon Society,

Ventura Surfrider Foundation and the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Most of the trips were led by Kelle Green, the CIR nursery manager and all around NPS volunteer.

The groups worked hard, and also had an opportunity to take a short walk on the island following the restoration work.

CIR thanks all the volunteers and REI for making these trips possible!

Volunteers from the Santa Barbara Zoo plant natives near the historic lighthouse.

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