With the rain arises a new array of benefits and obstacles. Much like the harsh drought helped eliminate poorly-adapted invasive species, yet made the establishment of new natives difficult, rain offers a gradient of impacts.
With the rain arises a new array of benefits and obstacles. Much like the harsh drought helped eliminate poorly-adapted invasive species, yet made the establishment of new natives difficult, rain offers a gradient of impacts.
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.
To those that would like to get more involved with CIR and work a little "behind the scenes" - we just so happen to be looking for dedicated and creative volunteers to join our Party Planning Commission.
In the past year, support from donors has given us the capital to pursue grants for new and exciting projects and to continue work where federal funds have been eliminated. Plus, donations have helped us further our education outreach and bring underprivileged kids into nature and onto the islands, and it hasallowed us to expand our efforts to restore special and important habitat on the Central Coast. To those that have given at other times in the past year: THANK YOU, and please consider sustaining or upgrading your membership through monthly donations. Now through automatic monthly donations, there's no need for reminders or alterations in your monthly budget! However, regardless of how you donate, and regardless of how much, we sincerely appreciate your support. Without donors, we wouldn't be able to continue the mission of CIR.
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.
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.
This March, CIR hosted its annual membership gathering at Goleta Beach Park. This membership gathering was one of our most well attended, with more than 50 members present to enjoy the soft drinks and spirits, the barbequed chicken and veggies, and the good company of other CIR members. We were honored to recognize John Reyes as the Member of the Year for his incredible dedication to volunteering and his help in building our three new plant nurseries this year - located in East Anacapa Island, San Nicholas Island, and Camarillo. In addition to the good company at the park, members were treated to an exclusive natural history tour, with CIR Senior Ecologist Elihu Gevirtz leading a short walking tour of the Goleta Slough and Dr. Tanya Atwater giving a talk about the geology of the local area and the Monterey Shale that it sits atop. Our Member Gatherings are free to all who join CIR at a minimum of $35 in a year, in addition to many other benefits. To learn more about our CIR donor benefits and to become a member or renew an existing one, please visit cirweb.org/donate/ and thank you in advance!
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.
This year's spring and summer natural history trips were truly exceptional. Our Death Valley trip took place right at the height of the super-bloom and the once bare and desolate floor of the valley was carpeted with desert gold and pocketed with dozens of other native desert wildflowers. This past El Niño brought torrential amounts of water to many parts of California that desperately needed it (while also inexplicably missing others) and over the course of the winter Death Valley received a full 2.7 inches of rain. This amount may seem insignificant, but the Valley normally receives no more than 2 inches of rain in an entire year. This small, yet concentrated amount of rain, was enough to germinate millions of dormant desert wildflower seeds that all shot up to form a massive super-bloom - the likes of which the valley has not seen since 2005.
While the super bloom was spectacular and novel, it was unable to dwarf Death Valley's usual splendor of barren rocks, braided badlands, and the bed of a long-dead lake - the story of which Dr. Tanya Atwater unfolded over the course of the trip. Meanwhile, Steve Junak told stories of present day life in Death Valley and how the native plants and wildlife are able to carve out a niche in one of the harshest and most desolate regions of the world.
A few months later during the hot summer months, we ventured high into the White Mountains to walk in the cool mountain air among the oldest trees in the world. At first glance, the high peaks of the White Mountains reveal little more than ancient trees among the barren rock, but the land came alive through interpretation from Tanya Atwater, Steve Junak, and Santiago Escruceria. Concentrated beauty could be found all around in the low-lying flowers that lay hidden within the rocky crevices which gave shelter to the biting wind. This tiny and hidden beauty lay in contrast to their home atop the massive mountains that were left from the collision of two massive continental plates.
Trips to these unique and spectacular locations happen every year, so be on the lookout for our natural history trips to Death Valley and the White Mountains. Both trips sold out every year over the past six years, so act quickly to make sure you don't miss out! In addition to these, this year we will be hosting two more natural history trips this spring: one along the Central Coast and another on a luxurious train ride between Santa Barbara and SLO.
The Central Coast trip will focus on the area surrounding the San Andreas Fault. It will form a loop that begins at Morro Bay, and from there we'll travel north to the volcanic formations at Pinnacles National Park, then west to Hollister, south through the coast of Big Sur, and we will end with a tour of the Piedras Blancas lighthouse.
And finally, we'd like to welcome all aboard on an amazing excursion led by the extraordinary geologist Tanya Atwater, and Steve Junak, botanist, storyteller, and CIR Board Member. This exciting trip will offer rare glimpses of some of the last original native coastal landscapes in Southern California. Beginning at the Santa Barbara train depot, you will ride in style aboard a beautifully restored Vista Dome Lounge-Dining Car built in 1956. You will be treated to a narrated scenic journey along a spectacular part of the coast, and through several ranchos that cannot be seen from Highway 101. We will travel through Gaviota, the Hollister Ranch, the Cojo Ranch (including Point Conception), Vandenberg Air Force Base (including the Sudden Ranch), and the Guadalupe / Oceano Dunes region. Learn about the area's rich human and natural history before stopping in San Luis Obispo. Enjoy a catered buffet lunch on board, including beer, wine and soft drinks. Passengers are free to change levels and sides in the car for a new and different view on the way back. This is a fantastic opportunity to see parts of the coast by rail that are otherwise inaccessible.
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.
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
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.
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.
Become a CIR Member today and join us for a BBQ lunch and guided tours
of the Goleta Beach and Goleta Slough Ecological Reserve!
Sunday, April 10th, 2016 from 11:00 am-3:00 pm
Goleta Beach Park Picnic Area
Don't miss out on these two fascinating walking tours!
Geology of the Monterey Formation
Geologist and CIR Board Member Tanya Atwater will describe and demonstrate the Monterey Formation, whose rocks form most of our local beach-cliffs, including those around Goleta Beach. Besides being the source of most of our oil, these unusual rocks hold the keys to understanding many aspects of our geological history and are responsible for many quirky local phenomena.
Ecology of the Goleta Slough Ecological Reserve
CIR's Senior Ecologist, Eliyahu Gevirtz, will take CIR members on an educational tour of the Goleta Slough, with an emphasis on examining the various parts of the slough, including a variety of types of wetlands, willow forest, coastal sage scrub and oak woodland, endangered plants and animals, and bird nesting areas. Members will also take a close-up look at a habitat restoration site in the western portion of the estuary that Eliyahu has been overseeing for nearly six years. Eliyahu will also speak about the cultural history of the slough.
All CIR Members are invited to our 2016 Spring Membership Event
and YOU can become a CIR Member for a minimum donation of $35!
All contributions are tax-deductible! Click
to donate now!
Ten lucky people went home with amazing raffle prizes, ranging from a guided Channel Islands Outfitters kayak tour for two on Santa Cruz Island, REI and Patagonia gift cards, CIR t-shirts and hats, passes to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, a signed copy of Canyon Voices by Karen Telleen-Lawton, and a whale-watching tour for two on the Condor Express!
Many people enjoy hiking in our local natural areas, and a lot of those people bring along their furry, four-legged canine friends to join them in the experience. In recent years, "off-leash" recreation has become popular, and many parks and open spaces allow dogs to run free without a leash. Where laws require leashes, enforcement is often spotty, and many people simply ignore the law. Channel Islands Restoration has become the new Project Manager for habitat restoration and stewardship at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve (SMFP) which is located between Santa Barbara and Goleta. We have been struggling with the issue of dog-owners who refuse to leash their pooches while visiting the Preserve. We are interested in your view about how appropriate leash laws are in open spaces that contain a lot of wildlife, particularly in wildlife preserves.
In 2010, CIR began working with the County of Santa Barbara to restore habitat at the SMFP. Since then our role has expanded to include stewardship and education. The Preserve had been donated to the County to ensure that the property would be preserved as open space for its biological, scenic and archaeological resources. All this came about after years of advocacy by conservationists, who saved the property from development with the idea of conserving it as a primary goal, but also allowing for low-impact recreation that would be friendly to the wildlife.
As many as 43 rare or threatened species may be found on the Preserve, including nesting birds and other animals that are vulnerable to disturbance by pets. Birds can abandon their nests if disturbed by people or pets that wander off the trails. Nesting animals often hide in shrubs or grassy areas very near trail edges. A curious dog can easily find and disturb these animals, and the encounter may result in a missed opportunity for that animal to breed. This happens more often than most of us know, and the consequences are measurable: the number of birds are in steep decline in many areas, including at the SMFP.
Off-leash dogs also face dangers from wildlife. We know of two coyote attacks on dogs that were walking off-leash in local open spaces (including at the SMFP) and one of these attacks ended up in the death of a beloved pet. The SMFP also has a large rattlesnake population, and uncontrolled dogs are very vulnerable to snake bite.
CIR has been working with the County to educate visitors at the SMFP about why dogs should be on leashes. Our message: the laws are not arbitrary, and they are mostly designed to protect wildlife. We have posted flyers at the Preserve, and also included information on our web page. The County has posted additional signage making it clear that leash laws are in force. Still, most pet owners who visit the Preserve act as if it is an off-leash dog park (there are six parks that are officially designated as off-leash in the Santa Barbara area). As a result, the County ranger has been issuing tickets, which has caused outrage by many of the pet owners.
We would like to hear from you about this issue!
Do you think it's reasonable to require dogs be on leashes in wildlife preserves like the SMFP? Considering that there are many parks and open spaces that allow off-leash dog-walking, should the leash laws elsewhere be enforced? We know that people have a variety of opinions on this subject, and we would like to hear from you no matter what you think (we will keep your comments confidential).
Please send us an email with your thoughts to:
CIR Ambassadors pose at our Earth Day Festival booth.
Earth Day is just around the corner, and we're excited about celebrating at the upcoming festivals in Santa Barbara and Ventura! We are eager to share the importance of native habitat restoration and to engage the community in our work, and Earth Day presents the perfect opportunity. Once again, we are honored to sponsor the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival, and we'll be setting up a booth for both days, Saturday, April 16th to Sunday, April 17th. We will also be at the Ventura Earth Day Ecofest on Saturday, April 23rd.
Many of you might not know this, but Earth
Day has special roots in the Santa Barbara area. In
1969, our community and precious coastline suffered a devastating blow when Union Oil's Platform A blew-up and spilled over 80,000 barrels of crude oil into the Santa Barbara Channel. The spill was a wake-up call for many, including Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. To help avoid such an atrocity from occurring again, Senator Nelson wanted to create a "national teach-in on the environment" and, on April 22, 1970, about 20 million Americans banded together and demanded a healthy, sustainable environment for all. The tradition continues today, and CIR is proud to take up the cause.
CIR booth at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival.
CIR has participated at the Santa Barbara Earth Day for almost ten years. One of our main goals is to educate the public on the amazing landscapes, plants, and wildlife right in their backyard, and we prominently display maps, photos, and informational materials to give people a glimpse into this world. We talk to hundreds of people at these events, and many learn about the Channel Islands for the first time. Indeed, a handful of our dedicated volunteers were once curious passersby that decided to pop into the CIR booth.
Earth Day events are incredibly important to us, but they are a lot of work! We increasing rely on volunteer "ambassadors" to help us staff the booths. Being a CIR ambassador at Earth Day is a wonderful opportunity to share your island stories and encourage the public to get involved and experience the magic of the Channel Islands themselves. For those who have only begun volunteering with CIR, fear not! We always make sure to pair less experienced volunteers with long-term volunteers, or CIR Board members, so no one will feel overwhelmed.
Become a CIR Earth Day Ambassador!
Shifts are available! Please sign up to volunteer with
Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival
Saturday, April 16 from 11:00am to 7:00pm
Sunday, April 17 from 11:00am to 6:00pm
Alameda Park, Santa Barbara
Ventura Earth Day Ecofest
Saturday, April 23 from 10:00am to 5:00pm
Promenade Park, Ventura
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
January brought another busy planting season on San Nicolas Island for Channel Islands Restoration! In just one month, over 1,000 nursery-grown native species were planted to help with erosion control, expand populations of rare plants and animals.
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
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!