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Santa Barbara Zoo/Andre Clark Bird Refuge

Next Phase of Restoration at the SB Zoo


Next Phase of Restoration at the SB Zoo

CIR and the Santa Barbara Zoo have just begun the second phase of habitat restoration along the bird refuge at the Zoo, and volunteers will have plenty of opportunities to participate, starting this month!

A CIR crew removes invasive Myoporum trees at the Santa Barbara Zoo

The 42 acre Andree Clark Bird Refuge is one of Santa Barbara's most beautiful natural areas and provides habitat to 228 bird species, 43 of which nest there. It adjoins the 30 acre Santa Barbara Zoo, an organization that, like CIR, is dedicated to restoration and enhancement of native habitat.

In 2010, CIR was given a grant in partnership with the SB Zoo to restore the 2.1 acre margin between the Refuge and the Zoo that was, until recently, covered by a mix of ever-encroaching invasive plants and a few remaining natives. The Wetland Margin Enhancement Project was designed into two phases to remediate this situation, and both phases involved removal of Myoporum trees and many other invasive plants.  In 2011 and 2012, Phase I of this restoration project exceeded its goals and successfully treated approximately one-third of the shoreline along the Zoo, replacing invasives with native flora.

Phase I started in 2010, funded by a grant from the Southern California Wetland Recovery Project (SCWRP). The City of Santa Barbara removed invasive Arundo along the Zoo property during Phase I. CIR and Zoo staff and volunteers restored a total of 0.74 acres; 44 invasive trees were removed and 930 native plants (114 of those being trees) were installed. Over a span of 12 volunteer events, we had 365 volunteers help with this project, contributing a total of 1,460 volunteer hours. More than 100 volunteers showed up at the first volunteer day!  In addition to volunteers from CIR and the Zoo, volunteers from Citrix Online, the United Way Day of Caring, and Ojai Valley School participated.

A section of the wetland margin after restoration.

This year, Phase II of the project started with a second grant from SCWRP and one from the County of Santa Barbara's Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund (CREF).  The CREF grant is paid for from funds that mitigate the impacts from the Point Arguello, Point Pedernales, and Santa Ynez Unit offshore oil and gas projects. In Phase II, CIR is focusing on treating the remaining acres of the site, which contained dense stands of Myoporum trees, a number of Eucalyptus and small palms, plus smaller amounts of other invasive plants. A CIR crew spent three days felling 220 trees from within the project area in September. With help from Zoo staff we spent two additional days hauling and chipping the trees. The piled chips will be used for mulching during the upcoming plant installation scheduled to take place during the next few months.

CIR and the Zoo are contributing time and manpower to the project, but most of the work is done by community volunteers.  We will plant 1,300 native plants starting in November. At the end of each work day, participating volunteers can then visit the Zoo free of admission. Watch for e-mail announcements regarding planting days, as CIR will soon be offering a series of volunteer opportunities at the Zoo!



Over 6,000 Volunteer for CIR since 2002

Over 6,000 Volunteer for CIR since 2002

Volunteers from REI volunteer for CIR on Anacapa Island.

REI is one of several groups that have joined thousands

of other volunteers on CIR projects

Since Channel Islands Restoration regularly started working with volunteers in 2002, a total of 6,273 people have volunteered for our program on nearly fifty projects on the Channel Islands, and at many mainland locations.

At a recent social event held in appreciation of CIR supporters, Executive Director, Ken Owen, reviewed CIR’s history and directly attributed our success to the tremendous support of our volunteers.

CIR has grown from a two-person volunteer operation centered on an invasive tree removal program on Santa Cruz Island, to a full-service environmental restoration and education non-profit organization with ten employees.

We have worked on all eight of the Channel Islands and have projects in dozens of mainland locations, from Orcutt in the north, to San Pedro in the south.

CIR volunteers on Santa Cruz Island in 2002

CIR founders Ken Owen and Duke McPherson met on Santa Cruz Island and quickly realized they shared a passion for the unique native habitat of the Channel Islands.

Before there was a regular habitat restoration program on Santa Cruz, Duke and Ken made quarterly trips to Nature Conservancy property

with the Restoration Club from U.C. Santa Barbara to remove invasive plants, particularly Eucalyptus trees.

Later, Ken joined Duke on his small speed boat to regularly visit the island on multiple volunteer trips that took place over several weekends a month.

This evolved into a larger program after Ken began recruiting volunteers for the project.

The Nature Conservancy provided equipment, the National Park Service provided boat transportation and the U. C. Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz Island Reserve provided housing and pick-up trucks to help facilitate the volunteer work.

Near the end of 2002, Kate Symonds with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arranged for grant funding for the project.

Duke and Ken initially formed CIR as a partnership, and it was at this time that the Santa Cruz Island project had become a professional operation.

Ken provided volunteer coordination and trip logistics, and Duke contributed his many skills as an arborist and professional contractor.

CIR volunteers on Santa Cruz Island in 2002

Although the program had expanded into regular monthly trips with large volunteer groups and grant funding, CIR was still very much the “Duke and Ken Show,” as some people began calling it.

It would be several years before CIR needed to hire employees, because Duke and Ken could rely on the help of hundreds of volunteers a year.

This made for a very economical operation, and the grant funding that was supposed to pay for twelve trips, lasting just a year, actually paid for almost double that.

In 2005, the first of many school groups began working with CIR on Santa Cruz Island.

That same year, David Chang from the County of Santa Barbara, hired CIR to work on two important invasive plant removal projects.

One was on Santa Rosa Island, where CIR led volunteer groups surveying for, and removing a thistle listed as a “noxious weed” by the State of California.

This multi-year project marked the first time CIR worked outside of Santa Cruz Island.

In later years, CIR led volunteers to plant natives on Santa Rosa and to install fencing around sensitive plants to protect them from grazing by non-native deer and elk.

Recently, CIR has been removing this fencing now that the non-native animals are gone.

We also work in the island nursery, and we continue to plant natives.

With funding arranged by David Chang, CIR began a large project to supervise the removal of giant reed (“


) from three miles of the Carpinteria Creek watershed with the California Conservation Corps.

This was the first time that CIR was hired to work on a mainland project.

In 2007, CIR was hired by the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County to remove


from the Refugio Creek watershed.

The following year, CIR hired employees to help with that project, including Kevin Thompson, who later became the CIR Operations Manager.

The Arundo removal at the Carpinteria and Refugio watersheds (plus others that followed) were large-scale projects requiring equipment, paid personnel and expertise.

CIR continued to work with hundreds of volunteers each year, on projects elsewhere, but the Arundo projects were not suited to volunteers.

Oak Grove School volunteering with CIR

on Santa Cruz Island 2006

Also in 2007, CIR began taking volunteer school groups to Anacapa and East Santa Cruz Islands in partnership with the “Once Upon a Watershed” program in Ojai.

The school program (later funded solely by grants raised by CIR) targeted fourth and fifth graders from schools in low income areas.

The funding paid for the cost of bus and boat transportation, plus CIR personnel to lead the trips and to lead the volunteer work.

Most of the kids had never been on a boat, or seen marine mammals or even visited a National Park, and they did all of these things on these school trips.

Since the inception of the CIR school program, 2,137 students, accompanied by 368 adults have worked with CIR on the Channel Islands!

Around the same time, CIR held its first volunteer trip to work with the U.S. Navy on San Nicolas Island.

We took a small volunteer group to the island to remove non-native plants.

In the last two years CIR has built a nursery on the island, grown and installed native plants, and has expanded the invasive plant removal in cooperation with the Navy.

In 2008, David Chang helped CIR raise additional funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for expanded work on Santa Cruz Island.

The grant funded projects in more than twenty locations on the island and included specialized work with endangered plant species.

In 2010, CIR held our first natural history tours.

These trips, which were purely educational in nature and did not include restoration work, were immediately popular and successful.

We started with a trip to Death Valley National Park and then to the White Mountains of eastern California.

Geologist Tanya Atwater and Botanist, Steve Junak have been leading CIR trips to these locations and to other amazing locations ever since.

CIR personnel construct Anacapa Nursery 2010

That same year, CIR partnered with Channel Islands National Park (NPS) on an iceplant eradication project on East Anacapa Island.

CIR worked with the NPS to build a native plant nursery on the Island, with initial funding from the Ventura Patagonia store and from CIR Board members.

Gordon Hart (of the CIR Board) led the construction project with help from other CIR volunteers and NPS staff.

Additional funding (arranged by NPS Restoration Ecologist Sarah Chaney) enabled the nursery to be completed.

The following year, NPS received three years of funding (from highly-competitive NPS restoration project grants) and entered into a Cooperative Agreement with CIR under which CIR provided skilled staff and experienced volunteer leadership in support of

iceplant eradication and restoration of native vegetation on the island.

CIR recruited large numbers of volunteers from the general public, and also worked with established groups of volunteers recruited by NPS from local high schools.

Regular CIR volunteer trips began on Wednesdays, the normal NPS transportation day for Anacapa.

The ongoing work on the iceplant, plus the growing and installing of plants continues.

CIR removing iceplant on San Clemente Island 2011

CIR began working with the U.S. Navy on San Clemente Island in 2011.

On our first trip, twenty volunteers spent five days pulling iceplant from sensitive habitat on the island.

We removed hundreds of patches of iceplant over forty acres, which highly impressed the personnel we were working with from the U.S. Navy and San Diego State University.

Since then, CIR has returned to the island to remove iceplant and other invasive plants.

We remove some of these invasive plants where they are smothering endangered plant species.

CIR staff have also used climbing gear to rappel down steep canyons to remove invasive plants in very remote sections of the island.

We plan to increase our work on San Clemente Island in 2014 and beyond.

Also in 2011, CIR started working on three important invasive removal and planting projects on the mainland.

One was at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve (at two different sites) with funding from the Goleta Valley Land Trust and the San Marcos Foothills Coalition (SMFC).

We planted several thousand native plants at the sites, and we continue to work on this project with our volunteers.

On one workday, more than 150 people from several outdoor companies volunteered at the Preserve for CIR.

Last year we received grants from Patagonia and REI to work in other sections of the Foothills.

Recently CIR has started developing a docent program for the Foothills in partnership with the SMFC.

By Spring we will be training volunteers to lead hikes at the Foothills that will highlight the ecology and history of this important open space.

Before and after views of a portion of the CIR restoration site at the Santa Barbara Zoo:

LEFT: invasives like cape ivy,


and nasturtium block the view of the Andree Clark Bird Refuge

Middle: the same view after the invasives have been removed and soon after native plantings installed

Right: A year after restoration; native plants have matured

Another of the mainland projects CIR started in 2011 was along the Andree Clark Bird Refuge at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

CIR removed many dozens of invasive trees that were crowding out native habitat along the refuge, which is an important bird nesting area.

We also planted several thousand native plants.

This ended up being one our most popular volunteer projects, since it is a beautiful place to work and participants were offered free admission to the Zoo after volunteering.

On one Saturday, over 100 people volunteered!

The third mainland project started in 2011 was along the Santa Clara River near Santa Paula.

Working with BioResource Consultants, CIR removed Arundo from about five acres in breeding habitat for several threatened and endangered species.

We also installed native plants, spread seed and installed a large irrigation system.

CIR has removed Arundo from several locations on the Santa Clara River, but this is the largest site we have worked on there.

In 2012 and 2013, CIR continued work on many of the projects discussed above and on many others.

We held our first large volunteer trip to Catalina Island, and we plan more trips there in the coming years.

In 2014 we look forward to improving our outreach to our many friends who support CIR behind the scenes.

This article is based on a PowerPoint presentation shown to our supporters at a recent “CIR Social” designed to thank those who help CIR financially.

We present it here, so that the many thousands of people who have volunteered for CIR can also appreciate the journey we have all taken together since Duke and Ken started removing invasive trees on Santa Cruz Island, nearly thirteen years ago.

CIR mainland projects, from Orcutt in the north to San Pedro in the south



Invasion at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge!!

Invasion at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge!!

by Ria Boner, Santa Barbara Zoo

They come in various colors, but typically shades of green. Some can regenerate from their own fragments! Some are capable of producing toxic chemical compounds! Some can grow 9-30ft tall! But ALL of them are invading and wreaking havoc on the locals – right in our own city! But no, we’re not talking about extraterrestrial aliens – these are invasive plant species at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.

Certain plants thrive when moved out of their native habitat and away from their usual predators. Without any natural processes to keep these species at bay they grow out of control, overwhelming local vegetation and the wildlife that feed on it. Invasive plant species can dramatically alter an ecosystem, changing things such as hydrology, soil chemistry, and overtaking the species diversity of an area. For example, cape ivy (

Delairea odorata

) grows in such abundance that it can block the sunlight to other vegetation and seedlings, vastly reducing species diversity and replacing it with a plant that, due to its toxic nature, is unsuitable for most animals to eat. It can grow so densely that its weight can cause some trees to fall! While these invaders might not take over the entire planet like a UFO Sci-Fi movie, they can take over important habitats and ecosystems. 

One of these ecosystems being invaded is the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. Established as a bird refuge back in the 1920s, this natural area provides habitat for 228 bird species, including 43 species that breed at the site and five federally listed endangered species. Certain birds rely on the cottony seeds of the native willow (

Salix exigua

) to build their nests, others on the sweet nectar of the local hummingbird sage (

Salvia spathecea

), and many benefit from the nutritious rose hips of the California rose (

Rosa californica

). But if you were to take a Santa Barbara Zoo train ride along the refuge’s edge back before 2010, you would find it quite a challenge to spot these plants or the wildlife that rely on them. Over 100



trees, large stands of giant reed (

Arundo donax

), the sprawling cape ivy, and other various invasive species had taken their place. The thriving fauna once found in this area was struggling to keep up.

Left: invasive Myoporum trees and cape ivy before removal at the Santa Barbara Zoo.  Right: the same view after removal.

But as in any classic alien invasion story, there is a hero. Together Channel Islands Restoration, The City of Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara Zoo have helped restore the refuge area for half an acre along the train tracks. After the removal of the larger trees and giant reed stands, groups of volunteers armed with gloves and hand tools were enlisted to help keep the invaders at bay. Furthermore, the volunteers helped plant 635 native species that were specially propagated from seeds and cuttings of the remaining natives found at the site. By continually managing the site, our team is able to pull any freshly sprouted invasive species and cultivate the native plants to give them a better chance at resistance in the future. 

Left: invasive Myoporum trees.  Right: the same view after removal by Channel Islands Restoration.

The battle was hard fought, with over 340 volunteers and staff joining the cause in the past two years. But it was well worth the effort. Last week during another volunteer event, a California towhee was seen fluttering about, foraging among the plants. A red-winged blackbird was seen perched on a willow branch. While there is still work to be done and invasive species to combat, the restoration effort over the past two years is making a difference for the wildlife found on the refuge.

Volunteers learn about invasive plants from Channel Islands Restoration staff at the Santa Barbara Zoo



Busy Spring for CIR

Channel Islands Restoration has been kept very busy this spring:


We are working with our project partners on two restoration sites on the San Marcos Foothills with funding from the Goleta Valley Land Trust.  We've plant several thousand plants at both locations and made war on some very tenacious invasive weeds.  To see some details on both of the projects (including lots of photos) check out the following links:

San Marcos Foothills Atascadero Creek Restoration Project

San Marcos Foothills Cieneguitas Creek Restoration Project

We finished up the iceplant removal project at Carpinteria State Beach, in partnership with South Coast Habitat Restoration and the Southern California Wetland Recovery Project.  We "solarized" the iceplant (killed it without the use of herbicide) and planting nearly 3000 native plants.  If you have not visited this site at the Mouth of Carpinteria Creek, we highly recommend that you check it out!  For more information including some photos detailing our work, follow this link:

Carpinteria State Beach Iceplant Removal and Native Species Re-vegetation

Our project at the Santa Barbara Zoo along the Andree Clark Bird Refuge has been a wonderful success!  This project is also funded by the Southern California Wetland Recovery Project, and it has involved removing Myoporum trees (and other invasives) and planting of several hundred natives.  We put up some amazing "before and after" photos on our web page which you can check out at this link:

Andree Clark Bird Refuge/ SB Zoo Invasive Plant Eradication and Re-vegetation

CIR continues to work on a major dune restoration project along Harbor Blvd. in Oxnard.  We are working with Arcadis US. on the North Shore/McGrath project, which is large is scope.  We control invasives at the site and have helped install plantings.  We have posted photos of the project here:

McGrath/North Shore Dune and Wetland Restoration

CIR has partnered with Bio Resource Consultants to restore 3.25 acres of habitat, including approximately 2 acres of giant reed (

Arundo donax)

and 1.25 acres of disturbed southern willow scrub on the Santa Clara River near Santa Paula.  The goal of the project is to create and restore/enhance riparian habitat to increase wildlife diversity, including creation and/or enhancement of southwestern pond turtle habitat.  This project is meant to mitigate impacts of the City's new waste water treatment facility.   Work began in late spring of 2011.


On the islands, CIR took nine elementary school classes to Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands to learn about conservation ecology and to help with invasive plant removal.  We did this with funding from several grant sources and we plan some more trips this fall.  Holy Cross School in Ventura contracted with us to take them on a four day volunteer trip to the Nature Conservancy side of Santa Cruz Island.

We led several volunteer trips for adults to Anacapa Island as part of a program we have with Channel Islands National Park to restore the native plant communities of that island.  The island nursery is now up and running, and volunteers are now helping to grow plants for the project.  Check out some photos of this project here:

East Anacapa Island Restoration Project

CIR is helping the U.S. Navy in a program to eradicate Sahara Mustard on San Nicolas Island.  We would love to provide volunteer trips there in the future, and also to San Clemente island, perhaps as early as this fall.  Stay tuned!!

Some photos of recent trips to San Nicolas and San Clemente can be found here: