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Santa Cruz Island

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.


CIR Sponsors Santa Cruz Island School Trips

You may think Santa Barbara Cleveland School’s mascot is the Dolphins, but for a couple of days in early May they became the Cleveland Clippers. That’s because each sixth grade class spent a day on Santa Cruz Island clipping the heads off of thousands of non-native oyster plants (Tragopogon porrifolius).

This invasive plant is native to Europe and known for its edible roots that taste like oysters.

However, in the U.S., like most invasive plants, the oyster plant has aggressively spread, smothering out native plants along the way, and has established itself as a roadside weed in nearly every state.

For most students, it was their first trip to the islands and their first boat ride ever. Dolphin, whale, and island fox sightings awed the students, as did the view at our Cavern Point picnic site. Eventually we found our way to the project site beyond the upper campground. There we spread out to locate non-native plants in various stages of bud, flower, and seed. Each student used safety scissors to clip off and carefully bag the heads. Most found the task to be pleasant, aside from dealing with the burrs of Ripgut grass, another invasive plant species, that nestled into their socks. After a couple of hours of hard work, we admired the huge pile of filled black plastic bags. Then, covered with white sap and burrs, we hauled them back to the mouth of Scorpion Canyon. We spent an hour or so to visit the Visitor’s Center and relax at the beach before the arrival of the return boat.

The trips were a culmination of work by CIR board member Cindy Kimmick with sixth graders and their teachers, Sam Adams and Kevin Sullivan. Since Fall, Cindy, with the help of other CIR board members, provided the students with natural science lessons in topics including GPS mapping and the near decimation of the island foxes and made the learning process interesting for the students.

CIR was able to offer the trip free of charge using grants from the Men’s Garden Club of Santa Barbara, the Bentson Foundation, and Susan Shields. The funding covered the cost of the boat and the bus, plus the cost of our staff to organize and lead the trips.

A total of 55 students attended the trips, and five volunteer Work Leaders, in partnership with the Channel Islands National Park Service, also assisted the CIR staff with the trip, including Ron Nichols, Randy Bowin and Dennis Kulzer, plus CIR Board members Cindy Kimmick and Karen Telleen-Lawton.

Cleveland School was chosen because it is an underserved school with enthusiastic and environmentally-aware sixth grade teachers that is also the focus of outreach projects for one board member’s parish, All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.

The highlight for many was the knowledge that thousands of bagged seeds will prevent millions of new plants: an invasion literally nipped in the bud. But likely most would name an additional favorite: watching hundreds of dolphins approach the boat and surf our wake. It was an enthralling show seemingly just for the graduating Cleveland Dolphins. 

CIR thanks the Cleveland School, their teachers, Kevin Sullivan and Sam Adams, and their wonderful students for helping with this important restoration project on Santa Cruz Island! —

Karen Telleen-Lawton.



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



CIR School Program Brings 2,300 People to the Islands Since 2004

Students from Carpinteria Family School volunteer 

at the Anacapa Island nursery on a class trip

Channel Islands Restoration has brought 2,055 young people and 248 teachers and chaperones to Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands as part of our school and youth program since its inception in 2004.

CIR raised most of the funding to pay for boat transportation and other costs for these trips, which focused on involving students from underserved areas of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. These trips provided the first opportunity for most of these young people to travel on an ocean-going boat, to directly experience marine wildlife and to visit the Channel Islands.

Funding was provided by a combination of public and private sources, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the California Coastal Commission, Sempra Energy Foundation and Citrix Online.

Students from Sheridan Way Elementary

School (Ventura) on Anacapa Island

CIR worked with 36 schools and youth groups from all over Southern California and beyond.

Participants performed many service tasks including removing invasive plants, collecting seed, growing plants in the Anacapa nursery and care of these plants once they were in the ground.

CIR visited participating schools before each trip to make a presentation on island ecology and conservation biology.

We particularly emphasized the connection between the pollution of mainland streets and watersheds and thereby of the ocean and island environments.

Instruction was curriculum based, reinforcing lessons the students were already learning in the classroom.

Even with fares generously discounted by Island Packers (the official provider of transportation to Anacapa), transportation costs add up quickly.

Boat transportation for an average-size class is $1,500 to $2,000, with additional costs incurred for bus transportation and for CIR staff to organize and lead each trip.

As public sector budgets tighten, CIR is seeking corporate support to help fund these important service-learning programs for local schools.

Fifth graders from Meiners Oaks Elementary volunteer on Santa Cruz Island.



CIR Leads Twenty Seven School Fieldtrips to the Islands in 2011

Over 930 students and adult chaperones joined CIR on 27 school fieldtrips to the Channel Islands so far this year, with funding raised primarily by our staff and board members.   Most of these students are from low-income districts that cannot afford the costs for this type of fieldtrip, and our program gives cash-strapped schools a chance to visit the Channel Islands and students a chance to participate in important restoration projects.

Our program this year targeted primarily 5


grade classes from Ventura County districts, but schools from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara also participated.  The trips were to Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island where the students helped CIR with invasive plant removal and helped propagate native plants.  Some of the schools paid the cost of the boat and transportation, but the vast majority benefited from grant funding that CIR staff and board members raised from Federal, State and private sources.

Students from Ventura pose by their handiwork on Anacapa

CIR staff visited most of the schools before the trips to provide comprehensive PowerPoint presentations highlighting the special nature of the Channel Islands and the Marine Sanctuary and background on the restoration projects.  Special effort was made to highlight the connection between mainland watersheds and the health of the marine ecosystem.  This included examples of what happens to storm water runoff and how pollution in city streets can end up in the ocean.  For the 5


grade classes, this instruction was specifically designed to address elements in the school curriculum.  As a requirement of some of the grant funding, the students were tested before and after the trip to gauge how much they had learned about the islands, marine sanctuary and conservation issues. 

Holy Cross School students receive instruction on Santa Cruz Island

All of the grant funding targeted low-income school districts, and few of the students had ever visited the Channel Islands or even ever been on a boat before.  The boat and bus transportation, plus modest staff costs for an average size class, cost around $2,400, so a great deal of grant funding is needed to fund so many trips.  Funding for this type of program is highly competitive and the grants are difficult to administer, but the results are more than worth it.  The kids are always eager to help with the restoration project, and they make a valuable contribution to our work. 

This is the fifth year of the CIR school program, and our busiest yet!  CIR staff worked hard to arrange dates with the schools, book the transportation, and organize the complicated paperwork required for a trip of this kind.  These trips would not have been possible without a great deal of logistical support from the Park Service and a discounted rate from Island Packers.  CIR plans to raise additional funding from private sources for the 2012 school year.

Schools/youth groups participating in CIR island trips:

Caesar Chavez Elementary, Oxnard (6 trips)

EP Foster Elementary, Ventura (2 trips)

Holly Cross School, Ventura (2 trips)

Meiners Oaks  Elementary, Meiners Oaks (3 trips)

Mira Monte Elementary, Ojai (1 trip)

Oak Grove School, Ojai (1 trip)

San Antonio School, Ojai (1 trip)

Santa Barbara Charter School, Santa Barbara (1 trip)

Sheridan Way Elementary, Ventura (1 trip)

Sun Valley High School, Los Angeles (1 trip)

Sunset Elementary, Oak View (3 trips)

Topa Topa Elementary, Ojai (2 trips)

Unitarian Society Teen Group, Santa Barbara (1 trip)

Ventura Charter School, Ventura (2 trips)



Sierra Club National Service Trip to Santa Cruz Island

During the week of September 19, Sierra Club members from all over the country joined CIR staff and key volunteers for some vigorous volunteer work and sightseeing on Santa Cruz Island.  Sierra Club service trips are advertised nationally, and participants pay a fee to the club in order to volunteer in interesting and beautiful locations.  Part of the fee for our trip helps pay two CIR staff members, who spend five days providing a very memorable volunteer experience in some of the most spectacular locations on the island.  The fee also covers the cost of boat transportation, plus vehicles and housing at the UC Reserve Field Station on the island.  Our staff were joined by CIR board member Tanya Atwater (a noted geophysicist) and Jerry Mitcham, a CIR volunteer and Santa Monica Mountain Trails Council board member.

The volunteers helped survey for

Vinca major

(a highly invasive weed) and helped maintain trails on the island.  The


survey kicked off a new project that CIR has to eradicate the weed in Canada del Puerto, the largest riparian area on the island.  After being trained to spot the plant, the volunteers surveyed at least a third of the Canada, and flagged the sites with colored tape.  The sites were then entered into a GPS.

CIR provides four nights of educational programs during the trip.  These include:

  1. The biological significance of the island and its cultural history
  2. A presentation by Tanya Atwater on the geological history of Southern California and of the island
  3. An overview of restoration on the island, including fox and bald eagle recovery and habitat restoration
  4. and an evening of astronomy, far from city lights, with an 8 inch Mead telescope!

The Sierra Club volunteers work hard for four days and are then treated to a day off hike to the south side of the island.  CIR staff are proud to work hard to provide a productive, fun and educations trip to Santa Cruz Island!



CIR Receives Grant to work on Santa Cruz Island

The Southern California Wetland Recovery Project (SCWRP) recently awarded CIR a grant to remove invasive plants on Santa Cruz Island.  The project will target the removal of periwinkle (

Vinca major

) in Cañada del Puerto, the largest riparian area on the island (on Nature Conservancy property).  Although periwinkle makes an attractive garden plant, it spreads aggressively in creeks, creating large mats that smother and kill native vegetation.  

  Ridge Road on Santa Cruz Island

Volunteers will have a chance to participate in the trips, which will be four-days in length.  Volunteers will stay at the UC Reserve Field Station in the island's Central Valley, will be treated to evening presentations and will have a chance to visit parts of the island not normally open to the public.  

  Cañada del Puerto, Santa Cruz Island

The SCWRP grant will pay for island housing and vehicles, plus restoration supplies and CIR staff.  Volunteers will be asked to pay for their transportation on Islands Packers.  A multi-day volunteer trip to the Central Valley on Santa Cruz Island is truly a special opportunity that few people have a chance to experience!

   School kids remove

Vinca major

on Santa Cruz Island

Watch your email for announcements of these trips, probably starting in October.