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Santa Rosa Island

Seeding the Clouds

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. 


Conserving the "Cloud Forest" on Santa Rosa Island

CIR staff installing organic-fiber wattles around groves on Santa Rosa Island.

Outstanding efforts were made this fall by CIR staff and volunteers, partnered with Channel Islands National Park, to begin restoring the unique “Cloud Forest” of Santa Rosa Island! CIR coordinated seven restoration trips to Santa Rosa Island, and 50 volunteers contributed their hard work and diligence to assist on this important restoration project.

The project goals are to slow erosion on the island and rep

lace the lost fog-water-harvesting vegetation, such as the rare island oak trees. During the volunteer trips, erosion control devises were built and installed in areas on the island that have been severely impacted by the overgrazing of non-native species.

Volunteers sorted, loaded and transported multiple stake bed truckloads of wood to the restoration sites that were used in the construction of check dams and silt fences in eroded gullies.

Volunteers pounded in rebar and posts as structural support for the dams and material silt fences. Organic-fiber wattles and rock bags were filled and assembled, transported, and installed on the island’s ridges and around groves. Staff and volunteers put in long but satisfying hours, knowing they were assisting in a unique and vital restoration project, and enjoying

the spectacular island setting and work group comradery.

Volunteers construct check dams and silt fences in eroded gullies.

Even CIR volunteers on the mainland assisted with the “Cloud Forest” project!

Channel Islands National Park hosted two volunteer events in October and November to help assemble and roll wattles to be installed on Santa Rosa Island during the volunteer trips.

Kathryn McEachern, Research Plant Ecologist from the U.S. Geological Survey, who led the volunteer events wrote,

“Thanks to everybody who helped roll erosion control wattles for the Santa Rosa Island Cloud Forest Restoration project, on October 31 and November 14!

About 50 folks helped (some came twice!), and we made about 150 20-foot long wattles in a little under 7 hours of work over the two weekends.

Those made on Halloween are already at work on the slope above the ancient oaks at the Soledad Ridge on Santa Rosa Island.”

Volunteers excited to start restoration on Santa Rosa Island.

Funding for these restoration trips was provided by a grant through the National Park Service, which covered boat transportation through the NPS boat and Island Packers, and lodging at the Santa Rosa Island Research Station operated by CSU Channel Islands.

CIR has been grateful to work with so many amazing volunteers and organizations to help restore the natural environment of Santa Rosa Island in Channel Islands National Park.



CIR to Offer Fall Trips to Santa Rosa Island

CIR staff and volunteers remove iceplant on Santa Rosa Island.

CIR is excited to offer a series of restoration trips to Santa Rosa Island this fall, in partnership with Channel Islands National Park.

Supported by Channel Islands National Park, these 4- and 5-day trips are designed to accomplish important environmental restoration projects, while giving volunteers the opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful and remote sections of that vast island.

Volunteers will help restore the unique “Cloud Forest” habitat on Santa Rosa Island.

“Cloud Forest” refers to the ability of the rare island oak trees and other vegetation that collect fog on their branches and leaves and naturally provide water for the island and its wildlife and ecosystem.

A long history of grazing and browsing on the high ridges of the island stripped away vegetation and caused deep soil erosion.

This project will start to restore these ridges, and therefore all of the island, by slowing erosion and replacing the lost fog-water-harvesting vegetation.

Volunteers learn about island conservation, history, geology and ecology while helping to restore Santa Rosa’s unique island habitat.

The volunteer work adds to the enjoyment and understanding of the challenges involved with managing such a large island.

CIR’s Santa Rosa trips are structured to provide plenty of satisfying volunteer work, yet also include time to enjoy this vast and spectacular island.

Volunteers will stay in indoor lodging at the Santa Rosa Island Field Station, operated by CSU Channel Islands.

Watch for email announcements regarding trips this fall!

Sarah Chaney (NPS ecologist) directs CIR volunteers.



CIR & volunteers donate to Santa Rosa Island Projects

CIR & volunteers donate to Santa Rosa Island Projects

CIR volunteers remove fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).

Fennel, which has taken over large areas on

Santa Cruz Island, is fortunately not common

on Santa Rosa Island.

It is a priority of the

NPS to keep it from spreading.

Channel Islands Restoration continued working on Santa Rosa Island this year, in a project funded mostly by CIR donors and our volunteers with support from the National Park Service (NPS).

We held four trips in 2013 to remove fencing, plant natives, remove invasives and to work in the native plant nursery.

The fencing had been erected to protect sensitive plants and habitats from browsing and trampling by non-native grazing animals.

Since these animals are no longer on the island, the fencing is now an unnecessary eyesore and a potential hazard to visitors and native animals, so it is now a priority to remove it.

Often located in remote areas difficult to access, the fencing can be a challenge to remove.

Volunteers also removed invasive fennel and iceplant in several island locations and planted island-grown


(a native succulent) at China Camp on the island’s southwest side.

Although volunteers put in long hours, they also had the opportunity to visit parts of the island that are not easily accessible.

Although removing the fencing and the restoration work are priorities for the NPS, budgets are tight, so there is no funding to pay for these projects.

Working with NPS Restoration Ecologist Sarah Chaney,

CIR volunteers work in the native plant

nursery on Santa Rosa Island.

CIR developed a program where volunteers paid for a portion ofthe needed funding, CIR paid for the rest, and the NPS provided staff support, on-island transportation and camp sites.

While CIR spent more than $5,000 on the four trips, this project would not have happened without the generous support of volunteers and CIR donors.

Volunteers camped at the NPS campground at Water Canyon, and on one occasion, stayed at the bunkhouse that housed island ranch hands when the island was privately owned.

The bunkhouse is now part of a new research station run by California State University Channel Islands, and CIR is grateful that we received special permission to stay there.

CIR volunteers use special jacks to remove fence posts at East Point.

Volunteers also remove invasive iceplant at East Point.

CIR volunteers plant natives at China Cap on Santa Rosa Island

NPS Restoration Ecologist Sarah Chaney shows volunteers the work location near Carrington Point.

Volunteers removed fencing at the work site, which was located several hundred feet below the pictured location.



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



Santa Rosa Island Volunteer Project

Channel Islands Restoration and Channel Islands National Park worked together to organize and lead three volunteer trips to Santa Rosa Island in July and October to remove fencing that had been erected to protect sensitive plants from non-native grazing animals.

Removing the fencing was difficult, but the hardy volunteers put in long hours and were able to visit some remote parts of the island that few visitors have a chance to see.

Volunteers camped at Johnson’s Lee (with special permission) on the south side of the island on two of the trips.

CIR volunteers receive instruction on Santa Rosa Island

from NPS restoration biologist Sarah Chaney

The fencing was originally installed by mostly volunteer labor (including CIR volunteers) under the direction of the National Park Service.

Non-native deer and elk were present on the island as part of a commercial hunting operation run by the island’s previous owners in an agreement with the NPS.

The fencing protected rare plants from grazing by the animals and protected sensitive environments threatened by erosion.

With the expiration of the hunting agreement at the end of 2011, all non-native animals are now gone from the island and the protective fencing is no longer needed.

No funding was available for the trips, so CIR and the NPS needed to come up with creative ways to finance the project.

Volunteers paid for the cost of the boat transportation and the wages of one CIR staff person.

CIR donated the wages of a second staff person and the cost of coordinating volunteers.

The NPS provided vehicles, logistical and staff support and campsite use.