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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 (“

Arundo”

) 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

Arundo

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,

Myoporum

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

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CIR Expands Work on San Nicolas Island

CIR Expands Work on San Nicolas Island

Plants grown by CIR at the

San Nicolas Island nursery

Channel Islands Restoration will grow at least 3,000 plants on San Nicolas Island in 2014, which will be used to restore habitat for the endangered island night lizard.

We will also return to our ongoing project of removing invasive plants in sensitive habitat occupied by rare native plants.

In 2012, CIR constructed a native plant nursery on the island and grew and planted more than 1,200 plants for an erosion control project on the eastern side of the island.

This year we continued working to eradicate several invasive plants, including Sahara mustard from habitat of

Cryptantha traskiae

, a threatened plant in the Borage family. Sahara mustard is a highly invasive plant that has caused great ecological damage in the deserts.

The U.S. Navy is committed to controlling or even eradicating the mustard from the island and to supporting the recovery of the island night lizard.

CIR donated much of our staff time to the eradication project over the last several years.

The island night lizard, which is found on only three of the Channel Islands, thrives in native plants like prickly pear cactus and boxthorn.

CIR will grow several species in the island nursery that are important to the recovery of the lizard habitat.

The eastern coast of San Nicolas Island with

giant Coreopsis in boom

Volunteers will help remove the invasives and will help with growing the plants.

These projects would not happen without the help of volunteers, but the logistics of taking volunteers to islands owned by the Navy are complicated.

Each volunteer must undergo a background check and obtain a pass before they can enter the Point Mugu Naval Air Station, where we board flights to the island.

Once on the island, volunteers stay at motel-like housing, at the volunteer’s expense.

Although this can add up to nearly $200 per trip, for most volunteers the price is well worth it.

Volunteer opportunities on the Navy islands are rare, and San Nicolas Island is a particularly interesting place to visit.

Volunteers pose while removing Sahara Mustard

from San Nicolas Island

In 2013, CIR made several trips to the island to remove invasive plants.

In addition to the mustard and other invasives, CIR staff and volunteers worked to remove carnation spurge (

Euphorbia terracina

) on the island.

Carnation spurge is quickly spreading in California, and the Navy hopes to eradicate it from San Nicolas Island.

CIR is proud of our partnership with the U.S. Navy on San Nicolas Island.

We also work closely with ACS Habitat Management and the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens on the San Nicolas Island projects.

Although CIR has received funding from the Navy to work on all of these projects, we have also donated many thousands of dollars in staff time when funding has not been available.

CIR volunteers plant natives on San Nicolas Island

Island Fox seen by CIR volunteers on San Nicolas Island

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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

Myoporum

lateum

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

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CIR Removes Invasive Sahara Mustard on San Nicolas Island

San Nicolas Island, as seen from the air by Channel Islands Restoration volunteers recently

Channel Islands Restoration staff and a group of volunteers spent five days on San Nicolas Island beginning last week removing Sahara mustard (

Brassica tournefortii

) in sensitive Coreopsis scrub habitat.

This is the second trip for CIR this year to work on this project, and the third year in a row that CIR has worked on this project.  The Mustard is a highly invasive, non-native plant that has caused a great deal of destruction to native habitat in the deserts and other environments in California and elsewhere.

The Navy is working to keep the mustard from spreading on San Nicolas, and CIR has been removing it where it grows around some rare plants.

San Nicolas Island is owned by the U.S. Navy, and Channel Islands Restoration is under contract to do habitat restoration on the island.

San Nicolas Island fox

Endemic foxes live on six of the eight California Channel Islands, and there is a healthy population on San Nicolas Island.

Channel Islands Restoration staff and volunteers always see foxes when we visit the island to work, and this last trip was not exceptions!

Island Night Lizard

This Island Night Lizard was seen by Channel Islands Restoration volunteers on our resent trip to San Nicolas Island.

Island Night Lizards are found only on San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente Islands. They have large populations on San Clemente and San Nicolas Islands, and they are still federally listed as an endangered species.

Northern elephant seal

This northern elephant seal (and many more) were seen by Channel Islands Restoration volunteers on our resent trip to San Nicolas Island.

Elephant seals breed on the island.  Elephant seals breed on the island.

Channel Islands Restoration volunteers removing Sahara mustard on San Nicolas

Channel Islands Restoration volunteers removing Sahara mustard on San Nicolas

The photos above show Channel Islands Restoration volunteers hand-removing Sahara mustard on San Nicolas Island on our recent trip there.

Giant Coreopsis (

Leptosyne gigantea

) is the large, green plants with the yellow blooms.

It grows in huge stands on San Nicolas Island and is the dominant plant in a community of plants called Coreopsis scrub.

Cryptantha traskiae (a rare plant found only on San Nicolas and San Clemente islands) grows in the same habitat and is threatened by the spread of Sahara mustard.

CIR volunteers have to be carefully tried to work in this sensitive environment and around rare plants.

Giant Coreopsis in bloom on San Nicolas Island. 

Late February is the peak booming season for this plant on San Nicolas Island.

Sand dune on San Nicolas Island (with giant Coreopsis in the foreground).

The bloom of Giant Coreopsis.

Giant Coreopsis is in the sunflower family.

Channel Islands Restoration volunteers pose at Coral Harbor on San Nicolas Island.

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CIR Builds Nursery on San Nicolas Island, grows 1,100 Plants

1,100 plants have been grown at the nursery on

San Nicolas Island so far

Channel Islands Restoration staff and volunteers teamed up with the United States Navy in April on San Nicholas Island to completely rebuild and expand an old native plant nursery.

More than 1,100 plants have been grown so far, and CIR staff and volunteers recently planted most of these at a restoration site on the island.

The nursery, which consisted of a shed and small planting benches, had fallen into disrepair over nearly two decades.

CIR built new benches, erected a shade structure and installed an irrigation system.

The three benches (each forty feet long and six feet wide) include custom designed “biosecurity” measures that prevent introduced pests like Argentine ants from infesting the plant pots.

The nursery shed required major cleaning, and it will soon receive repairs to its roof and doors.

Funding to build the new nursery and to grow the plants has been provided by the Navy.

The nursery has an automated irrigation system, so CIR staff only needs to visit the island approximately once per week. 

The plants were installed at a restoration site on the eastern side of the island to help prevent erosion along roadside dune habitat.

More plants will be grown in the nursery to revegetate sites impacted by upcoming construction projects on the island.

CIR Board Member Gordon Hart designed the nursery and led the construction project along with volunteers Dave Edwards (also a Board Member) Don Mills and John Reyes.

The plants were grown by Norma Hogan, who recently joined the CIR team.

CIR built the nursery in partnership with the Navy,

and most of these plants have been installed at a restoration site on the island.

CIR has been working on the island for several years eradicating Sahara mustard from habitat of the threatened

Cryptantha traskiae

(a threatened plant in the Borage family).

Sahara mustard is a highly invasive plant that has caused great ecological damage in the deserts.

It has spread quickly on San Nicolas Island, and the Navy staff is committed to eradicating it from the island.

CIR has donated the staff time on this project for several years, but the Navy has recently contracted with CIR to perform this service.

Our staff and volunteers are trusted to work around these sensitive plants and around protected archeological sites.

CIR greatly values our relationship with Naval Base Ventura County and the U.S. Navy as a whole.

CIR Board member Gordon Hart

builds benches in the new nursery constructed by CIR on San Nicolas Island

shade structure under construction

CIR staff and volunteers plant natives at the Thousand Springs restoration site on the north east end of San Nicolas Island.

volunteer John Reyes (left) and CIR nursery manager Norma Hogan (right) in front of the completed shade structure

CIR volunteers plant natives at the Thousand Springs restoration site on the north east end of San Nicolas Island.

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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.

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CIR Works with Navy and SDSU on San Clemente Island

Twenty nine Channel Islands Restoration volunteers and staff worked on San Clemente Island in October of 2011 and 2012 in cooperation with the Navy and San Diego State University.

We hand-removed non-native iceplant that was surrounding the San Clemente Island lotus (Acmispon dendroideus var. traskiae) a federally listed endangered species.

We also removed patches of iceplant from about 50 acres of sensitive habitat of the endemic Island sage sparrow.

The iceplant crowds out native plants, including species of boxthorn (Lycium sp.) that the sparrows nest in.

CIR volunteers kept up a rigorous and steady pace in order to accomplish such a large scale iceplant removal.

Many species of native plants sprouted where the iceplant had been removed, including

Cryptantha traskiae

(a threatened plant in the Borage family).

CIR volunteers take in the view on San Clemente Island

San Clemente Island is owned by the U.S. Navy, and staff from the Navy and from San Diego State University worked with CIR to arrange the trips.

The logistics of such trips are almost as daunting as eradicating the iceplant, but the results were well worth the effort.

CIR donated most of our staff time for the trips, and volunteers paid for their own housing and meals.

San Clemente Island is an important base for the Navy, and several hundred duty personnel and civilian workers are regularly posted to the island.

The island provides an important auxiliary landing field for the Navy, and it is used extensively for training.

Navy Seals train on San Clemente, and the southern part of the island is used for air bombardment and ship board gunnery practice.

San Clemente has 14 plants that are unique to the island, plus several species of endemic animals.

The Navy funds a large restoration program for many of these species.

The primary restoration staff are from the Soil Ecology & Restoration Group at San Diego State University.

Volunteers remove iceplant on San Clemente Island

The groups of volunteers first traveled to San Diego (most staying the first evening at the same motel) before departing for the island by plane from the North Island Naval Air Station on Coronado Island.

The Navy contracts with a civilian airline to transport personnel to the island, so the flights were free for the volunteers.

Once on the island, the group checked in at one of the base guest housing complexes, which is reminiscent of a Motel 6.

Low-cost meals were provided at the base commissary.

CIR volunteers then traveled by van to the western side of the island to begin work.

Every volunteer worked hard hand-pulling the iceplant and placing it in large piles.

This technique was quite successful at eradicating iceplant with only minimal re-sprouting.

The restoration site is 55 acres in size, and the volunteers cleared most of it.

At lunch time, island personnel took the volunteers to interesting view spots and even lead the group on a hike featuring endemic plants!

We are very proud of our volunteer trips to the San Clemente Island, and we hope to follow up with more trips, perhaps starting this spring.

CIR is also working with the Navy on San Nicolas Island, and we are glad to be working on both of these islands that are not normally accessible to the general public.

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CIR Teams with Local Companies to Restore Mainland and Island Sites

Employees from outdoor corporations volunteer for

CIR at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve

More than 150 people from six local companies volunteered for Channel Islands Restoration on a single day in April at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve.

Taking part in an annual corporate volunteer day, employees from Deckers, Patagonia, REI, Horny Toad, Vapur and Channel Islands Outfitters planted natives and pulled weeds at the Preserve located between Santa Barbara and Goleta.

CIR is promoting partnerships with local companies, particularly those with an outdoor focus, to raise money for restoration projects and to recruit volunteers.

Employees from many of these same companies, plus Amgen and Citrix Online, have also volunteered for CIR on many island trips.

All of these companies encourage their employees to volunteer, and some even pay their employee’s wages while volunteering.

In addition to volunteer help, Patagonia, REI (Santa Barbara store and the new Oxnard store) and Citrix Online have all contributed grant funding to CIR.

This funding will support a new project in the San Marcos Foothills, help pay for school field trips to the Channel Islands and more.

With public sector budgets continuing to tighten, CIR seeks to diversify our funding base, and we are very grateful for the support of our corporate partners.

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CIR Teams with Local Companies to Restore Mainland Sites

Restoration plantings installed by CIR volunteers

at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve

CIR will start a third restoration project in December at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve, an open space located between Santa Barbara and Goleta.

Funding for the project will be provided by the REI Santa Barbara store, the Ventura Patagonia store and the San Marcos Foothills Coalition.

We will focus on removing invasive plants along in the most sensitive habitats, and we will plant several species of natives at the main entrance to the Preserve.

This project will rely heavily on the support of volunteers!

The San Marcos Foothills is one of the most ecologically valuable sites on the South Coast, with hundreds of acres of grasslands, oak woodlands, and permanently flowing creeks.

There are nearly 50 mammals found and the Preserve and 126 bird species.

The Preserve has miles of hiking trails that provide spectacular 360 degree views of Santa Barbara, Goleta, and the Santa Barbara Channel.

For the last three years CIR has been working with project partners and volunteers to restore habitat along Atascadero and Cieneguitas on the Preserve.

We will be doing some additional planting at those sites as well, so there is ample opportunity for the public to get involved in these highly successful restoration projects.

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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.

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CIR Builds Nursery on San Nicolas Island, grows 1100 Plants



Channel Islands Restoration staff and volunteers teamed up with the United States Navy in April on San Nicholas Island to completely rebuild and expand an old native plant nursery.  More than 1,100 plants have been grown so far, and CIR staff and volunteers recently planted most of these at a restoration site on the island.

The nursery, which consisted of a shed and small planting benches, had fallen into disrepair over nearly two decades.  CIR built new benches, erected a shade structure and installed an irrigation system.  The three benches (each forty feet long and six feet wide) include custom designed “biosecurity” measures that prevent introduced pests like Argentine ants from infesting the plant pots.  The nursery shed required major cleaning, and it will soon receive repairs to its roof and doors.  Funding to build the new nursery and to grow the plants has been provided by the Navy.  The nursery has an automated irrigation system, so CIR staff only needs to visit the island approximately once per week. 


The plants were installed at a restoration site on the eastern side of the island to help prevent erosion along roadside dune habitat.  More plants will be grown in the nursery to revegetate sites impacted by upcoming construction projects on the island.   CIR Board Member Gordon Hart designed the nursery and led the construction project along with volunteers Dave Edwards (also a Board Member) Don Mills and John Reyes.  The plants were grown by Norma Hogan, who recently joined the CIR team.

CIR has been working on the island for several years eradicating Sahara mustard from habitat of the threatened Cryptantha traskiae (a threatened plant in the Borage family).  Sahara mustard is a highly invasive plant that has caused great ecological damage in the deserts.  It has spread quickly on San Nicolas Island, and the Navy staff is committed to eradicating it from the island.  CIR has donated the staff time on this project for several years, but the Navy has recently contracted with CIR to perform this service.  Our staff and volunteers are trusted to work around these sensitive plants and around protected archeological sites.  CIR greatly values our relationship with Naval Base Ventura County and the U.S. Navy as a whole. 


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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

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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

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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)

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CIR Completes Successful Restoration Trip to San Clemente Island

Twenty CIR volunteers and staff volunteered for five days on San Clemente Island last week helping the Navy remove non-native iceplant from sensitive habitat of the San Clemente Island sage sparrow, a threatened bird that is endemic to the island.  Our first ever volunteer trip was an unqualified success, as we cleared an estimated 41 acres of hundreds of small patches of iceplant.   

The iceplant crowds out native plants, including species of boxthorn (

Lycium sp.

) that the sparrows nest in.  CIR volunteers kept up a rigorous and steady pace in order to accomplish such a large scale iceplant removal.

San Clemente Island is owned by the U.S. Navy, and staff from the Navy and from San Diego State University worked with CIR to arrange the trip.  The logistics of such a trip are almost as daunting as eradicating the iceplant, but the results were well worth the effort.  CIR donated all staff time for the trip, and volunteers paid for their own housing and meals.

San Clemente Island is an important base for the Navy, and several hundred duty personnel and civilian workers are regularly posted to the island.  The island provides an important auxiliary landing field for the Navy, and it is used extensively for training.  Navy Seals train on San Clemente, and the southern part of the island is used for air bombardment and ship board gunnery practice.  San Clemente has 14 plants that are unique to the island, plus several species of endemic animals.  The Navy funds a large restoration program for many of these species.  The primary restoration staff are from the Soil Ecology & Restoration Group at San Diego State University.

A harbor on the south west end of San Clemente Island (April 2011)

The group of volunteers first traveled to San Diego (most staying the first evening at the same motel) before departing for the island by plane from the North Island Naval Air Station on Coronado Island.    The Navy contracts with a civilian airline to transport personnel to the island, so the flights were free for the volunteers.  Once on the island, the group checked in at one of the base guest housing complexes, which is reminiscent of a Motel 6.   Low-cost meals were provided at the base commissary.

The CIR volunteers then traveled by van to the western side of the island to begin work.  For the next several days every volunteer worked hard hand-pulling the iceplant and placing it in large piles.  This technique is usually quite successful at eradicating iceplant with only minimal re-sprouting, but some follow up work will be needed.  The restoration site is 55 acres in size, and the volunteers cleared about three-quarters of the site.  At lunch time island personnel took the volunteers to interesting view spots and even lead the group on a hike featuring endemic plants!

The restoration site on the west side of San Clemente Island

Volunteers take a hike during a lunch break

We are very proud of our first volunteer trip to the San Clemente Island, and we hope to follow up with more trips, perhaps starting this spring.  CIR is also working with the Navy on San Nicolas Island, and we are glad to be working on both of these islands that are not normally accessible to the general public.

Check out photos from our latest trip: 

https://picasaweb.google.com/112400012955619504088/20111013_SanClemente

Check out photos from a previous trip to the island by Ken Owen (CIR Executive Director):

https://picasaweb.google.com/112400012955619504088/20110407_ClementeEdits

Volunteers enjoy the view during a lunch break

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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

Vinca

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!

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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.

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This Week in CIR

Things typically slow down a bit for CIR in midsummer.  Weed growth slows and planting time at our restoration sites finishes, but several projects still keep us busy:

We continue to make trips to Anacapa Island at least twice a month with volunteers from our email list and with support from corporate partners like Citrix Online.  Check out our Anacapa blog for details:

http://anacaparestoration.blogspot.com

We started a new project at the Conejo open space near Thousand Oaks.  They have a great volunteer program, and they asked CIR to help with some specialty weed eradication and we also recruited some of our volunteers to help.  We should announce some other volunteer days in the near future.

CIR also began a project at More Mesa in Goleta, as part of the replacement of the large staircase from the mesa top to the beach.  The County of Santa Barbara required that the invasive iceplant and Myoporum trees at the site be replaced by natives, and CIR has been hired to assist with this aspect of the project.

Rein Teen Tours joined us at our San Marcos Foothills and Lake Los Carneros projects last week.  Rein is a tour group, consisting of mostly high school aged kids from the East Coast.  They spend several weeks in California doing many activities, including service work for non-profits.  This is the fourth year CIR has worked with them.

Work continues at the San Marcos Foothills sites.  Although planting is finished for this season, we continue to irrigate our native plantings.  Weeds tend to sprout up where we apply water, so we will still be calling on volunteers for help providing love and care to the great native plants now growing in what used to be weed patches!  Watch your email for announcements about volunteer days.  Starting around November, we will do a second round of planting at both sites in the Foothills.

For more information about this projects or to learn about volunteering, please contact:

volunteer@cirweb.org

More than 25 people came to our presentation on the White Mountains in Ventura earlier this week.  Dr. Tanya Atwater provided a super PowerPoint on the plate tectonic history of Southern California and the geology of the White Mountains.  Ken Owen showed a presentation on "ecological islands" (ecosystems surrounded by unlike ecosystems) like high mountains surrounded by desert.  Twenty eight people have signed up for our White Mountains trip that will start on Thursday.

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Busy Spring for CIR

Channel Islands Restoration has been kept very busy this spring:

MAINLAND PROJECTS:

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.

CHANNEL ISLANDS PROJECTS:

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:

http://picasaweb.google.com/cirlogin

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Carpinteria State Beach Restoration Project

A shot of the mouth of Carpinteria Creek at Carpinteria State Beach.  CIR in partnership with South Coast Habitat Restoration are removing invasive iceplant along the banks at the beach and will plant natives this fall.  Check back soon for more information!

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